Story By: HOLLY CAIN / NASCAR – AUSTIN, TX – Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron won his first pole position of the season Saturday and will start out front for Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at the Circuit of The Americas road course.
The 25-year-old North Carolinian, Byron, earned the top starting spot for the NASCAR Cup Series race with a lap of 93.882 mph in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – bettering the field by a slight .138-second on the 20-turn 3.41-mile road course in Texas hill country. For his efforts, Byron becomes the first driver in NASCAR history to win pole positions at four different road course venues – Charlotte ROVAL (2019), Road America (2021), Indianapolis Road Course (2021) and COTA (2022). This is his ninth career pole position.
23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick will start his No. 45 Toyota alongside Byron on the front row, missing out on the pole in the final round of qualifying. However, he set a new qualifying lap record at COTA with a speed of 94.210 mph in the opening round.
“It’s good, it’s been an up and down weekend.” said Byron, who is also competing in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race, but ironically had his potential Xfinity Series pole-winning time disallowed during Friday Xfinity Series qualifying for exceeding track limits.
“In the Cup car we had a little bit of work to do yesterday just on overall balance and we corrected some areas and some areas for me as a driver.”
“Good to get the pole but really tomorrow is what matters.”
Austin Cindric will start third in the No. 2 Team Penske Ford alongside IMSA star Jordan Taylor, who qualified the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet fourth fastest in his NASCAR debut, subbing for the injured Hendrick driver Chase Elliott.
Elliott immediately responded to Taylor’s effort on social media saying, “I see you @jordan10taylor. .. killer lap,” – congratulating the 31-year-old sports car star.
“It was honestly a full new experience and yesterday [in practice] I felt like I was out of control 90 percent of the time,” said Taylor, who has two wins and a runner-up in four sports car starts at COTA. “Today, I felt like I knew what the car was doing. We made good set-up changes to help with that and give me a better sense of where the grip was. … Today felt super smooth and it felt like I was driving my [sports] car, something super familiar for me.
“The Hendrick guys have done an amazing job,” Taylor added.
Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suarez, Hendrick Motorsport’s Alex Bowman, Kaulig Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger – winner of last year’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at COTA – also advanced to final qualifying round and will start fifth, sixth and seventh
Legacy Motor Club driver Erik Jones, who was quickest in Group A during first round qualifying will start eighth – ahead of Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch and his Legacy Motor Club teammate, rookie contender Noah Gragson.
Defending race winner Ross Chastain – who on Friday commemorated his winning “watermelon toss” from last year’s first career victory celebration at COTA – will start 12th. NASCAR Cup Series championship leader Joey Logano will start 15th.
Former Formula One drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button contributed solid efforts in qualifying too. Raikkonen, who has one other NASCAR Cup Series start (at Watkins Glen, N.Y. last year) will start 22nd in the No. 91 Project91 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet. Button will roll off 24th in his NASCAR debut driving the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and new team owner Jimmie Johnson – making only his second start of the year in the No. 84 Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet – will start 31st and popular IndyCar driver Conor Daly will roll off 35th in the 39-car field.
NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying Final Round Results – EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix
Circuit of The Americas
Saturday, March 25, 2023
1. (24) William Byron, Chevrolet, 93.882 mph.
2. (45) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 93.783 mph.
3. (2) Austin Cindric, Ford, 93.459 mph.
4. (9) Jordan Taylor, Chevrolet, 93.174 mph.
5. (99) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 93.067 mph.
6. (48) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 92.911 mph.
7. (16) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 92.840 mph.
8. (43) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 92.838 mph.
9. (8) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 92.678 mph.
10. (42) Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, 92.188 mph.
11. (23) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 0.000 mph.
12. (1) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
13. (5) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
14. (20) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 0.000 mph.
15. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 0.000 mph.
16. (21) Harrison Burton, Ford, 0.000 mph.
17. (54) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 0.000 mph.
18. (47) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
19. (14) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 0.000 mph.
20. (34) Michael McDowell, Ford, 0.000 mph.
21. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 0.000 mph.
22. (91) Kimi Raikkonen, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
23. (31) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
24. (15) Jenson Button, Ford, 0.000 mph.
25. (19) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 0.000 mph.
26. (41) Ryan Preece, Ford, 0.000 mph.
27. (7) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
28. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
29. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 0.000 mph.
30. (6) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 0.000 mph.
31. (84) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
32. (17) Chris Buescher, Ford, 0.000 mph.
33. (78) Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
34. (77) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
35. (50) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
36. (38) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 0.000 mph.
37. (51) Cody Ware, Ford, 0.000 mph.
38. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 0.000 mph.
39. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 0.000 mph.