William Byron easily had the fastest car in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading a race-high 176 laps, but things weren’t liable to finish in favor of the No. 24 Chevrolet until the final two laps of the event.
Running in second place, Byron was rapidly closing on teammate Kyle Larson with five laps remaining in the event, when Aric Almirola crashed in turn four, triggering the race’s fourth caution and a NASCAR Overtime restart.
On pit road, the place where Byron admits his own mistake cost him track position in the closing stages of the race, his Hendrick Motorsports crew got him the victory back, getting him back on track ahead of Kyle Larson.
“Yeah, honestly, the one pit stop that they had that we lost the lead, I slid through the box or slid long, and that delays the stop,” said Byron. “That was on me, and I knew they could get it done at the end.”
The sixth-year driver wouldn’t immediately inherit the lead though, as in true gambling fashion, James Small – crew chief of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing team – left Martin Truex, Jr. on the track with tires that had nearly 50 laps on them.
However, running from second, the ‘choose rule’ allowed Byron to select the outside lane for the two-lap dash to the finish, which enabled the Hendrick Motorsports driver to blast around Truex on the outside lane, and take the lead coming to the white flag.
“Just been really confident about the group of guys that I have on this No. 24 team,” Byron said post-race. “They work extremely hard, and we spent a lot of time in the off-season just going through running at the sim and with Chevy and running on iRacing and just trying to get better as a race car driver and as a team.”
Yeah, just been really confident about the group of guys that I have on this 24 team. They work extremely hard, and we spent a lot of time in the off-season just going through running at the sim with Chevy and running on iRacing and just trying to get better as a race car driver and as a team.
Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman were able to salvage finishes of second and third place, mirroring the position in which the Hendrick Motorsports drivers ran for the majority of the event.
The top-three sweep of positions comes during a difficult weekend for Hendrick Motorsports, where the team’s fourth driver, Chase Elliott, suffered a broken left tibia in a snowboarding accident on Friday, forcing him to sit out of Sunday’s event.
Josh Berry, subbing for Chase Elliott in the No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet Camaro, ran into some early-race trouble, finishing 29th, two laps behind his teammates at the front of the pack.
Bubba Wallace finished the race from fourth-place, while Christopher Bell rebounded from a terrible vibration prior to the beginning of the final set of green flag stops, to score his second top-five finish of the year.
Austin Cindric rebounded from a mediocre day to finish sixth, with Martin Truex, Jr. falling to seventh in the final two-lap stint of the race. Justin Haley, Kevin Harvick, and Daniel Suarez completed the top-10.
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Joey Logano, who sat on pole for Sunday’s 400-mile contest, finished in last place after contact in a three-wide battle sent the No. 22 spinning into the infield, and eventually to the garage.
After finishing 12th, Ross Chastain leaves Las Vegas Motor Speedway as the points leader in the NASCAR Cup Series, holding a three-point margin over Alex Bowman. Kevin Harvick, Daniel Suarez, and Martin Truex, Jr. round out the top five in point standings.
Up next for the NASCAR Cup Series is Phoenix Raceway, where the series will debut a new aero package designed to make the short track and road course racing better than it was in the car’s inaugural campaign.
[…] 0. “William Byron Reclaims Lead in NASCAR Overtime; Completes Dominant Performance at Las Vegas” TobyChristie.com, 6 Mar. 2023, https://tobychristie.com/2023/03/05/william-byron-reclaims-lead-in-nascar-overtime-completes-dominan… […]