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Everything That Happened In The Cup Race At COTA

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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What’s Happening?

The time has come for the main event of our racing weekend at Circuit of the Americas as the NASCAR Cup Series rumble into Austin, Texas. That’s right, it’s time for the best of the best to take to the twists and turns of the famous F1-purpose-built track as they gear up for their first road course race of the season. Who had the best car? Who had the best luck? Who had the worst of luck and who just didn’t show up? Here’s Everything That Happened In The Cup Race at Circuit of the Americas.

You Need To Know:

  • The drivers who appeared to be strong early on were the Toyota drivers Ty Gibbs, Christopher Bell, and Tyler Reddick. Also, a favorite in the race was Chicago Street Race winner, Shane Van Gisbergen in the No. 16 for Kaulig Racing. The fastest of the Hendrick drivers was William Byron who led nearly every lap of the first stage.
  • In the second stage, the No. 24 of William Byron would emerge as the primary car to beat. He led a majority of the laps before pit strategy had him pit as others stayed out to collect stage points. He restarted the final stage on the front row and was still looking strong despite overdriving the first turn causing him to lose the lead.
  • Fans early on had beef with how often FOX went to commercials, specifically with how they cut to commercials immediately after the conclusion of the first stage. Fans were also upset with the actual racing product, many of them begging for NASCAR to “fix” road course racing with the NextGen car. In terms of the stage winners, they found Bell’s and Hamlin’s wins “boring” or relatively unexciting. To add to the “boring” narrative, many fans grew tired of the constant green flag racing and were begging for a caution to come out by the race end.

The Layout

As reported by NASCAR on FOX’s Bob Pockrass, the layout for today’s race in Austin, Texas is as follows:

  • Stage 1: 15-Laps
  • Stage 2: 15-Laps
  • Final Stage: 38-Laps

The fuel window was about 27-30 laps.

Drivers to the rear were:

  • Chris Buescher (No. 17): Replacing the steering rack
  • Ryan Preece (No. 41): Replacing the valve springs
  • Timmy Hill (No. 66): Unapproved adjustments

Ahead of today’s race, there were a couple of parts of the track that were repaved. Bob Pockrass provided a look at those spots via NASCAR Hot Pass.

To clear up some confusion from yesterday’s Xfinity Series race, drivers can switch lanes once they reach the restart zone. Here is where those zones are located.

Contact Between Truex, Lajoie, and Wallace on Lap 1

In a classic case of three cars arguing for too little space, Martin Truex Jr. got sandwiched in between Corey Lajoie and Bubba Wallace on the first lap, causing sizeable damage for all cars involved. This incident occurred near the front of the pack. Bubba Wallace and Truex pitted once the field came back around to pit road, changing tires which put them deep in the field but still on the lead lap. Lajoie fell from his 5th-place starting position down to 28th, citing damaged wheels.

Here is the incident from the point-of-view of drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Corey Lajoie.

Stage 1 Penalties

Corner-cutting penalties, like the Xfinity Race on Saturday, were on all of our minds and two drivers were nabbed with this penalty in the opening stage: John Hunter Nemechek and Chase Briscoe. The penalty in question was to perform a pass-through down pit road at 40 miles per hour. Neither driver lost a lap.

Christopher Bell Plays The Strategy Game To Win Opening Stage

In a strategical play for stage points, Christopher Bell and his No. 20 JGR Toyota Camry would elect to stay out as a majority of the field pitted. This gave Bell the Stage One win, awarding him 10 points and 1 playoff point. How the points were rewarded is as follows:

  • Christopher Bell (No. 20; 10 pts + 1 playoff pt)
  • Daniel Suarez (No. 99; 9pts)
  • Michael McDowell (No. 34; 8pts)
  • Austin Cindric (No. 2; 7pts)
  • Austin Dillon (No. 3; 6pts)
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 47; 5pts)
  • William Byron (No. 24; 4pts)
  • Ty Gibbs (No. 54; 3pts)
  • Tyler Reddick (No. 45; 2pts)
  • Ross Chastain (No. 1; 1pt)

William Byron dominated a bulk of the opening stage, leading every lap until the cycle of green flag pit stops began.

It wasn’t a flawless stage for C. Bell, however, as he lost fuel pressure and had to go to the second switch.

Kyle Larson Goes For A Spin

After getting tagged from behind by a fading Christopher Bell on old tires, Kyle Larson went for a spin in this single-car incident. The damage appeared to be relatively little and he was able to continue beyond this minor hiccup.

Larson was running fifth at the time of the spin. The 5 Team on X posted the following post:

Here are a couple of on-board views from the POVs of Larson and Bell.

Stenhouse and Kobayashi Tangle Resulting In 2-Car Spin

There appeared to be some sort of beef between Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kamui Kobayashi as the No. 47 was racing pretty aggressively against the No. 50 for 23XI Racing. This would ultimately send the No. 50 around but he did tag the 47 of Stenhouse, getting a little bit of revenge. Both cars went around and were able to continue relatively unscathed.

Stage 2 Penalties

Surprisingly, there were no penalties in Stage 2 for cutting the course, which seemed to be the biggest hurdle in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race. Rather, during a cycle of green flag pit stops, both Daniel Suarez and Shane van Gisbergen were nabbed for speeding.

Stage 2 Winner

When the green flag was displayed to kick off the second stage, it didn’t take long for William Byron to rocket out front and reassume the lead from a fading Christopher Bell who was on a 2-stop strategy. However, despite his dominance early, Byron would pit in a cycle of green flag pit stops, opening the door for an opportunity for someone else to score some extra stage points and an oh-so-valuable playoff point. Still, it was clear by this point in the race that the No. 24 was the class of the field.

It would ultimately be JGR driver Denny Hamlin who scored the stage win, choosing to stay out rather than pit for a few extra points. The Stage 2 points were divided up as follows:

  • Denny Hamlin (No. 11; 10pts + 1 playoff pt)
  • Ryan Blaney (No. 12; 9pts)
  • Martin Truex Jr. (No. 19; 8pts)
  • Todd Gilliland (No. 38; 7pts)
  • Ryan Preece (No. 41; 6pts)
  • Brad Keselowski (No. 6; 5pts)
  • John Hunter Nemechek (No. 42; 4pts)
  • William Byron (No. 24; 3pts)
  • Daniel Hemric (No. 31; 2pts)
  • Josh Berry (No. 4; 1pt)

With the end of the second stage drawing to a close, the top drivers with the most owned points thus far were:

  • Denny Hamlin (10pts)
  • Christopher Bell (10pts)
  • Ryan Blaney (9pts)
  • Daniel Suarez (9pts)
  • Michael McDowell (8pts)
  • Martin Truex Jr. (8pts)

Stage Break Woes For McDowell

During the Stage 2 break, Michael McDowell came down pit road, complaining of a power steering problem. However, as reported by PRN, it was a broken steering rack mount.

Final Stage Penalties

Trouble for NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver as he was handed down a most unpopular penalty! Chase Elliott got out of shape in the esses, causing him to cut one of the corners. He was forced to perform a pass-through penalty from the 5th-place running position.

The No. 9 crew apparently wanted to challenge the call from NASCAR but the sanctioning body was having none of it. They threatened to stop scoring the NAPA No. 9 if he did not serve his penalty.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. would be forced to serve a pass-through penalty for cutting the esses in turn 4.

During the final cycle of green flag pit stops, Erik Jones was nabbed for speeding while exiting. This resulted in a pass-through penalty.

SVG Loses A Gear

As reported by Chris Knight, with under 30 laps to go, Shane van Gisbergen lost his first gear, which would have major implications when it comes to getting out of his pit box.

In Dominating Fashion, William Byron Holds Off Bell To Win At COTA

From the jump, we knew William Byron had a fast car. He put his No. 24 Raptor Chevy on the Pole on Friday and a big bulk of the laps during Sunday’s race. As the laps wound down, the dominator in the 24 started to receive some pressure from a hard-charging Christopher Bell but he was able to hang on to score the victory at Circuit of the Americas. This is Byron’s second win of the season following the 2024 opening Daytona 500.

The Top 10 From COTA

The Top-10 finishers are as follows:

  • William Byron
  • Christopher Bell
  • Ty Gibbs
  • Alex Bowman
  • Tyler Reddick
  • AJ Allmendinger
  • Ross Chastain
  • Chris Buescher
  • Kyle Busch
  • Martin Truex Jr.

Around The Garage

Save for two stage cautions, this was a caution-free race, leaving many fans (and drivers of other series watching at home) a bit bored with the product. Ryan Vargas posted on X, begging for someone to throw out some rollbar padding so we could get a caution.

In The Stands

Kris Klein offered Christopher Bell a big round of applause following his Stage 1 win.

Many fans had an issue with how NASCAR on FOX went to commercial break immediately after the conclusion of the first stage.

Pete Beargoggles begs the question “Why does only the leader matter?”

Tracy Myers was also upset with how FOX immediately switched over to commercial after the green and white checkered flag flew.

Many fans were upset by the long green flag runs as they begged for a cation as the race dipped below 10-laps-to-go. Iowa Sports Fan posted the following.

Wrapping Things Up

The first road course race of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series Season is officially in the books! What do you make of the racing product we have today, Daily Downforce readers? Did you enjoy it? Did you think it was a snooze fest? How did your favorite driver do? Were you surprised by William Byron’s victory? Let us know by commenting on all our social media platforms.

Be sure to keep tuning into for all the latest news stories and discussion topics through this coming week. Onto Richmond, we go.

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Picture of Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
All Posts