With 11 laps to go in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series event at Darlington, William Byron found himself running at the tail-end of the top-10, in ninth place, and by his best estimate, out of contention for his third victory of 2023.
Granted, that was before things started to fly off the handle in the Goodyear 400.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver, who had run inside the top five for the majority of Sunday’s 400-mile contest, had fallen victim to a pair of difficult pit stops – one under green, one under yellow – which had tossed the No. 24 back to ninth.
But, luck has truly proven to be an impactful strategy to win in the NASCAR Cup Series.
On the second-to-last restart of the race, Byron restarted on the inside of the fifth row, with his prospects looking murky, when Martin Truex, Jr. and Joey Logano made significant contact in turn one, collecting eight cars.
Darting to the inside lane, Byron picked up an incredible six positions, as all of the cars in front of him – with the exception of leaders Kyle Larson and Ross Chastain – were collected in the accident.
Suddenly, the 25-year-old driver was in contention to score the win, sitting on the inside of the second row, behind only Ross Chastain and Kyle Larson, who had already experienced some tension in the closing stages of the race.
Let me tell you, the expression on Byron’s face when Chastain and Larson crashed into the turn two wall on the subsequent restart, must have been one of total disbelief, as Byron jetted to the lead of the race heading to NASCAR Overtime.
Being gifted the race lead, Byron was able to start alongside a wounded Kevin Harvick in NASCAR Overtime, allowing the Hendrick Motorsports driver to easily pull away and score his third victory of the year, and the seventh of his NASCAR Cup Series career.
Kevin Harvick, even with a wounded car, would finish in second place, his best result of the season thus far, while Chase Elliott scored his first top-five result since returning from a leg injury in third, despite also having damage.
Brad Keselowski (also with damage) finished fourth, while outside polesitter Bubba Wallace rebounded from an early issue on pit road to complete the top five. Harrison Burton had a much-needed sixth-place run for Wood Brothers Racing.
Kyle Busch, Justin Haley. Ryan Blaney, and Chris Buescher completed the race’s top-10 finishers.
Martin Truex, Jr. – who put an absolute beating on the entire field in the opening portion of the event – came home in 31st, after leading a race-high 145 laps. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was caught up in a late-race crash, and sustained major damage.
Ross Chastain and Kyle Larson, who led 93 and 29 laps respectively, finished in 29th and 20th, after getting themselves involved in a late-race accident, which triggered NASCAR Overtime.
Leaving Darlington, Ross Chastain continues to hold the lead in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings by 27 points over Christopher Bell. With a solid result, Kevin Harvick jumps to third place, with Kevin Harvick and William Byron rounding out the top five.
Up next for the NASCAR Cup Series is a trip to North Wilkesboro Speedway for the NASCAR All-Star Race, in one of the most highly-anticipated events in a long, long time.