Race Weekend Central

Christopher Bell Runs Out of Laps in Pursuit of William Byron at COTA

AUSTIN, Texas — In an absolute reversal of last year’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Circuit of the Americas, Sunday’s (March 24) running was a tame as could be, with no cautions outside of the stages and only one car failing to finish.

The final 35 laps went green, and as the race played out, it became a battle between William Byron — who won the pole and dominated all day — and Christopher Bell, who used an alternate pit strategy in attempt to run down the No. 24 car.

Byron made his last pit stop of the day on lap 45 in a three-stop race, while Bell stayed out until lap 49 in a two-stop race. The four-lap fresher tires proved to be an advantage for Bell. He was 10 seconds behind Byron with 10 laps to go and nearly made up all the time.

In the end, Bell had too much ground to make up in a race where the final 35 laps went green, and he had to settle for second, 0.692 seconds behind Byron at the checkered flag.

See also
William Byron Holds Off Christopher Bell, Wins in Austin

“Man, I don’t know [if we could’ve gotten to the lead sooner],” Bell said. “We took the points in stage one and then we didn’t see another yellow. We talked about it all week if we were going to jump the stages or not, and we decided that if we had the opportunity to win the stages, we would take the points.

“And ultimately, I think that’s why we didn’t win.”

The lack of late-race cautions was unlike any Cup race at COTA in the past, and that did take Bell by surprise.

“I think all of us were expecting it to have a lot more yellows at the end and be able to make up the track position that way.”

As for why there were no cautions?

“I don’t know. Obviously it got really spread out, and I’m sure that helped, as cautions typically breed cautions here.”

As for why the entire race went without a caution for cause, Byron offered his take:

“I feel like everyone’s gotten pretty familiar with all the parts and pieces [of the car], and there’s a lot of really good drivers that don’t make a lot of mistakes,” Byron said. “I think that creates it. I think the track is really big, and there’s a lot of runoff here, so the runoff is an advantage for not having cautions because you don’t have a wall to hit.”

For the No. 24 team’s strategy, Byron’s crew chief Rudy Fugle said that he was in favor of a two-stop race all week, but it was Byron who preferred running the race with three stops.

See also
Stage Cautions, Lack of Restarts Lead to COTA Snoozer

“I kind of expected six or eight cars to not stop [at the end of stage one],” Fugle said. “William mentioned that I was kind of on the two-stop bandwagon most of the week, but he wasn’t feeling it as much, and that’s what matters most.

“I knew we wouldn’t be in a bad spot to short [pit] the stages. It kind of felt that Bell was going to do the opposite of us too.

“He won a stage. … Then they had a really bad pit stop where it took a long while to get fuel in the car — it looked like it — and it really put him back. So he, that team did an amazing job coming through the field, but obviously, it still worked out for us.”

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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4 Comments
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Echo

They ran the same amount of laps. Both gambled, Byron won, the end.

DoninAjax

If there were no cautions for the TV time outs he might have had a better chance. And the last segment was supposed to be 38 laps but laps 31, 32 and 33 were under caution.

Echo

” might”

Joshua

Laps at the end of stages should not count towards the race.

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