William Byron wins wild NASCAR race at remodeled Atlanta Motor Speedway

Paul Newberry
Associated Press

Hampton, Ga. — William Byron held off the freight train behind him, taking the checkered flag for his third NASCAR Cup victory while one last crash unfolded behind him in an appropriate finish Sunday to a thrilling, chaotic race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The reconfigured track — with new pavement and steeper banking — fulfilled those who predicted it would lead to frenzied pack racing at blistering speeds approaching those seen at Talladega and Daytona.

NASCAR Cup Series driver William Byron (24) leads Bubba Wallace (23) down the front stretch in the final laps.

“Pretty wild,” Byron said. “I'm out of breath. It was crazy.”

The result was 47 lead changes among an Atlanta-record 20 drivers, a traffic jam of tightly bunched cars at the front of the field, wrecks taking out several top contenders, and a bunch of smashed-up race cars to lug home.

Bryon was leading off the final restart with 13 laps to go. Bubba Wallace briefly grabbed the top spot, only to have Byron pass him right back.

Wallace still seemed to be in the most enviable position, especially if he could get a helpful push for a slingshot on the final lap. But everyone behind Byron started jostling for position, all of them wanting to put themselves in position to make the winning move.

That worked out perfectly for Byron, who pulled away to win by 0.145 seconds over Ross Chastain while the final wreck of the day sent four cars — including Wallace — spinning across the line.

NASCAR Cup Series drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (47), Austin Cindric (2), Kevin Harvick (4) and Erik Jones (43) crash.

In one last twist, Christopher Bell actually crossed the line second, but NASCAR penalized him for dipping below the double white line on the backstretch of the last lap to get past Chastain. Bell was dropped to 23rd.

Chastain made quite a comeback after blowing a tire early in the race while leading. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also blew a tire while running up front. Reigning series champion Kyle Larson, the front of his No. 5 Chevrolet patched with tape, had just surrendered the top spot when Denny Hamlin bumped him from behind, looking to give him a helpful push — only to send him into a spin that knocked them both out of the race.

"Everyone is kind of hanging on for dear life,” Ryan Blaney said during a caution period.

That summed up things perfectly.

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