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The record will show William Byron won Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. He locked himself into the Round of 8 after a wild AutoTrader Echopark 400 while Bubba Wallace came home third.

But make no mistake, Bubba sure knew who handed him the trophy.

"I know what I did," Wallace said after the race. "And I choked."

It was a mistake that'll haunt him after leading a race-high 111 laps. Wallace was in position to win, racing hard with Kyle Larson on the penultimate restart to get out front before Larson simply lost control underneath him entering Turn 1.

"I wasn't expecting to get loose in like that," Larson said. "With the Next Gen cars, that doesn't seem to be an issue … I just should have gave a little bit more space."

The wreck left Wallace alongside a winless Chase Briscoe on the restart. Briscoe was only there due to pit strategy, off the pace in a nightmare season with Stewart-Haas Racing. All Wallace had to do was clear the No. 14 and he'd have the win, spring boarding himself from the playoff's 16th and final entry straight through into the Round of 8.

Wallace chose to start his car on top. Minutes later, he hit rock bottom as he failed to clear Briscoe and let the winner, Byron, slip underneath them both and pull away.

"Third time I fooled myself starting on top," Wallace explained. "These guys gave me the right information. '14's tight.' He sent it off in there, wasn't gonna stick."

With that in mind, Wallace should have taken the inside line as Briscoe's car was going to "push" up the track toward the outside wall. It would have potentially allowed the No. 23 car to sprint away in a race where clean air out front was king.

Instead, Byron found himself sitting there with a win giftwrapped at his feet.

"Man, it was awesome to get to the front," Byron explained after a season-best sixth Cup win. "I loved clean air … it was a grind-it-out day and our team was there at the end."

It was a trophy Byron also could have done without, entering this round tied as the top overall seed. Wallace, meanwhile, was on the outside looking in, 14 points below the cutline without a single playoff point accumulated all season.

He still finds himself there, two points out, left to wonder what might have been. Now, Talladega looms large as the most unpredictable NASCAR track and the site of Wallace's first Cup win two years ago.

Could another opportunity be close at hand?

Perhaps. As long as Wallace doesn't make the same mistake twice.

"I'm not pointing fingers at anybody but myself," Wallace said. "And I can say that proudly. I got to move on and be better."

Traffic Report

Green: Rick Hendrick. Kudos to the owner of Hendrick Motorsports for collecting his 300th career Cup win, the most of any NASCAR organization. Hendrick has won a record nine championships in the sport's playoff era alone (2004-present) and could add a 10th with either Byron or Larson.

Yellow: Ross Chastain. A bad throttle position sensor left Chastain suffering outside the top 25 for much of the final stage. Then, a spin by Trackhouse Racing teammate Daniel Suarez changed the entire trajectory of the race, giving the No. 1 car a chance to claw up to second through some clever pit calls. But, like Wallace, Chastain could have used a win to lock down a spot in the Round of 8 as Talladega's unpredictability puts him at risk.

Red: Martin Truex Jr. Anything that can go wrong has gone wrong for Truex during these playoffs. The regular-season points champion has yet to earn a top-15 finish in four postseason races, spinning out in this one and failing to collect a single stage point.

"A long, terrible day," Truex said bluntly. "We need to fix it."

Speeding Ticket: Ryan Blaney. Blaney was on track for a banner day, collecting 11 stage points with a car that qualified outside the top 20 and didn't have the speed to contend out front. But a late-race speeding penalty left him back in the pack, vulnerable when the day's largest crash left the No. 12 Team Penske driver an innocent victim.

Blaney took the blame, collecting a 28th-place finish that kept him from climbing above the cutline.

"Proud of the work all day on getting better and getting stage points," Blaney said. "But a driver mistake puts us back in the stuff and getting wrecked."


Kyle Busch was running strong inside the top 10 at Texas when he started complaining something was off near the end of the first stage. "It doesn't feel right" for Busch evolved into "the right front [tire] has a chatter… it feels like it has low air."

Crew chief Randall Burnett's response? To try and have his driver baby it to the end of the stage. But there were too many laps to go and, it turns out, too little air left in a tire that left their day stuck in reverse.

In a last-ditch effort to save his car, Busch took it to pit road by driving nearly 1.5 miles backwards. The gimmick didn't work: Too much damage left him with Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon in the garage after a season-worst day for an organization that ran 1-2 here just three years ago.

"I was going to come to pit road myself and I second guessed it," Busch said. "But it was shaking and vibrating … I'm at a loss for words … every time I try, I crash."

Busch now has his confidence shaken while falling to dead last among the 12 playoff drivers, 17 points below the cutline.