Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron turned in a steady and inspired drive to earn the NASCAR Cup Series victory from pole position in the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas road course Sunday, holding off the field by less than a second but dominating the field when he needed to.

Answering his season-opening Daytona 500 win, the 26-year-old Charlotte native becomes the first driver to win multiple races this season. This is his 12th career NASCAR Cup Series victory and gives his Hendrick team a series all-time best 28th win on NASCAR road courses.

While at times Byron made it look easy – holding a nearly three-second advantage on the field with 10 laps remaining, his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet did have to fend off a hard-charging Christopher Bell who made up four positions in those closing laps and kept Byron honest in what was ultimately a .692-second margin of victory around the 20-turn, 3.41-mile circuit.

“I feel like I made a lot of mistakes in the last 10 laps, just micro errors and Christopher [Bell] was really fast there on the longer run,’’ Byron said. “This sport is so hard and so difficult week in and week out to show up and have fast cars. We’ve had a little bit of a rough stretch the last few weeks but put a lot of preparation in this past week and just thankful for the team I have around me and all the people back home as well.

“Just super thankful to have this opportunity. It’s just a lot of fun to win races and it’s really difficult too.’’

For his part, Bell, driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and a winner at Phoenix this season, acknowledged it simply came down to a good road course battle among good teams and talented drivers.

“Obviously once I got to him, it was going to be tough to pass him, I just needed a couple mistakes, but William has been really good on the road courses and he was flawless today,’’ Bell said.

Just behind the pair was Bell’s 21-year-old JGR teammate Ty Gibbs, who is having a stellar sophomore season in NASCAR’s Cup Series. Gibbs ran top five for the majority of the day and was running second to Byron until Bell passed him with only two laps remaining. The third-place effort marks his fifth top 10 finish in the season’s six races.

“We were just a little too loose in the right-handed corner,’’ Gibbs said. “I just wish we were a little tighter, but we did a really good job today. …. Good points day. We’ll just keep working hard.’’

In fact, the effort now brings Gibbs to second place in the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings, only five points behind his teammate Martin Truex Jr.

Byron’s Hendrick teammate Alex Bowman finished fourth followed by 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick, the 2023 COTA winner.

Unlike the previous day’s races at COTA with NASCAR’s other two national series, Sunday’s race had only two caution flags – both for scheduled stage breaks. It was a clean race that still featured seven leaders and 11 lead changes. But Byron led a dominant 43 of the 68 laps.

One of the sport’s best road course racers, A.J. Allmendinger finished sixth, followed by the 2022 COTA winner, Ross Chastain. Chris Buescher, Kyle Busch and Truex rounded out the top 10.

The two “road course ringers” as they are referred to, New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen and Japan’s Kamui Kobayashi had solid, if not stand-out days, finishing 21st and 30th, respectively.

Zane Smith was the highest finishing rookie in 20th.

The NASCAR Cup Series moves to Richmond (Va.) Raceway next Sunday night for the Toyota Owners 400 (7 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson is the defending race winner.


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