Late laps fateful for William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin


The final 60 laps Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway saw a big swing of fortune for William Byron, Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin that could impact which of them will race for a championship in two weeks.

Byron holds the final transfer spot heading into next week’s Round of 8 finale at Martinsville Speedway — which will set the field for the championship race Nov. 6 at Phoenix Raceway.

He has a five-point lead on Hamlin. Blaney is next, 18 points behind Bryon.

Hamlin was one of only two playoff drivers to finish in the top 10, placing seventh, while Byron salvaged his day by finishing 12th and Blaney was 17th.

Byron’s race turned during a pit stop at Lap 206 of the 267-lap event. He had fallen from fifth to 13th in the 30 laps before that stop because of an ill-handling car. 

“We just had one bad run,” Byron said. “We restarted second and kind of maintained in second for maybe a couple of laps, and then the car fell off and disappeared. That one run was just really weird, so we lost a lot of track position.”

Byron was the first car to pit during that green-flag cycle in hopes of gaining track position by having fresher tires before the rest of the field.

Crew chief Rudy Fugle’s plan went away when Byron exited his stall before the left front wheel was tight. Byron was called on the radio and had only gone a few feet away before stopping and backing into his pit stall. The result was a 22.6-second pit stop for a crew that had four of its five other pit stops in the 10-second range. 

That stop left Byron a lap down. A caution a few laps later allowed him to get his lap back. Byron struggled to crack the top 15 until the final laps. He gained four spots in the final 11 laps to finish 12th.

“We’ve got to figure out those short runs,” Byron told his team on the radio after the race. “That was really good balance there at the end. We just have to have that more often.”

Blaney’s race turned a few laps after Byron’s pit stop. Blaney brought out the caution on Lap 212 when he spun on the access road after exiting pit road during his green-flag stop. 

“I cannot believe I just did that,” Blaney radioed his crew.

He was third before he pitted but dropped to 16th after the incident. He struggled with track position, losing a spot before the finish. Falling from third to 17th cost him 14 points — most of his deficit from the cutline.

“Downshifted like a complete moron,” Blaney told NBC Sports’ Kim Coon on what caused his spin. 

“It’s just disappointing, mainly in myself. The last two weeks I have not done a good job executing at all — from wrecking last week to making a bonehead move like that this week. The 12 group doesn’t deserve that. I’m just disappointed in myself and can’t have that. Pretty unacceptable. 

“Just try to go win Martinsville, that’s all we can do. We’re going to try to run up front and have a good day … hopefully the driver doesn’t cost us anything.”

Hamlin was told he was four points ahead of Byron for the final transfer spot with less than 20 laps to go. Hamlin restarted second to eventual winner Kyle Larson but fell back to fifth within 10 laps and got into the wall in the final laps, costing him two more positions. The points lost by Hamlin, along with the points gained by Byron’s late charge, allowed Byron to take the final transfer spot from Hamlin.

“We had some good stops, pit crew did a great job the second half of the race,” Hamlin told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns. “I was able to get a good restart to get track position, taking the lead, but I can’t get my car to go. I can’t get it to turn. We are just too slow in the short run. Something we’ve got to really work on for sure. At Vegas, it hurt us as well. 

“We’ll just continue to work on it. I’ll try to work on my technique and try to do anything I can to try to get some more speed out of it. We weren’t fast enough to really compete with those guys. Even when we got the lead, we were kind of just a sitting duck because I couldn’t go anywhere.”

William Byron wins Cup pole at COTA


William Byron will start on the pole for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron won the pole with a lap of 93.882 mph around the 3.41-mile road course Saturday. He becomes the first Cup driver to win a pole at four different road courses: Charlotte Roval (2019), Road America (2021), Indianapolis road course (2021) and COTA (2023).

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Byron will be joined on the front row by Tyler Reddick, who had posted the fastest lap in Friday’s practice and fastest lap in the opening round of qualifying Saturday. Reddick qualified at 93.783 mph.

Austin Cindric (93.459 mph) qualified third. Former IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, substituting for an injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, qualified fourth with a lap of 93.174 mph. AJ Allmendinger (93.067) will start fifth.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

Ross Chastain, who won this event a year ago, qualified 12th. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen qualified 22nd, former world champion Jenson Button qualified 24th, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 31st and IndyCar driver Conor Daly qualified 35th.

Sunday Cup race at Circuit of the Americas: Start time, TV info, weather


Is this Toyota’s weekend?

Chevrolet won the first four races of the season. Ford won last weekend with Joey Logano at Atlanta. Is it Toyota’s turn to win its first Cup race of the season? Or does Chevrolet return to dominance?

Chevrolet drivers have won 11 of the past 12 Cup races on road courses. The exception was Christopher Bell‘s win for Toyota at the Charlotte Roval in last year’s playoffs. Chevrolets have won the two previous Cup races at COTA: Chase Elliott in 2021 and Ross Chastain in 2022.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: Brendan Hunt, who plays Coach Beard in “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+, will give the command to start engines at 3:38 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting at 2:45 p.m. … Driver introductions at 3:05 p.m. … Invocation will be given by Sage Steele, ESPN broadcaster, at 3:30 p.m. … Jaime Camil, actor from “Schmigadoon” on Apple TV+, will perform the national anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 68 laps (231.88 miles) on the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 15. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Pre-race coverage begins at 2 p.m. on FS1 and moves to Fox at 3 p.m. … Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and will also stream at; SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.


FORECAST: Weather Underground – Mostly cloudy with a high of 80 degrees and a 2% chance of rain at the start of the race.

STARTING LINEUP: COTA Cup starting lineup

LAST YEAR: Ross Chastain scored his first career Cup win in a physical battle with AJ Allmendinger on the final lap. Alex Bowman finished second. Christopher Bell placed third.


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NASCAR Saturday schedule at Circuit of the Americas


Saturday will be a busy day at Circuit of the Americas, as all three national series are on the track.

Cup will qualify ahead of the Craftsman Truck and Xfinity Series races.

The forecast Saturday calls for sunny conditions and no chance of rain all day. The high is expected to be 69 degrees during Cup qualifying, 76 degrees at the start of the Truck race and 81 degrees for the start of the Xfinity race.

Zane Smith looks to win his second consecutive Truck race at the road course in Austin, Texas. AJ Allmendinger seeks his second consecutive Xfinity win at COTA.

Saturday, March 25

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 10:30 a.m.  — Truck Series
  • 2 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying (FS1)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (42 laps, 143 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 5 p.m. — Xfinity race (46 laps, 156 miles; FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

COTA Xfinity starting lineup: AJ Allmendinger takes pole


AJ Allmendinger, who won this race a year ago, will start on the pole for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas.

Allmendinger earned the pole with a lap of 92.173 mph Friday on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Xfinity starting lineup

He will be joined on the front row Sammy Smith (91.827 mph).
Ty Gibbs (91.665) will start third. Sheldon Creed (91.652) qualified fourth. Parker Kligerman (91.195) will start fifth.

Cup driver William Byron will start ninth. Byron’s time was disallowed for cutting the esses. Cole Custer, who will start 10th, didn’t make a lap in the final round of qualifying.

Cup driver Aric Almirola (91.269) qualified 13th. Truck Series racer Carson Hocevar (90.669) will start 17th. Alex Labbe (90.476) will start 23rd. He’s filling in for Josh Williams, who is serving a one-race suspension for parking his car at the start/finish line of last weekend’s race at Atlanta.