The NASCAR Cup Series invaded Circuit of the Americas Sunday in Austin for the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix—an event at a 3.43-mile road course facility in the capital city of Texas. Going into the event, the main topic was “track limits” as numerous drivers were penalized all weekend long for short-cutting the esses. 

William Byron earned the pole with a lap of 129.636 seconds / 94.696 mph—earning his 13th Cup series pole. Ty Gibbs, Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, and Corey LaJoie started top-five.

Byron, having already won the season-opening Daytona 500, paced the field in the opening 12 laps of the race before hitting pit road with two to go in stage one—thus handing the lead over to Bell. Bell continued to win the opening stage over Daniel Suarez, Michael McDowell, Austin Cindric, and Austin Dillon. Byron sat seventh.

Bell and the No. 20 team elected to stay out during the stage break to command the restart. Byron later took the lead away from the stage one winner to pace the spot over the next nine circuits. Pit stops commenced again, handing Denny Hamlin the lead through the stage. Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Todd Gilliland, and Ryan Preece sat top five. 

Byron again took the lead for the third time of the day at lap 32, with Chastain right behind. The No. 1 Chevrolet later took the lead over the next 10 circuits before losing it again to Byron for a lap. 

The lead cycled between Ty Gibbs, Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, and Martin Truex Jr. as green flag stops cycled through. Then, with 18 to go, and holding off the hard-charging No. 20 of Bell, Byron took the top spot away to score his 12th NASCAR Cup Series victory.

“Yeah, he was really fast at the end. The Toyotas had the long run speed kind of all weekend, so for us, it was just trying to get a gap on the short run; manage our tires and just kind of keep our car in a good spot,” said Byron. “I definitely gave up a lot of time the last five laps, so we still have work to do.”

Winning his second event on a road course, Byron also spoke about the challenges of learning and adapting to the right-and-left turn courses as opposed to oval racing.

“Honestly the road courses were probably the most difficult thing for us starting out and then we just continued to build on it,” added Byron after winning his second cup race at a road course. “We had a lot of pole positions on road courses, but we weren’t able to close the deal. A lot of that was on me and knowing what I need in the car to push the whole race. It’s come a long way.”

Bell, finishing second, believed he would’ve caught Byron had the race gone another lap. However, passing the No. 24 Chevrolet would’ve been another challenge for the No. 20 Toyota.

“It seems like another lap, and I would have got there for sure with our DEWALT Camry,” said Bell. “Passing was going to be a little more difficult, and I needed him to make a mistake.”

Ty Gibbs, Alex Bowman, and Tyler Reddick finished top five.

Grabbing top 10s were AJ Allmendinger, Ross Chastain, Chris Buescher, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads next to Richmond Raceway for the Toyota Owners 400. Coverage airs on Easter Sunday at 7:00 p.m. ET. live on FOX and MRN Radio.

Brett Winningham
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