Year’s worth of preparation leads to Martinsville for William Byron


It is for this type of weekend coming up at Martinsville Speedway that William Byron ran several Late Model races this year. 

While there’s plenty of chances to run laps on a simulator or on iRacing, there’s a value in running actual laps in a race car, even if it is different than the Next Gen car. With limited practice in Cup, the more laps the better, especially for the 24-year-old Byron who didn’t begin competing until a decade ago — years after many of his competitors first started. 

Byron heads into this weekend on the verge of making the Cup championship race for the first time. He leads Denny Hamlin by five points for the last transfer spot. 

Byron’s experience running Late Model races this season gave him extra chances to work on his race craft, whether it was more time on restarts, managing tires or something else. His success this year — which included winning the Slinger Nationals in Wisconsin in July — also provided extra confidence. 

“Super proud of him for stepping out of his comfort zone and pushing his limits,” crew chief Rudy Fugle said in July on MotorMouths on Peacock. “That’s what is huge. 

“A lot of guys do that in different ways, but they don’t always do it in front of a crowd. You don’t do it in front of everybody who, if you go up there and miss the show … most people that don’t know how hard it is are going to laugh at you. You have to get past that. He’s done that and it has paid off. He’s a way more complete driver this year and is just going to keep growing.”

Byron heads to Martinsville having won the spring race (and the Camping World Truck Series race that weekend), but he faces a tough competitor in Hamlin, who has five Martinsville victories and 16 top-five finishes in 33 starts there. Byron will be making his 10th Cup start at the historic half-mile track. Hamlin has run nearly 16,000 laps in those Martinsville races compared to Byron, who has run just over 4,200 laps there. 

Byron’s spring win at Martinsville was his second of the season, but he hasn’t won in NASCAR since. He has won three Late Model races since. He won in May at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, in June at Berlin Raceway in Michigan and in July’s Slinger Nationals.

“I think it’s learning how to be versatile,” Byron said this summer of the value of racing Late Models. “Winning in different cars is a big boost because you’re not one dimensional. 

“Like before this year, I would have probably gone back and ran Late Models earlier if I felt like it was going to go pretty well. But I didn’t think I would be able to take what I do now and move around. Going and doing it this year has definitely bred some confidence to know that I can get in a car and learn.

“I think that’s what it takes on Sunday … that adaptability and being able to have different techniques and make it work.”


Two weeks ago, Kyle Larson saw his chances of winning the driver’s title end when he was eliminated after the Round of 12 at the Charlotte Roval. 

But the No. 5 team was still high enough in the owner standings to have a chance at the owner’s title. It’s a credit to how crew chief Cliff Daniels kept the team focused on that goal after the disappointment at the Roval.

“Cliff did a great job with his team and getting them refocused on that,” said Jeff Andrews, president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports.

With Homestead in the Round of 8, it presented the No. 5 team for Hendrick Motorsports a great chance to secure a spot in the owner’s championship race at Phoenix. 

When Homestead hosted the Cup title race, the belief of series observers was that if Larson could make it that far, he would be the heavy favorite to win. With the Next Gen car featuring a composite body that can take more contact with the wall, it provided another advantage for Larson, who often runs along the wall there.

“I think (Sunday) honestly it paid off because I finally have a car strong enough for me,” Larson said, alluding to the composite body. “I can get in the wall and it’s not going to flatten your tire or mess up your aerodynamics

“I got in the wall probably three or four times (Sunday) a decent amount to where it would have been, with the old car, probably a pit stop, and I would have killed my race.

“Thankfully this car, I think, played into my favor a lot because I do push the limits more than others. You can see it in the right side of my car. That’s pretty obvious.”

Larson showed his strength, leading 199 of 267 laps and sweeping both stages.

“My car was amazing up against the wall,” he said. “It also has to handle how you want it to.

“It did everything I wanted it to against the wall. The ride quality was great into (Turn) 3. It turned where I needed it to turn on entry so I could carry speed. It turned on exit so I could just stay committed to the throttle. It wasn’t too loose on exit or too tight where I had to bail out of the throttle at all.”


Martin Truex Jr.’s tough luck continued Sunday. 

He seemed in position to score his first victory of the season but was spun on pit road and saw his chances of winning end.

Truex was coming down pit road as the leader on Lap 246 of the 267-lap race. With the sun in his eyes, he abruptly slowed as he neared his pit stall and was hit from behind by Kyle Larson. The contact spun Truex into his stall backward. His pit stop lasted more than a minute and cost him any chance of winning.

“It was really hard to see through these windshields right now with the sun like that and all the stuff covering it,” Truex said. “I did see my box late for sure. So I slowed down before I turned down out of the way of (Larson) there. Partially on me.”

Truex finished sixth and added to the times he could have won but didn’t.

At Texas in September, Truex led when he had a tire go down on Lap 268 of the 334 lap race and crashed. He finished 31st.

At Darlington in September, Truex led with less than 35 laps left when he lost power steering and his engine began overheating. He finished 31st.

At New Hampshire in July, Truex led 172 of the first 206 laps. When the caution came out at Lap 206, Truex pitted. He was the first on pit road and first off it after taking two tires. Three cars stayed out. On the restart, Truex was trapped and got shuffled back. He eventually fell back to 11th before coming back to finish fourth in a race he had won both stages and been dominant.

At Nashville in June, Truex was in position to line up next to Chase Elliott on the front row for the final restart when he mistakingly followed his teammates down pit road. 

Elliott led when the caution came out with eight laps to go for Josh Bilicki’s blown engine. Elliott stayed on track, but Kyle Busch, who was second, and Denny Hamlin, who was third, both pitted.

Truex, who was fourth, was told to stay out if he could restart on the front row. With both Busch and Hamlin coming down pit road, that would have given Truex a spot on the front row for the restart, but he also went down pit road. Truex restarted 14th and finished 22nd.

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.

COTA Truck starting lineup: Ross Chastain wins pole


Ross Chastain will start on the pole for Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas.

Chastain earned the top starting spot in Friday’s qualifying with a lap of 91.877 mph. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch (91.490 mph).

More: COTA Truck starting lineup

Ty Majeski qualified third with a lap of 91.225 mph. Rookie Nick Sanchez (90.993) will start fourth, and Christian Eckes (90.937) will complete the top five.

Alex Bowman failed to make the race. Bowman had a flat right front on his qualifying lap.

Tyler Reddick leads Cup practice at COTA


Tyler Reddick posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Cup practice at Circuit of the Americas.

Reddick, who won two road course races last season, topped the field in his 23XI Racing Toyota with a lap of 92.989 mph. Kyle Larson was next, posting a lap of 92.618 mph around the 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Cup practice results

Ross Chastain, who won this race a year ago, was third on the speed chart in practice with a lap of 92.520 mph. He was followed by Kyle Busch (92.498 mph) and Daniel Suarez (92.461 mph).

Jordan Taylor, subbing for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, was 10th on the speed chart in practice after a lap of 92.404 mph.

Former world champion Jenson Button, driving for Rick Ware Racing, was 28th in practice with a lap of 91.759 mph. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, driving the Project 91 car for Trackhouse Racing, was 32nd in practice after a lap of 91.413 mph.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, driving in his first race for Legacy Motor Club since the Daytona 500, was 36th in practice after a lap of 91.072 mph. IndyCar driver Conor Daly was last among the 39 cars in practice with a lap of 90.095 mph.

Cup qualifying is Saturday. The series races Sunday.