William Byron locks playoff spot to continue unexpected 2021 season

“Get used to winning, boys, get used to it,” William Byron said after winning the NASCAR Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway Sunday evening. 

It was the second win of his career after he won the regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway last August. 

Byron now locks himself into the playoffs alongside Michael McDowell and Christopher Bell. 

The opening stage of the Dixie Vodka 400 didn’t play out as one would’ve scripted it as parity sprung throughout the field. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., William Byron, Chris Buescher and Kyle Larson all found themselves inside the top 10 during the first 80 laps. 

In the end, Buescher outdueled the Team Penske Ford of Brad Keselowski to win the stage and lead the most laps he’s ever had in a single race. It was also Buescher’s second stage win of his career (Pocono, 2016). 

Outside of a late caution for Corey LaJoie blowing an engine, stage two ran caution-free as Buescher remained out front for the first half of the stage. 

As the sun began to set, the Chevy’s and Toyota’s appeared to get faster as Martin Truex Jr. worked his way to the front while Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and William Byron ran inside the top five. 

Green-flag pit stops began at the halfway point of the stage and as they began, Truex Jr. took the lead from Buescher, but didn’t lead a lap as he came down pit road for fresh tires. Buescher followed Truex on pit road a lap later. 

Truex cycled back to the lead after pit stops and held a wide margin over Buescher. 

The late caution bunched the field back up for a one-lap dash for the stage win and coming out of turn four, Denny Hamlin ran up the track and took Truex with him. This allowed William Byron to get a run off the bottom and win stage two. 

“What the f**k, Denny?”, Truex said. “What kind of move was that?” 

At the beginning of the final stage, some cars came down to pit road while others stayed out on just two-lap old tires. Truex restarted in 17th, but worked his way inside the top five in one lap. With the track position, Byron found himself with a comfortable lead. 

Byron led the first 42 laps of the final stage with ease, but a caution came out involving Aric Almirola and Ryan Blaney as Almirola slid up the track and ran Blaney out of room. 

On the pit stops, Larson came out first while Byron lost multiple positions. Hamlin came out third, but was penalized for speeding. 

In the end, it was Byron leading the final 58 laps to cruise to the victory. 

Tyler Reddick wasn’t a factor in the first two stages, but as the day transitioned to the evening, the outside got rolling and the adjustments the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing team made, carried Reddick from 10th all the way to second to even his career-high finish in the Cup Series (2nd at Texas, 2020). 

Larson and Truex came home third and fourth respectively. For Larson, it’s his best finish since a fourth-place run at Phoenix Raceway last March. 

Kevin Harvick rounded out the top five. 

McDowell finished sixth, which is the first time in his career where he’s scored three consecutive top-10 finishes in the Cup Series. He’s already one more top-10 finish from matching a season-best four from 2020. 

Ryan Newman finished seventh, which is his first top-10 finish since Talladega Superspeedway last Fall. It’s his first top 10 on an oval since Homestead in 2019. 

Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman and Kyle Busch rounded out the top 10. 

Notable finishes:

Denny Hamlin – 11th

Chase Elliott – 14th

Daniel Suarez – 15th

Brad Keselowski – 16th

Bubba Wallace – 22nd

Joey Logano – 25th

Ryan Blaney – 29th

The Cup Series heads out West Sunday for a date at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Race results:

Race facts:

Length: 3 hours, 12 minutes and 43 seconds

Average speed: 124.380 mph

Leaders: 10

Lead changes: 21

Cautions: 6

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