William Byron Steals a Win at Atlanta in a Rain Shortened Event

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Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, GA — July 9, 2023

It’s Atlanta under the lights!

When celebrating the 75th Anniversary of NASCAR, it’s the people and the places that have helped make the sport what it is today, and one track that has been around a good portion of the 75 years is Atlanta Motor Speedway, 63 years to be exact.

Originally called Atlanta International Raceway, the track was then a 1.5-mile paved speedway, and it hosted its first NASCAR Cup Series race on July 31, 1960. The event was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Fireball Roberts from the pole position.

Much like we all evolve over time, Atlanta Motor Speedway has undergone a few reconfigurations since opening its doors. The track was re-measured to 1.522 miles in the spring of 1970, and it was renamed Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1990. The track layout was reversed, and the track was reconfigured to 1.54 miles between the two races in 1997. Then in the offseason prior to 2022, the track was again reconfigured by narrowing the racing surface and raising the degree of banking in the Turns to 28 degrees.

From 1960 – 2010, Atlanta Motor Speedway hosted multiple NASCAR Cup Series races during each season; starting in 2011, the series began only visiting Atlanta once a year (2011-2020). The 2021 season marked the first time since 2010 that the series visited the facility more than once a year. Also worth noting, from 1987 to 2000, Atlanta Motor Speedway hosted the final championship race on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule.

In total, there have been 118 NASCAR Cup races at Atlanta Motor Speedway since the first race there in 1960. The 118 NASCAR Cup Series races have produced 52 different pole winners and 48 different race winners.

Active Atlanta Race Winners Wins Seasons
Kevin Harvick 3 2020, 2018, 2001
Brad Keselowski 2 2019, 2017
Kyle Busch 2 2013, 2008
Joey Logano 1 2023
Chase Elliott 1 2022
William Byron 1 2022
Ryan Blaney 1 2021
Denny Hamlin 1 2012

NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt leads the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway with nine victories (1980, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1995, 1996, 2000).

Today’s Race

Today’s “Quaker State 400 Available at Walmart” will be Kevin Harvick’s final race at the Speedway. He was honored before the race by his former team owner Richard Childress for his first victory scored at Atlanta in the #29 Goodwrech machine when Harvick took over for Dale Earnhardt after his untimely death at Daytona in 2001.

The race today is also a big milestone for the Goodyear Tire Company. The driver who earns a trip to victory land in the Quaker State 400 will be presented an additional trophy as the 2,000th race winner on Goodyear Tires.

Lasco Press Photo

Stages for the 260 laps that make up the 400 miles of tonight’s race are 60/100/100 laps. Aric Almirola starts on the pole with Ryan Blaney beside him. Ford Performance swept eight of the top 10 qualifying spots on the starting grid.

Stage One

Joey Logano(22) pushed Aric Almirola(10) to the lead on the backstretch of lap one. Drivers quickly formed up in a single file line as the top lane on the speedway was deemed the preferred line around the track.

Ryan Blaney(12) fell in behind Logano, Chase Briscoe(14), and Harrison Burton(21) rounded out the all-Ford-Blue-Oval top five as they tried to make a small breakaway from the remainder of the field.

Harrison Burton(21) spun down the backstretch on lap 16. He avoided contact with other cars and barely scraped the inside wall. With his tires flat, Burton had to be towed back to the pits and lost four laps to the field in the process.

A few cars back in the field opted to pit under the first caution of the day to pack in some extra fuel. Crews are already talking about the possibility of severe weather before the race runs its full 260 laps. The race would be official after 130 of the laps were completed.

On the restart, it was a repeat of the start of the race, with Logano pushing Almirola out front and Blaney pulling in behind the pair. However, Kyle Larson(5) and Martin Truex Jr.(19) moved into the fourth and fifth positions.

Logano moved to the lead 40 laps in, but Almirola was back out front a lap later. Logano took over the top spot on lap 48. Blaney joined the fight for the lead on lap 57 as the battle for Stage points got serious.

Blaney got the Stage win while spots in the top ten shuffled as they raced to the green and white checkered flag.

Stage One Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 12 Ryan Blaney* 10
2 5 Kyle Larson 9
3 19 Martin Truex Jr. 8
4 22 Joey Logano* 7
5 24 William Byron 6
6 20 Christopher Bell 5
7 2 Austin Cindric* 4
8 34 Michael McDowell* 3
9 45 Tyler Reddick 2
10 10 Aric Almirola* 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage Two

Stage-ending pit stops further mixed the field. Larson was first off pit road, followed by Blaney. William Byron(24), Daniel Suarez(99), and Logano rounded out the top five.

Team Penske lined up on the bottom of the track, with Blaney getting pushed by Logano and Austin Cindric(2). Blaney and Logano pulled away as they raced three wide behind them. Lane selection seems to be determined by teammate and manufacturer alliances first, then who is looking to block competitors second.

Single-file racing has gone away as drives can see the storm clouds building, and every position is being contested.

Byron spun down the front stretch heading to turn one after receiving a tap to the rear of his car by Corey LaJoie(7). The caution was displayed, and most of the field opted to come in for fuel and tires.

Bubba Wallace(23) stayed out and inherited the lead when the race restarted. He did not stay out front long as Truex moved to the top spot.

Larson got turned by Erik Jones(43) and spun around mid-pack. Everyone avoided the incident. Austin Hill(62) and Chase Briscoe(14) spun, trying to miss Larson’s car, all without serious damage.

With varying pit strategies, some new names appear at the top of the leaderboard. Chris Buscher(17) is shown as the leader. Justin Haley(31), Alex Bowman(48), AJ Allmendinger(16), and Logano complete the top five.

Buescher and Allmendinger set the pace while Logano and Blaney are hooked up, looking to make a move on the lead duo.

The top four seem content to hold their position, and the real scramble is just behind them, even going three wide often. Cindric joined his teammates to form a five-car breakaway at the front. Kyle Busch(8), Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski(6) all joined the battle directly behind the leaders.

Team Penske ganged up on Allmendinger and booted him out of the second spot. Just behind them, cars began spinning and wrecking. The yellow flag came out just eight laps before the halfway point, and lightning can be seen in the distance north of the race track.

The leaders stay on track, as it appears the race will reach the halfway point before the weather strikes. Others back in the pack took the opportunity to visit pit road.

Those involved in the incident were LaJoie, Truex, Tyler Reddick(45), Ty Gibbs(54), Ross Chastain(1), Todd Gilliland(38), and Jones all received various degrees of damage.

Back to green flag racing, and the race becomes official as the 130-lap mark is reached. It is a Blue Oval party at the front as Cindric, Keselowski, Blaney, Buescher, and Logano fight for positions two-wide.

With ten laps to go, RFK Racing is out front, with Keselowski leading and Buescher pushing. Blaney and Cindric are nose-to-tail behind them.

Coming to the start/finish line, Bowman and Hamlin get together and spin. The caution comes out with just four laps to go in the Stage. With significant debris on the track, the Stage ends under caution.

Stage Two Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 6 Brad Keselowski* 10
2 12 Ryan Blaney* 9
3 17 Chris Buescher* 8
4 2 Austin Cindric* 7
5 16 AJ Allmendinger 6
6 23 Bubba Wallace 5
7 20 Christopher Bell 4
8 34 Michael McDowell* 3
9 31 Justin Haley 2
10 41 Ryan Preece* 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

With the weather getting closer, some drivers stay out on the track. Allmendinger inherits the lead, followed by Michael McDowell(34) and Erik Jones. The leaders opted to pit and expect the race to restart before the rain begins.

On the restart, they race every lap like it might be the last. Allmendinger leads, then McDowell goes to the front, Byron takes the top spot, and everyone in the top ten thinks they can drive to the front.

Harvick spins into turn one, but he is off the racing surface and still moving, so NASCAR does not display the caution flag.

Suarez moves up to challenge Byron for the lead. If the 99 car can pull off a win, it would be three in a row for Trackhouse Racing. A spin in turn four brings out the caution, and those cars that did not pit at the Stage break are going to face a difficult decision as fuel will be running short for most of them.

Bubba Wallace, Ryan Preece(41), and Ricky Stenhouse(47) were involved in the wreck. They were able to continue after minor repairs.

On lap 185, NASCAR brought the field down pit road, and the red flag stopped the race for rain on the track. As the rain soaked the track, NASCAR made the decision to call the race, and William Byron becomes the improbable winner by being in the right place at the right time.

William Byron / Lasco Press Photo

Playoff Standings

RK DRIVER POINTS STATUS
1 William Byron(Points Leader) 628 In Win(4)
2 Kyle Busch 592 In Win(3)
3 Martin Truex Jr. 607 In Win(2)
4 Kyle Larson 531 In Win(2)
5 Christopher Bell 593 In Win(1)
6 Ross Chastain 575 In Win(1)
7 Denny Hamlin 559 In Win(1)
8 Ryan Blaney* 554 In Win(1)
9 Joey Logano* 518 In Win(1)
10 Tyler Reddick 475 In Win(1)
11 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 445 In Win(1)
12 Kevin Harvick* 530 +126
13 Chris Buescher* 509 +105
14 Brad Keselowski* 504 +100
15 Daniel Suarez 407 +3
16 Michael McDowell* 407 +3
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line
17 Bubba Wallace 404 -3
18 AJ Allmendinger 394 -13
19 Ty Gibbs 381 -26
20 Austin Cindric* 367 -40

*Ford Mustang Drivers

The cut line is a busy place as just 13 points separate 15th place from 18th. Kevin Harvick, Chris Buescher, and Brad Keselowski all hold at least a 100-point edge on the first driver out of the playoffs based on points, Bubba Wallace.

The must-win pressure is on a number of drivers that likely cannot make up enough points to squeak into the postseason without the victory.

Results of the Quaker State 400 from Atlanta Motor Speedway

POS CAR DRIVER BEHIND LAPS
1 24 William Byron 185
2 99 Daniel Suarez 1.015 185
3 16 AJ Allmendinger 1.523 185
4 34 Michael McDowell 1.892 185
5 8 Kyle Busch 2.198 185
6 6 Brad Keselowski 3.419 185
7 15 JJ Yeley 3.730 185
8 12 Ryan Blaney 4.084 185
9 31 Justin Haley 4.924 185
10 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 5.510 185
11 43 Erik Jones 6.052 185
12 17 Chris Buescher 6.712 185
13 9 Chase Elliott 7.123 185
14 2 Austin Cindric 7.639 185
15 38 Todd Gilliland 8.042 185
16 11 Denny Hamlin 8.656 185
17 22 Joey Logano 9.226 185
18 10 Aric Almirola 9.705 185
19 77 Ty Dillon 10.455 185
20 3 Austin Dillon 11.018 185
21 78 BJ McLeod 11.554 185
22 14 Chase Briscoe 12.288 185
23 20 Christopher Bell 13.218 185
24 41 Ryan Preece 13.632 185
25 23 Bubba Wallace 14.316 185
26 48 Alex Bowman 18.194 185
27 45 Tyler Reddick 21.218 185
28 21 Harrison Burton -1 184
29 19 Martin Truex Jr. -1 184
30 4 Kevin Harvick -4 181
31 7 Corey LaJoie -6 179
32 51 Cole Custer -7 178
33 42 Noah Gragson -11 174
34 54 Ty Gibbs -35 150
35 1 Ross Chastain -61 124
36 5 Kyle Larson -74 111
37 62 Austin Hill -93 92