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AP photo by John Bazemore / Bubba Wallace (23) and Justin Haley crash at the end of Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga.

HAMPTON, Ga. — William Byron held off the freight train to his rear, taking the checkered flag for his third NASCAR Cup Series career victory while one last crash unfolded behind him in an appropriate finish to Sunday's thrilling, chaotic race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The reconfigured track — with new pavement and steeper banking on the 1.54-mile tri-oval — fulfilled predictions it would lead to frenzied pack racing at blistering speeds approaching those reached at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, the circuit's two mega-tracks.

"Pretty wild," Byron said. "I'm out of breath. It was crazy."

The result was 47 lead changes among an Atlanta-record 20 drivers, a traffic jam of tightly bunched cars at the front of the field, wrecks taking out several top contenders and a bunch of smashed-up race cars to lug home. It was like a short-track race at a superspeedway.

Bryon's No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was leading off the final restart with 13 laps to go. Bubba Wallace briefly grabbed the top spot, only to have Byron pass him right back.

Wallace still seemed to be in the most enviable position, especially if he could get a helpful push for a slingshot on the final lap. But everyone behind Byron started jostling for position, hoping for a chance to make the winning move.

That worked out perfectly for Byron, who pulled away to win by 0.145 second over Trackhouse Racing's Ross Chastain while the final wreck of the day sent four cars — including Wallace — spinning across the line.

In one last twist, Christopher Bell actually crossed the line second, but NASCAR penalized him for dipping below the double white line on the back stretch of the last lap to get past Chastain. Bell was dropped to 23rd.

Kurt Busch was third in a 23XI Racing Toyota, followed by three Chevy drivers: Daniel Suárez, Corey Lajoie and Chase Elliott. Seventh-place Chris Buescher had the highest finish in a Ford. Wallace wound up 13th.

Chastain made quite a comeback after blowing a tire early in the race while leading. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also blew a tire while running up front. Reigning series champion Kyle Larson, the front of his No. 5 Chevrolet patched with tape, had just surrendered the top spot when Denny Hamlin bumped him from behind, looking to give him a helpful push — only to send him into a spin that knocked them both out of the race.

"Everyone is kind of hanging on for dear life," Ryan Blaney said during a caution period.

In a race where Byron won the first stage under caution and Blaney did the same in the second, that summed up things perfectly.

NASCAR will return to Atlanta on July 11. Next weekend's race is at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, the first of six road courses for the Cup Series this year.

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AP photo by John Bazemore / William Byron (24) and Bubba Wallace battle for the lead down the front stretch at Atlanta Motor Speedway during the final laps of Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race in Hampton, Ga.

IndyCar: Bold move wins at Texas

FORT WORTH, Texas — Josef Newgarden used the nonexistent high line to pass Scott McLaughlin in the final turn at Texas Motor Speedway and steal a victory in an IndyCar race his teammate had dominated.

McLaughlin, winner of last month's opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, started second but snatched the lead from pole-sitter Felix Rosenqvist on the opening lap of the year's first oval race. The New Zealander led 186 of the 248 laps and wasn't challenged until Newgarden's last-ditch charge.

The 31-year-old from Tennessee stalked McLaughlin through traffic and tried his best to maintain his composure.

"I was fuming in the car because we had all this traffic and it wasn't helping me," said Newgarden, who won the series championship in 2017 and 2019 and was runner-up the past two seasons. "And then right when I needed it to help me, literally last corner, last lap! I think Scott led 95% of the laps; I hate doing that to a teammate."

The margin of victory was .669 second — the eighth-closest finish in 35 races at Texas. Team Penske has back-to-back victories to open the season, and Chevrolet has accomplished the feat for the first time since 2017.

To secure his 21st career win, Newgarden had to drive high into the track's second lane, which has been too slippery and mostly unusable because of the residual traction compound applied to assist grip during NASCAR races. IndyCar drivers find it too slick and avoid the second lane out of fear the lack of grip will send their cars straight into the wall.

Marcus Ericsson led Honda and Chip Ganassi Racing with a third-place finish, with Penske's Will Power fourth and the next three spots going to Ganassi cars. Six-time season champion Scott Dixon was fifth, seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was sixth — he made his IndyCar oval debut after a 2021 rookie season limited to road courses and street circuits — and reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou was seventh.

The series returns April 10 on the streets of Long Beach, California.

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AP photo by Larry Papke / Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden celebrates after winning Sunday's IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

F1: Intriguing opener

SAKHIR, Bahrain — The Formula One season opener turned into a nightmare for reigning series champion Max Verstappen when the Red Bull star retired near the end of the Bahrain Grand Prix, allowing Ferrari to clinch a 1-2 finish with Charles Leclerc winning ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz Jr.

Seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton took an unexpected third place after Sergio Perez's Red Bull also retired with the finish line in sight as the race finished under a yellow flag. Hamilton had been lagging way behind in fifth when late drama on the 46th of 57 laps changed the race.

Leclerc was leading comfortably with Verstappen second when the back of Pierre Gasly's AlphaTauri car caught fire as he parked it on the side of the track. It was quickly put out, and Gasly walked away unharmed.

After the race restarted with a safety car and Leclerc got away, Verstappen became increasingly panicked on race radio as he struggled with steering. Verstappen retired on the 54th lap and Perez on the 56th, and when George Russell moved into fourth it gave Mercedes an unexpected bonus.

Hamilton, who in preseason testing said there was plenty of work to be done by the team, was more than 30 seconds behind Leclerc at one point and finished almost 10 seconds back.

Verstappen won the F1 title last year with a last-lap pass of Hamilton in the finale after a controversial restart with a safety car, just when Hamilton was cruising to what would have been a record-breaking eighth title. Mercedes lost both appeals of the result, but the restart cost race director Michael Masi his job, led to endless analysis and took governing body FIA from Dec. 12 to the eve of this race to conclude "human error" by Masi.

Next Sunday's Saudi Arabian GP will be followed by a week off before the Australian GP.

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