Photo: Logan Riely/Getty Images via NASCAR

Byron Takes Austin Pole After Bowman’s Lap Disallowed

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

AUSTIN, Texas – One driver’s misfortune was another’s gain.

William Byron will lead the field to green in Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas, but his pole-winning lap came at the expense of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman.

Bowman set the fast time in the opening minutes of the final round of qualifying, but the call came down from NASCAR that he had exceeded track limits in the esses during his lap, disallowing his time.

That moved Byron’s lap of two minutes, 10.760 seconds to the top of the board and he was able to hang on through the remainder of qualifying to score his first pole of the 2023 season.

“It’s been an up and down weekend,” Byron said. “The Cup car, we definitely had a little bit of work to do yesterday just on overall balance and grip in some areas, and then areas in terms of me as a driver.

“We were able to close that gap today a little bit and put both together. So just good to get the pole. But really tomorrow’s what matters. And there’s a lot of work to do, a lot of physical work to do in the (Xfinity Series) race later today. And then tomorrow’s going to be tough. So, excited for it. Just hopefully prepare, you know, throughout today and then going into tomorrow.”

Tyler Reddick, who set the new track record at two minutes, 10.305 seconds during the first round of qualifying, will join Byron on the front row as he looks to bank another road course win after winning on two road courses last season.

Austin Cindric will start third, with IMSA star and road course ace Jordan Taylor starting alongside in the second row.

Taylor, driving in relief of the injured Chase Elliott, has put on an impressive drive thus far in his first Cup Series weekend, backing up a top-10 in practice with a top-five start for Sunday.

“It’s a relief to be honest,” Taylor said of his success so far. “I think coming in here, you know, everyone knows it’s a winning car, a winning team, so if the car’s not up front, there’s one different variable. Which is the driver that’s not doing the job.

“I knew there’s a lot of eyes on it to perform and I’m just glad to make everyone proud to be honest. I know Jeff (Gordon) and Chad (Knaus) and Jeff Andrews, Mr. Hendrick all took a risk on me putting me in this car and in this position with no experience in anything. So, I’m just glad to make them proud so far. We’ll see how tomorrow is.”

Daniel Suarez rounds out the top-five starters, with Bowman recovering in his second run to post the sixth-quickest time, which puts him on Row 3 for Sunday.

“Visibility is tough, at least for me in the Next Gen car,” Bowman said. “Like, I feel like it’s hard. I kind of felt the curb more than I had with the inside tire and I was a little worried about it, but not super worried about it. And then the spotter said I missed it by like three feet. So, obviously it was pretty big. Didn’t feel that big, but it is what it is and I did it.

“Honestly, our second lap was probably better than our first one. Our first lap, I missed Turn 1 and kind of had us in a bad spot. So recovered from it. Wish we didn’t run that second lap in round one. I think that hurt us quite a bit, just kind of abusing the rear tires while they were hot. And then having more laps on our stuff for the final round.”

The remainder of the top-10 starters will be A.J. Allmendinger, Erik Jones, Kyle Busch and Noah Gragson.

As for the rest of the road course ringers, they’ll have some work to do on Sunday, starting from 22nd on back.

Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button, the two former Formula 1 world champions in the field, will start 22nd and 24th, respectively. Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson rolls off in 31st, with Conor Daly starting the 68-lap race in 35th.

“The car was moving around a lot,” Button said. “My first lap I definitely didn’t get everything out of it. When you go out on old tires, you don’t really get the best out of it. I already lost the rear. I mean, it was OK. We’ll see. I’m in front of one of my heroes from NASCAR, Kevin Harvick, so it’s not so bad. It’s a pretty good day.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.