Byron takes win in rain-shortened and wild Atlanta Cup race

Byron takes win in rain-shortened and wild Atlanta Cup race

After contact with Corey LaJoie early in the second stage, Byron received damage to his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and fell a lap down.

Thanks to some more cautions and quick repairs, Byron returned to the lead lap and stayed on the track between Stages 2 and 3 to move to the front of the field.

Two laps following the start of the final stage, Byron swept around A.J. Allmendinger to take the lead and was still out front when rain forced NASCAR to halt the race after 185 of the scheduled 260 laps.

The win is Byron’s series-leading fourth of the season and eighth of his career.

“It was just all teamwork,” Byron said of his recovery-turned-victory. “To be honest, I don’t completely understand this one. It’s a really good feeling. I’ve never had a rain victory like this. 

“It’s cool. We went through so much during the night – spinning through the infield, destroyed the bottom of the car, going around the apron trying to stay on the lead lap. At that point you just don’t have the grip and I was real edgy back in traffic. Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) made a great call to pit there and then stay out (later).

“Once we got towards the front, we were OK. We could make the right decisions – block OK. Got the lead from A.J. and was able to manage the run. Just a crazy night.”

As part of his victory, Byron also received an additional trophy – plated in the precious metal Rhodium – to commemorate Goodyear Racing’s 2,000th Cup win.

The first Cup winner on Goodyear rubber was driver Jim Reed at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in 1959.

Goodyear's Rhodium plated trophy

Goodyear’s Rhodium plated trophy

Photo by: Goodyear

Suarez ended up credited with second, Allmendinger third, Michael McDowell fourth and Kyle Busch fifth.

Completing the top-10 were Brad Keselowski, J.J. Yeley, Ryan Blaney, Justin Haley and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Stage 1

Blaney passed Joey Logano with two of 60 laps to go and held off a late challenge by Kyle Larson to take the Stage 1 win. Martin Truex Jr. ended up third, Logano fourth and Byron completed the top five.

Harrison Burton spun on the backstretch midway through the first stage in the only incident which brought out a caution.

Pole-winner Aric Almirola led the first 39 laps, but Logano got around him for the lead on lap 48 and carried Blaney into second behind him.

Stage 2

Keselowski claimed the Stage 2 win under caution when a wreck involving Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin put the race under caution with four laps remaining in the 100-lap stage.

Blaney finished second, Chris Buescher third, Austin Cindric fourth and Allmendinger rounded out the top five as severe weather threatened to cut the race short.

During pit stops between Stages 1 and 2, Truex got spun around by McDowell on pit road which sent him back to 35th. Christopher Bell (removing equipment), Denny Hamlin (equipment interference) and Byron (safety violation) all had to restart the stage from the rear of the field.

Buescher moved out front for the first time as three cars spun off Turn 4 on lap 92 which sent up a restart with 61 laps to go in the stage.

Stage 3

During the break between Stages 2 and 3, many of the lead-lap cars decided to pit but several stayed out with rain nearby. Allmendinger led the way on the restart with 96 laps remaining in the race.

Two laps after the restart, Byron went to the high side of Allmendinger and with Suarez tucked in close behind him, was able to pull the outside line ahead and put himself into the lead.

With Byron still in the lead, Ryan Preece and Bubba Wallace spun on lap 178 to place the race under caution.

Reports of light rain began while the race was under caution and NASCAR brought the cars down pit road after 185 laps completed and displayed the red flag.

The race was declared official – and Byron the winner – at approximately 10 p.m. ET.

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