William Byron advances to round of 8 with win at Texas

William Byron does a burnout following his win Sunday in the NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway. (LM Otero / AP Photo)

FORT WORTH, Texas — William Byron got a milestone victory for Rick Hendrick while advancing into the round of eight of NASCAR playoffs.

Bubba Wallace felt like he let one get away.

Byron took the lead for the first time right after the final restart with six laps left Sunday at Texas, staying in front after going underneath Wallace and Chase Briscoe, to win the opener of the second round of the playoffs and get the 300th victory for Hendrick Motorsports.

“I choked … I had my worst restart,” said Wallace, who after just sneaking into the round of 12 started from the pole and led a career-high 111 laps. “This one is going to sting for a little bit.”

The top five finishers were all playoff contenders, with Ross Chastain second, ahead of Wallace, Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin. Retiring driver Kevin Harvick was sixth and playoff driver Brad Keselowski seventh.

“We’ve just been kind of steady Eddie through the first three or four races and we haven’t shown any flashes, but today I thought we had a good car if we could have just get to the front,” Byron said. “At the end there we were really fast.”

Byron finished 1.863 seconds ahead of Chastain for his sixth win of the season, the most in the Cup series. He built on the points lead he had starting the second round.

Hamlin, Chris Buescher, Bell, Martin Truex Jr., Chastain, Keselowski and Kyle Larson round out the top eight of the playoff standings behind Byron. Wallace moved up three spots to ninth, still one below the cutoff line when this three-race round is done, with Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch behind him.

There are two more races in the round of 12, at Talladega next weekend and then the Roval at Charlotte.

After an earlier restart with 20 laps to go in the 267-lap race, when Larson and Wallace hadn’t taken fresh tires, they were side-by-side going into Turn 1 when Larson got loose on the inside. Larson’s car went up the track and slammed hard into the wall to end his day.

But there was still one more restart after six cars got caught up in an accident in the back of the field, including playoff contenders Ryan Blaney and Tyler Reddick, last year’s winner at Texas.

That is what set up the 25-year-old Byron in the No. 24 Chevrolet, instead of Larson, getting the milestone victory for Hendrick. It was Byron’s 10th career win.

Byron said he wasn’t sure he could put into words what it meant to get No. 300, expressing his thanks to “Mr. Hendrick for his investment in me, and telling me at 17 years old that he was going to take me to Cup racing. So just appreciate everything he’s done for me. This is awesome.”

Denny Hamlin was racing with damage to his right side after being hit by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Ty Gibbs on pit road in the first stage.

“Once we got the damage, (the car) just wasn’t as fast as it was before,” Hamlin said. “Still, considering how much damage it had, it was a top-three car. A bunch of carnage happened there in the end, and we avoided it, so we are in a better spot than when we entered.”