William Byron wins Pole for EchoPark GP at Circuit of the Americas

Bob Francis - Go Full Throttle
5 min readMar 23, 2024

23 March 2024
By Bob Francis, Managing Editor
Go Full Throttle Racing News

AUSTIN, TX — Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron wins the pole for Sunday’s EchoPark GP with a lap of 129.636 at 94.696 mph to overcome a charging Ty Gibbs, who fought loose conditions in the final turns and clocked a time of 129.651 at 94.685 mph for P2 on the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) road course during Saturday’s Cup Series qualifying.

William Byron secures Busch Light Pole at COTA (Image Credit: Jonathan Bachman Getty Images)

This is the 13th career pole for Byron, driver of the №24 Raptor Tough Chevrolet, and the fifth on a road course, which is most among active drivers. This year’s Daytona 500 winner edged Gibbs’ No 54 JGR Toyota by a slight .015-second around the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course to earn the right to lead the field to green in Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

“It’s just an evolution over time, going out to the karting track this week,’’ Byron said of preparing for the season’s first road course test. “Honestly this has been my first normal week since the [Daytona] 500 and being in my rhythm and kind of in my cocoon and being able to focus on driving the race car.

Busch Pole Award Winner William Byron answers questions in the COTA Media Center following Saturday’s Cup Series qualifying at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX (Image Credit: Bob Francis — GFT Digital)

“I feel very happy with the way the week has gone and feel very fresh going into this race, so I’m excited for that.’’

As for Gibbs, who made a valiant, if unsuccessful, effort in the closing seconds to earn pole, it is still the second consecutive week he has started from the front row. Defending race winner, 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick will start his №45 Toyota third. He has started among the top five now in all four NASCAR Cup Series races at COTA. JGR’s Christopher Bell, a winner at Phoenix two weeks ago, will start fourth.

Spire Motorsports’ Corey LaJoie, who turned in a showstopper effort in qualifying, will start fifth in the №7 Chevrolet, the best starting position of his nine-year NASCAR Cup Series career.

Ross Chastain, who scored his first career NASCAR Cup Series victory at COTA in 2022, will start sixth — his first top 10 start of the season.

Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin line up seventh and eighth with 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace and Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott rounding out the final round qualifiers.

Nineteen drivers broke the track record in what was a dramatic first session. Several of the drivers who had been fast earlier in the day surprisingly did not advance to challenge for pole position. Among those were New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen, who had been among those at the top of the speed charts in both practice sessions.

New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen will start P12 for Sunday’s EchoPark GP (Image Credit: Bob Francis, GFT Digital)

He just missed advancing to final qualifying, finishing less than a hundredth of a second behind LaJoie in Group A. And just behind him, his Kaulig Racing teammate A.J. Allmendinger, a two-time Xfinity Series winner at COTA, was also slightly off the qualifying pace.

Van Gisbergen and Allmendinger, who are both competing in Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race, will start 12th and 14th , respectively on Sunday.

Among those in Group B not to advance to final qualifying was Kyle Larson, who had shown top five speed during practice. Larson, who is tied atop the championship points lead with Truex, was a little late to join his timed qualifying session as the №5 Hendrick Motorsports team performed a quick rotor change and was never a threat for pole. He’ll start Sunday’s race 15th.

Austin Cindric was the top qualifying Ford and will start his №2 Team Penske Mustang 11th. His teammate, reigning series champion Ryan Blaney will start the №12 Team Penske Mustang 28th among the 39-car field.

Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi — a two-time Rolex 24 at Daytona winner and two-time World Endurance Championship champion, will be making his NASCAR COTA debut in the №50 23XI Racing Toyota from 25th place on the starting grid.

NOTES

Ty Gibbs, who along with Larson and Van Gisbergen is doing double this weekend, will start third alongside last week’s Bristol, Tenn. Xfinity race winner Chandler Smith.

NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying — EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix

Circuit of The Americas
Austin, Texas
Saturday, March 23, 2024

  1. (24) William Byron, Chevrolet, 94.696 mph.
  2. (54) Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 94.685 mph.
  3. (45) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 94.565 mph.
  4. (20) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 94.482 mph.
  5. (7) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 94.096 mph.
  6. (1) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 93.949 mph.
  7. (19) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 93.773 mph.
  8. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 93.604 mph.
  9. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 93.420 mph.
  10. (23) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 85.505 mph.
  11. (2) Austin Cindric, Ford, 0.000 mph.
  12. (16) Shane Van Gisbergen(i), Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
  13. (51) Justin Haley, Ford, 0.000 mph.
  14. (13) AJ Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
  15. (5) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
  16. (8) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
  17. (48) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
  18. (77) Carson Hocevar #, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
  19. (99) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
  20. (17) Chris Buescher, Ford, 0.000 mph.
  21. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
  22. (42) John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 0.000 mph.
  23. (15) Kaz Grala #, Ford, 0.000 mph.
  24. (41) Ryan Preece, Ford, 0.000 mph.
  25. (50) Kamui Kobayashi, Toyota, 0.000 mph.
  26. (38) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 0.000 mph.
  27. (34) Michael McDowell, Ford, 0.000 mph.
  28. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 0.000 mph.
  29. (21) Harrison Burton, Ford, 0.000 mph.
  30. (47) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
  31. (4) Josh Berry #, Ford, 0.000 mph.
  32. (14) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 0.000 mph.
  33. (31) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
  34. (71) Zane Smith #, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
  35. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 0.000 mph.
  36. (6) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 0.000 mph.
  37. (66) Timmy Hill(i), Ford, 0.000 mph.
  38. (43) Erik Jones, Toyota, 0.000 mph.
  39. (10) Noah Gragson, Ford, 0.000 mph.

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Bob Francis - Go Full Throttle

Go Full Throttle editors and reporters bring you news & commentary on NASCAR, F1, IndyCar, and World of Outlaws. Member: National Motorsports Press Association