NASCAR at COTA results: William Byron holds off Christopher Bell to win the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix

After starting from the pole and taking control of the race early, William Byron was able to withstand a charge by Christopher Bell in the final laps to cap off a dominant performance, winning the Echopark Texas Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas for his second victory of the 2024 season. Byron's 12th career Cup win comes after he led a whopping 42 of 68 laps, and also after his crew had an exceptional final pit stop that was three seconds faster than then-second place Ross Chastain.

Byron has now won two of the last three road course races in NASCAR dating back to Watkins Glen last August, and he also becomes the first driver to win multiple races in 2024 after opening the season by winning the Daytona 500.

Echopark Texas Grand Prix unofficial results

  1. #24 - William Byron
  2. #20 - Christopher Bell
  3. #54 - Ty Gibbs
  4. #48 - Alex Bowman
  5. #45 - Tyler Reddick
  6. #13 - AJ Allmendinger
  7. #1 - Ross Chastain
  8. #17 - Chris Buescher
  9. #8 - Kyle Busch
  10. #19 - Martin Truex Jr.

Byron could have capped off his day with an easy Sunday drive into the Texas sunset, but Bell ended up making things interesting in the last 10 laps thanks to having fresher tires than the rest of the leaders by virtue of his green flag pit strategy. While Byron never made any major errors to allow Bell to close in, he confessed in post-race that he was not as smooth as he could have been on the run to the finish.

"I feel like I made a lot of mistakes in the last ten laps. Just little micro errors," Byron told Fox Sports. "Christopher was really fast there on the longer runs. But this sport is just so hard. It's so difficult to week in and week out 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 prep work in this week, and just thankful for the team I have around me. ... It's just a lot of fun to win races, and it's really difficult. We're going to enjoy this one."

The win for Byron snaps him out of somewhat of a post-Daytona 500 hangover, as he had earned just one top 10 and no finishes better than 10th -- including three finishes of 17th or worse -- since earning the biggest victory of his career. Byron is the fourth different driver to win at Circuit of the Americas since the track was added to the Cup Series schedule in 2021, but his win makes Hendrick Motorsports the first team to have won more than once at the Austin, Texas road course. Hendrick won the inaugural Cup race at COTA with Chase Elliott in 2021.

Bell vs. Busch

Compared to NASCAR's 2023 trip to COTA, Sunday's race was an exceptionally clean one with not a single caution flag for anything besides the two competition cautions at the end of the two stages. That doesn't mean, though, that things were completely clean or that everyone was left especially pleased with the way they were raced by their competitors.

On pit road after the race, Kyle Busch came over to Christopher Bell's car to voice his displeasure over a mid-race incident in Turn 1 where Bell had spun him out as the two were racing for position inside the top 10. Busch would recover to finish ninth, but based on what mics picked up on pit road, he seemed to take issue with a lack of respect shown by Bell. And he would leave things by issuing a stern warning to his former teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing.

"Have I ever wrecked you? ... Okay. It's f--king coming," Busch said.

"I don't know. We were two-wide going in there," Bell told Fox Sports. "Obviously I haven't seen a replay yet. But I had no intentions of turning him and I'm sure we'll talk it out before the next race."

Bell was one of three Toyotas to finish in the top five, a group that included Ty Gibbs, who earned his fifth-straight top-10 finish and tied his career-best finish of third from just two weeks ago at Phoenix.

"We were just a little too loose in the right-hand corners. I just wish we were a little tighter, but we did a really good job today," Gibbs told Fox Sports. "My team did a great job. All props to them. ... We'll just keep working hard."

Compared to the Toyotas as well as the Chevrolets of Byron, Ross Chastain and Alex Bowman, the Fords were a noticeable step behind in terms of overall pace. Texas native Chris Buescher was the highest-finishing Ford in eighth.

Some Kerfuffles

In the booth for Fox Sports, the Kevin Harvick word of the week was "kerfuffle," which he aptly used to describe the many on-track incidents that occurred during the day. While many amounted to nothing more than harmless spins, more than a few star drivers got sent spinning at one point during the day: Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Bubba Wallace and Chase Elliott were just a few of the drivers to be sent for a loop.

The list of drivers who spun during the day also included Japan's Kamui Kobayashi, whose second Cup Series start resembled the first in that he was once again sent for a spin by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. After the two ran into each other at Indianapolis last August, they would again find each other at the top of the esses when Stenhouse ran into the back of Kobayashi and sent him around. Kobayashi would also get spun again later in the race off the bumper of Josh Berry before finishing 29th.

Kobayashi was one of three road racing specialists in the field, and the lone visiting driver joining two NASCAR regulars from the Xfinity Series ranks. AJ Allmendinger was best in class with a sixth-place finish, while Kaulig Racing teammate Shane van Gisbergen finished 20th after suffering gearbox issues that caused him to lose first gear late in the race.

Race results rundown

  • Alex Bowman's run of outstanding consistency at Circuit of the Americas continued, as a fourth-place finish marked his third-straight top five at COTA while also giving him top 10s in all four of the track's Cup races. In addition, Bowman's second-straight top five overall also gave him consecutive top-five finishes for the first time since late in the 2020 season.
  • After having failed to finish all three COTA races prior to this year, Bubba Wallace looked like he was in for yet another long day when he and Corey LaJoie got turned into each other on the opening lap, breaking a toe link on Wallace's car. Despite the major repairs that necessitated, followed by another spin in mid-race, Wallace would end up earning a great deal of track position back en route to a 15th-place finish, by far his best result at this racetrack.
  • One of the most outstanding runs of the day belonged to Justin Haley, who made the Rick Ware Racing No. 51 Ford a fixture in the top 15 throughout the day with even some spells of racing in the top 10. However, Haley would be disqualified in post-race inspection after his car failed to meet minimum weight requirements. In addition, NASCAR has also taken Ross Chastain's car back to the sport's R&D Center for further inspection.
  • After a miserable start to his rookie season that included two DNFs and four-straight finishes of 29th or worse, Zane Smith finally got off the schneid with a 19th-place finish. Smith's finish was his best and his first on the lead lap since a 13th-place run in the Daytona 500, and he also ended the day as the race's highest-finishing rookie.
  • The opening lap incident between LaJoie and Wallace set the driver of the No. 7 back in the field as well, but it wouldn't be the only issue Corey LaJoie had Sunday. After finishing 24th, LaJoie had to receive medical attention upon exiting his car due to cramping, but he would be checked and released from the infield care center without issue.
  • Of the 39 cars that started Sunday's race, 34 would end up finishing on the lead lap and 38 would be left running at the finish. The lone exception was Michael McDowell, who went many laps down before finally falling out of the race with a power steering failure.

Next Race

The NASCAR Cup Series will head to the Commonwealth of Virginia next week, with Richmond Raceway hosting the Toyota Owners 400 on Easter Sunday Night at 7 p.m. ET on Fox.

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Christopher Bell makes one last charge at Byron! He's able to close the gap from first to second -- but not enough to get to the dominant car of the day!

William Byron scores his second win of the 2024 season!

1 - #24 - William Byron
2 - #20 - Christopher Bell
3 - #54 - Ty Gibbs
4 - #48 - Alex Bowman
5 - #45 - Tyler Reddick
6 - #13 - A.J. Allmendinger
7 - #1 - Ross Chastain
8 - #17 - Chris Buescher
9 - #8 - Kyle Busch
10 - #19 - Martin Truex Jr.

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Bell has cut the lead to about a second and a half. Bell is pushing hard, but it might not be enough to catch Byron unless Byron makes a mistake on this final lap.

White flag!

 
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Bell makes the pass for second in Turn 12! Ty Gibbs went wide and creating a big opening for Bell, and that's going to give Bell two laps to make up 2.5 seconds on Byron for the lead and the win.

Deuces at the flagstand this time by.

 
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Christopher Bell has caught Ty Gibbs for second spot. If Bell is going to have any chance to try and run down Byron in the last three laps, he's going to have to find a way around his  teammate.

Bit of a scare for William Byron, as Noah Gragson spun out at the top of the esses in front of him. Byron's team had been trying to relay a message to Gragson to give room when they came up to lap him.

 
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March 24, 2024, 10:28 PM
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Five laps to go. Best battle in the top 10 is between A.J. Allmendinger and Ross Chastain, who may have gotten together while racing for sixth. There's also a gaggle of cars all running together from 11th on back.

William Byron's lead is now up to 3.6 seconds on Ty Gibbs. Looks like Driver 24 has turned up the wick again.

 
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Christopher Bell catches and passes Alex Bowman for third. Bowman is in fuel saving mode as he tries to hang on to yet another top five finish.

The gap between Byron and Gibbs has stabilized at about 2.7 seconds. The one for Byron to watch could very well be Bell, who has the freshest tires of everyone in the top five. Five laps to go next time by.

 
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Gibbs makes his move on Bowman in Turn 1, and Gibbs completes the pass and takes the spot away. He's got eight and a half laps now to try and run William Byron down from 3.5 seconds back.

Christopher Bell is making time as well. Six seconds now separate him from the race lead.

 
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William Byron's lead is beginning to shrink. It's now under three seconds from Byron back to Bowman. That gap might shrink further if Gibbs can find a way around Bowman.

Brad Keselowski has spun in Turn 8. He drives away without issue.

 
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10 laps to go. William Byron continues to hold the lead, but Ty Gibbs has been pushing hard to try and make up the four seconds Byron has on him. Gibbs has caught Alex Bowman for second, and Christopher Bell is also making time on fresh tires back in fourth. The problem for Bell is that he's got a nine second deficit to make up.

Part of this is influenced by the fact that Byron's large lead means he can pace himself just in case he needs to save fuel or save tires. Byron is being told he's got half a lap to the good on fuel to the finish.

 
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Chase Elliott has gone for a spin in Turn 8. No caution but that'll drop him back to 17th.

 
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The cycle of green flag stops is complete. William Byron has built a 2.7 second lead on Alex Bowman, then it's Ty Gibbs, Tyler Reddick, Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell, Chris Buescher, A.J. Allmendinger, Kyle Busch and Chase Briscoe. 15 laps to go.

Another spin for Kamui Kobayashi, this time in Turn 11. Looked like he divebombed Josh Berry and Berry didn't take it.

 
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Martin Truex Jr. now comes to pit road with 17 laps to go. William Byron takes the lead again by 1.9 seconds on Alex Bowman.

Long stop for Truex, much to the displeasure of both him and crew chief James Small.

 
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Shane van Gisbergen and Denny Hamlin now come to pit road. Pit road penalty for Erik Jones (speeding).

Once Martin Truex Jr. comes to pit road, it'll be Hendrick Motorsports 1-2 at the front with William Byron first and Alex Bowman second. Bowman is actually making good lap times on his teammate, but he does have the lapped car of Timmy Hill in front of him to dispose of.

 
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Christopher Bell has now come to pit road with 19 laps to go. New tires have been making a difference as this run has progressed, as William Byron has driven up to third. Martin Truex Jr. and Shane van Gisbergen have yet to make their stop as the top two.

 
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Tyler Reddick now pits coming to 21 laps to go. Zane Smith -- who's made it up to the Top 10 after a miserable start to the year -- comes in with him. As does Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who is serving a penalty for cutting the course.

Christopher Bell is the new race leader by eight seconds over Martin Truex Jr. Shane van Gisbergen is third, Denny Hamlin is fourth, Ryan Blaney fifth and then William Byron sixth, who will inherit the lead at the end of the pit cycle.

 
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Ty Gibbs pits coming to 22 laps to go. He's joined on pit road by A.J. Allmendinger and Chase Elliott.

Tyler Reddick now takes the lead by a second and a half over Christopher Bell. Meanwhile, Alex Bowman has cycled past both Gibbs and Chastain on-track, which would put him second to Byron once everyone comes to pit road.

 
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Byron and Chastain now pit coming to 23 laps to go. Justin Haley also pits from seventh spot, as does Joey Logano from ninth. Carson Hocevar and Austin Cindric also pit.

Ty Gibbs stays out and takes the race lead.

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