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A Special Weekend For Hendrick Motorsports at COTA

William Byron Celebrates his Victory on Sunday

There are three things that Texas loves the most. Barbeque, Football, and Racing. This past weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series turned left and right at a very unique Road Course. Ever since Circuit of the Americas opened in 2012, it has played host to F1, motocross, and supercars. Ever since 2021, COTA has played host to NASCAR and has some very special moments. But this entire weekend was special for Hendrick Motorsports. Coming out of Bristol, all eyes were on Denny Hamlin after the race of survival in Tennessee. Let’s discuss this weekend’s events that took place at COTA in Austin, Texas.

Kyle Larson Steals the Xfinity Race on Saturday:

Earlier this year, it was announced that Hendrick Motorsports would field the #17 car in select Xfinity Series races as a part of their 40th anniversary season. This weekend, it was Kyle Larson in the #17 in the Xfinity Series for Hendrick. On Friday evening, Larson would qualify on the pole with a new track record. But on Saturday morning, a cracked brake rotor was discovered on Larson’s car, which was replaced forcing Larson to start in the back. It was Shane Van Gisbergen and AJ Allmendinger leading the field to green on Saturday. Both stages would be dominated by Allmendinger but would be won by other drivers due to pit strategy. Larson would make his way up to third but would start to fade away with 10 laps to go. A caution would fly with four laps to go, which would set up an overtime restart.

During this caution, Larson would make a pit stop for four tires to replace a flat-spotted tire. It would be SVG and Sam Mayer on the front row for the final restart. SVG would be shoved through turn one from behind by Austin Hill. Hill would get the lead followed by an angry SVG. For the final lap, it would be Hill and SVG, while Larson followed behind in third. As the drivers would enter turn 17 on the final lap, SVG would push Hill through the turn, giving Larson the lead. Larson would only lead the final half mile en route to his 15th career win in the Xfinity Series. This win is special to Hendrick Motorsports, this was the first win for the #17 car in the Xfinity Series for Hendrick.

The #17 was Rick Hendrick’s late son, Ricky Hendrick, car number for his lone Truck Series win at Kansas in 2001. But Saturday’s Xfinity Series win wasn’t the only reason why it was a special weekend for Hendrick Motorsports. Let’s discuss what happened on Sunday.

William Byron Dominates the Cup Series Race on Sunday:

For Sunday, it was William Byron on the pole alongside Ty Gibbs. Right from the drop of the green flag, it was obvious that William Byron had a fast racecar. The opening lap would see its fair share of chaos. As the field headed down the back straightaway, Bubba Wallace, Corey Lajoie, and Martin Truex Jr would all make contact with each other. This would essentially ruin Lajoie’s day. Stage one would be dominated by Byron but would be won by Christopher Bell on pit strategy. Bell would lead the field to green for the start of stage two but would eventually fall back on older tires. Byron would go on to win stage two. The final stage is where the intensity started to pick up and where new drivers came into play. Ross Chastain got the lead from Byron on the restart with 34 laps to go.

Chastain had a fast car but wasn’t quite able to pull away from Byron. The longer the green flag runs went, the better Byron’s car got. With 26 laps to go, Byron got the lead from Chastain entering turn 20 and never looked back. Both Byron and Chastain hit pit road with 24 laps to go, handing the lead to Ty Gibbs. After the pit cycle, Byron reclaimed the lead with 17 laps to go and never looked back. Even with a late charge by Christopher Bell, it wasn’t enough to faze the dominant William Byron. This was Byron’s first win at COTA, his 12th career victory, his second win of the season, and his second win on a Road Course. With this type of dominant performance in the rear-view mirror now, is the young Hendrick Motorsports driver the Championship favorite?

Is William Byron the Championship Favorite?

It feels like we were discussing this around this time last year. That’s because we were. Even if the season is only six weeks old, the simple answer is Yes. William Byron is easily the Championship Favorite. Coming into 2024, Byron was one of the two favorites for the Cup Series Championship alongside Kyle Larson. Byron could’ve, and probably should’ve won his first Cup Series Championship last season. In 2023, Byron led the field in wins, Top-10’s, and tied with Larson in Top-5 finishes. This could be a preview of what’s to come for the rest of the season from William Byron and the #24 team. But now, let’s discuss where the Cup Series is heading this coming weekend.

What to Expect from Richmond:

For this coming Easter weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series heads back northeast to Richmond, Virginia. Short-track season continues for The Cup Series in Richmond. For years, Richmond used to be loved by fans as it was almost as big of a ticket as Bristol. Now, Richmond is a less-than-mediocre track on the schedule. Although the racing product at Richmond is better now than it was in the Spring of 2022. Who would be a good driver to keep an eye on in Richmond? Alex Bowman would be a good driver to keep an eye on this coming Sunday. Bowman is currently on a two-year winless streak and has been red hot in recent weeks. Bowman has won at Richmond in the past, in the Spring of 2021. Don’t be shocked if the two-year winless streak for Alex Bowman comes to an end on Easter Sunday.

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