William Byron Secures His First W Of The Season
Everyone knew that the 2022 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 was going to be an unpredictable race after the Atlanta Motor Speedway revealed its plans to change up the track. And that is why it’s tough to act surprised seeing William Byron win the racer last weekend, granted his success us one of the most remarkable events in the speedway’s history.
That’s not to say he didn’t deserve it, though. Byron was exceptional in the latter stages of the race, leading most of the final laps, which eventually earned him his first victory of the 2022 season, although it was close.
Bubba Wallace looked like he had Byron’s number at the very end of the race, but Wallace’s plans fell apart after Ross Chastain took him side-by-side on the final lap. Wallace, Chastain, and the rest of the field battled on the final lap, which effectively helped Byron cruise to the finish line, as neither of his competitors could catch up to him, awarding Byron with his first W of the season.
Byron’s success was remarkable, to say the least, but it also came in a historic race that saw the most lead changes and the most different winners in over 60 years. So while Byron was the one to hoist the trophy, the real winners were the fans who truly got their money’s worth.
A Historic Race
Atlanta Motor Speedway is known as one of the most exciting races on the NASCAR schedule, and it truly lived up to its name this weekend.
Sunday’s 500-mile race was objectively the best race NASCAR has seen so far this year, and it would be fair to say that we might have to wait for a few more years before we see another such spectacle.
In total, the Atlanta race saw 46 lead changes and 20 different drivers leading at least a lap, which further proves how close and exciting the race was. With those numbers, the 2022 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 also shattered the previous record for the most lead changes and different leaders, which stood since 1982.
However, the close battle also resulted in a lot of attrition. The 2022 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 saw 11 yellow flags with several multi-car accidents. A total of 12 drivers ended the race with a DNF, including Austin Cindric, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Tyler Reddick.
Busch, who was very vocal about his disagreement with the track changes, made it very clear what he thinks about the new track. After nearly crashing his car while going a lap down, the two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion parked his car and chose to not complete it.
Rear-Tire Issues Can’t Stop Chastain
Ross Chastain looked like the man to beat early on as he paced the field through Stage 1 and looked set to come out ahead. Unfortunately, when entering Turn 1, he blew his right rear tire, which sent his car into the outside wall. Moreover, he had suffered a penalty after his crew improperly fuelled his car.
But despite all that, Chastain was able to fight back. He made up the lost laps and found himself in the front again by the end of the race and was even in the mix to win it all before he ended second. To say that Chastain drove incredibly well would be an understatement, and it’s no longer a secret that he is one of the top drivers in the field.
Chastain was not the only driver who suffered issues with his back tire. Ricky Stenhouse and Tyler Reddick both had the same issue, but unlike Chastain, Stenhouse and Reddick both got caught in a crash and ended the race with a DNF.
Interestingly, the three cars that suffered tire failures were all Chevrolets. On a more positive note, all three were also running in the front of the race, so it’s fair to say that Chevrolet will address the issue ahead of the next race.
Things You Might Have Missed
With a runner-up finish from Chastain and a fourth-place finish for Daniel Suarez, Trackhouse Racing continue putting up impressive results this season. They’ve now had cares inside the top-five for the first time in history, so expect to see a lot more from this team going forward.
Similarly, 23XI Racing put their two cars inside the top-15, with Busch placing third and Wallace in 13th.
Christopher Bell crossed the finish line in second place; however, his placement did not stand. He made a pass below the red and white on the final lap, which led NASCAR to strip him of his finishing position and relegate him to 23rd place.
Bubba Wallace, Chris Buescher, and Justin Haley all got involved in an accident at the finish line but all three still finished inside the top-15. Still, with Buescher finishing seventh and Haley in 11th, they both secured their best finishes, whereas Wallace’s 13th-place finish marked his best result since his runner-up at Daytona.
Similar to Chastain, Corey LaJoie produced a remarkable comeback last weekend. LaJoie was one of the drivers who was involved in Tyler Reddick’s wreck, but he still came home in fifth, marking his career-best Cup Series finish.
LaJoie’s fifth-place finish marked Spire Motorsports’ best result since Justin Haley won Daytona in 2019.
LaJoie’s teammate Josh Bilicki finished in 16th, marking his first top-20 since placing 10th at Daytona last August.
Independent driver, BJ McLeod, could only manage 19th-place finish, but he led laps for the first time in his Cup Series career. Like Spire Motorsports’ Bilicki, McLeod’s performed well enough in Atlanta to score his best result since he placed ninth at Daytona in August 2021.
The NASCAR Cup Series continues next Sunday with the Echopark Texas Grand Prix on the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas.
* All odds provided by Action247 Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
**All views expressed are my own. My picks are my own and are not a guarantee, bet at your own risk.