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A Big Win and Big Hats for William Byron at Texas

After Bristol, the spotlight was on Denny Hamlin. With Hamlin’s win last Saturday night, he has undoubtedly become the least popular driver in the NASCAR Cup Series. With his infamous post-race quote, “I beat your favorite driver!”, Hamlin is now the heel of NASCAR. Now, the stars of the NASCAR Cup Series had their sights set on Texas. Texas is the opening race of the Round of 12 for the NASCAR Playoffs. It is also very well known that anything can happen in Texas. That was made very apparent last year with how many playoff drivers were involved in incidents in Texas. This year, not much was different. That includes a very familiar face who has been in victory lane several times this season.

Everything is Bigger in Texas:

They say that Everything is Bigger in Texas. That also includes the temperature. On Saturday, the forecasted high for the day was 97 degrees Fahrenheit. A brutal day for the NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers. On Sunday, the high was 101 degrees Fahrenheit. This was going to be a tough day for the NASCAR Cup Series drivers. At a minimum, it was 135 degrees Fahrenheit in the cars. You don’t have to be a meteorologist to know that that’s a blistering hot temperature. Right from the get-go, Bubba Wallace had a fast car. Wallace won the pole on Saturday and led most of the first stage before giving up the lead on pit strategy. Wallace’s teammate, Tyler Reddick, would win the first stage. With a fairly clean stage two, Kyle Larson would win the stage handily. This started setting up the seeds for the final stage.

As the laps were winding down in the final stage, it seemed that it was going to be another Kyle Larson victory. That all changed with a caution coming out with 25 laps to go. After several late race restarts, Byron found himself restarting in fourth with six laps to go. Wallace and Chase Briscoe would fight hard for the lead, but that gave the advantage to Byron. With a wild three-wide move down the back straightaway, Byron shot out to the lead. The final six laps were the only laps that Byron had led all day. This is Byron’s tenth career win, and Hendrick Motorsports’ 300th victory in the NASCAR Cup Series, the most all-time. But what happened to Byron’s teammate, Kyle Larson? Larson was assured en route to another Texas victory until he became another playoff driver to have trouble on Sunday.

Playoff Drivers with Trouble:

Coming into Texas, it was expected for several playoff drivers to have issues on Sunday. On lap 74, Kyle Busch had a flat right-front tire that sent him slamming into the turn two wall with the rear of the car. This ended his day. Busch would finish in the 34th position. This caution set up a one-lap shootout for the first stage win, which Tyler Reddick won. After the caution for the stage, Martin Truex Jr. was sent spinning into turn one off the nose of Brad Keselowski in a bizarre incident. It’s hard to blame someone for this, but it seemed that Truex was checking up quicker than Keselowski had anticipated after the stage caution, which resulted in the contact. Truex would finish in the 17th position on the day.

The most notable incident that involved a playoff driver on Sunday, was with Kyle Larson. As previously mentioned, Larson was cruising to victory until a caution with 25 laps to go. This set up a late-race restart with Larson and Bubba Wallace starting on the front row together. The two drivers would fight hard for the entire lap side by side, and as they came around with 19 laps to go, that’s when the race changed for Larson. With Wallace right on Larson’s door entering turn one, Larson got loose and spun out hard into the turn two wall. This was hard racing between the two drivers with no ill intentions. This wreck has now put Larson right above the cutoff line, and where the Cup Series is going next week, the odds are not in his favor.

What to Expect from Talladega:

If you are a NASCAR fan or a racing fan in general, there is one track that drivers will show the tiniest amount of fear at, it is Talladega. Talladega is the biggest, meanest, and fastest track that the NASCAR Cup Series goes to. Anything can happen at Talladega. It’s called the wild card race for the playoffs for a reason. This coming weekend is a great opportunity for a driver such as Bubba Wallace to punch his ticket into the Round of 8. Keep an eye on Wallace, and RFK Racing teammates, Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher. Keselowski has won at Talladega six times and Buescher has won the most recent Superspeedway race, Daytona. It would not be a shocker to see any of these drivers in victory lane on Sunday.

Current Playoff Standings:

1st: William Byron: Advanced to the Round of 8.

2nd: Denny Hamlin: +37 points above the cutline.

3rd: Chris Buescher: +22 points above the cutline.

4th: Christopher Bell: +20 points above the cutline.

5th: Martin Truex Jr.: +19 points above the cutline.

6thRoss Chastain: +12 points above the cutline.

7th: Brad Keselowski: +8 points above the cutline.

8thKyle Larson: +2 points above the cutline.

9th: Bubba Wallace: -2 points below the cutline.

10: Tyler Reddick: -3 points below the cutline.

11th: Ryan Blaney: -11 points below the cutline.

12th: Kyle Busch: -17 points below the cutline.

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