William Byron Prevails In Challenging Folds Of Honor QuikTrip 500 At Atlantaby Hunter Thomas March 20, 2022 1 comment
HAMPTON, Ga. – William Byron became the first NASCAR Cup Series winner at the reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday when he held the field off to win the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
In a race that rewrote the history books in lead changes and the number of leaders in a race at Atlanta, 24-year-old Byron led a race high of 111 laps and positioned his Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet to win his first race of the 2022 season.
“It was so different,” Byron said. “You know honestly the last few laps there, just trying to manage the gap to Bubba (Wallace) and trying to not get too far out front. My spotter Brandon (Lines), it’s his first win so congrats to him and just thanks to this whole team. They’ve done a great job this year. There’s a lot of changes with the Next Gen car.”
Following the victory, Byron said that this particular race was more mentally challenging than even the events ran at traditional superspeedways, Daytona and Talladega.
“Daytona and Talladega, when you get single file, can you relax,” Byron said. “Today when you were single-file, you were constantly working to stay single file so you didn’t lose the lead. I think that was a lot different. I’m not used to that.
“And the way that you — I told Brandon at one point and Rudy (Fugle, crew chief), I was, like, man, I can’t believe we’re not halfway yet because this is — this just feels long mentally. Just all the energy that I’m spending to do all the moves that we need to make. Pretty crazy race, but definitely good to come out on top.”
Finishing second was Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain. It was actually quite miraculous that Chastain finished the race and even more impressive that he finished second, because the driver of the No. 1 Advent Health Chevrolet received significant damage after a tire let loose in Turn 1 on Lap 96. The runner-up finish marks Chastain’s third top-five of the season.
“That’s the fight, that’s the fight in Trackhouse,” Chastain said. “This Gen 7 car to take a lick like that, blow a tire out of nowhere leading. Just cruising, blow a right rear, slam the wall, I thought our day was over. Our guys went underneath the car, got the tow closer and we got the balance back where I could drive it and this Advent Health Chevy was fast. It was so fast. I mean we were fighting with William (Byron) there at the beginning.”
Kurt Busch earned his second consecutive top-five finish with his new team, 23XI Racing. Busch was involved in a late crash that involved 12 other cars on Lap 146; however, the driver of the No. 45 Monster Energy Toyota battled back for a strong finish.
“I just had a little too much damage to not be on offense, and then we were just trying to ride around and pick our poison so to speak with the Monster Energy Toyota,” Busch said. “We weren’t on offense, so if you are not on offense, you kind of have to ride and wait for the holes to open up and I got a top-five again.”
Daniel Suarez finished fourth, and Corey LaJoie finished fifth, earning his best-career NASCAR Cup Series effort.
“It’s great to start our season with three top-15’s and now one top-five,” Lajoie said. “Hopefully, we can maintain the momentum over the next couple of weeks and put ourselves in a good points position through the summer.”
Rounding out the top-10 was Chase Elliott, Chris Buescher, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Alex Bowman.
Throughout the day, there were an Atlanta record-breaking 46 lead changes among 20 drivers.
The caution flag flew on 11 occasions.
The NASCAR Cup Series will head to Circuit of Americas in Austin, Texas for the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix on Sunday, March 27. Live coverage will broadcast on FOX at 3:30 p.m.
Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas/TheFourthTurn.com