William Byron Capitalizes On Pit Strategy To Win At Phoenix Raceway In Overtimeby Hunter Thomas March 13, 2023 0 comments
AVONDALE, Ariz. – William Byron capitalized in NASCAR Overtime to win the United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday after a bold, two-tire stop in the closing laps.
Hendrick Motorsports certainly didn’t start the weekend off as planned. NASCAR confiscated all four of the team’s hood louvers following Friday’s practice; however the organization bounced back in a big way. Kyle Larson won the pole and absolutely dominated the race, and Byron earned his sixth career NASCAR Cup Series victory.
“It’s great,” Byron said about winning back-to-back weekends. “This team has been working really hard. We didn’t want to stop last week, and we just wanted to keep it going. We have more work to do but hopefully this week is a little bit calmer and we can relax a little bit.”
Kevin Harvick was in prime position to win Sunday’s race, but a caution came out with just 10 laps to go, and the race ended up coming down to pit strategy on the final stop of the day. Harvick’s team put four fresh tires on his No. 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford, but it was Larson and Byron leading the way off pit road with just two new tires. Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin also catapulted ahead of Harvick with the two-tire strategy as well. On the restart, it was Larson and Byron leading the way with just three laps to go.
“It’s big,” said Byron about restarting on the front row. “You’ve got to have a chance there on the front row to really have clean air on your nose and make the right moves. We were able to get on the front row there and stay on the outside of Kyle the second time and have a good enough restart. Those green-white-checkers, you can either wreck or win. We’ve been on the good side of them for a couple of weeks.”
An accident in Turn 2 involving AJ Allmendinger, Noah Gragson and Ty Gibbs brought out the final caution that set the field up for a NASCAR Overtime finish. Once again, it was Larson and Byron leading the field to the green flag. Larson and Byron raced into Turn 1 and were even coming out of Turn 2. As the two drivers made their way down the backstretch, Blaney challenged for the lead, making it three-wide; however, Byron prevailed on the high side going into Turn 3 thanks to a big bump by Tyler Reddick. The 25-year-old kept the lead and went on to win for the second weekend in a row.
“I owe the last couple of weeks to him,” Byron said about the incredible calls on pit road by crew chief, Randy Fugle. “He’s done a really good job strategy-wise, and execution-wise we’ve done a good job to put ourselves in those positions on the front row with a shot at the end. Thanks to everybody back at Hendrick Motorsports putting together great cars and just doing a great job. It’s a big credit to them, the engine shop, Mr. (Rick) Hendrick and everybody. It’s cool to have Valvoline back on the car with a really historic-looking paint scheme, so it’s nice to get into Victory Lane.”
Blaney finished second in the Team Penske No. 12 Dent Wizard Ford. The runner-up finish marks his first top-five of the season after a disappointing 26th at Auto Club Speedway and 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. On Sunday, Blaney ran well all race long, earning points in all three stages.
“Overall a good day,” Blaney said. “We started off okay, got a little better as the day went on. The two tires were the right call at the end. Proud of the effort. Appreciate Dent Wizard, Ford, Menards for doing what they do. Got to keep working on it. I think we’re getting better and it’s just a matter of finding that next step.”
Tyler Reddick finished third in the 23XI Racing No. 45 The Beast Unleashed Toyota. He finished Stages 1 and 2 out in the fifth position and was a top competitor all day, but he just wasn’t able to capitalize on the final restart of the afternoon.
“I just needed to execute on that restart,” Reddick said. “Just didn’t get the launch I needed to with Williams’ back bumper to take advantage of it in turn one. Very frustrating naturally. Last year, same thing, didn’t have the best of restarts and finished third.
“Everybody on the Beast Unleashed Toyota Camry TRD did really good job. This car was solidly I would say a third- to fifth-place car all day long. Bringing home third, but obviously when you’re on four, have a position to have the restart, you want to capitalize. So frustrated for sure.”
Larson and Harvick rounded out the top-five. As expected, both drivers weren’t thrilled with the final result after having such strong efforts.
Larson said, Yeah, I’m pissed off. Great fight by the team, great car, way better than we were here last year. Yeah, I mean, it’s a long season, but hopefully we’re in the Final 4 when we come back here in November and can have a run similar to that with speed and try to execute a little bit better at the end.”
Harvick said, “That’s the way it goes. Just smoked ’em up until the caution. They did a great job with our Hunter Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang. Didn’t need the caution at the end.”
Completing the top-10 was Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe, Kyle Busch, Alex Bowman and Josh Berry who’s filling in for an injured Chase Elliott.
Byron won Stage 1 and Larson won Stage 2.
There were 10 lead changes among six drivers. Larson led a race high of 201 laps.
The caution flew on five occasions for 35 laps.
The NASCAR Cup Series will now head back to the Southeast to visit the newly configured Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Ambetter Health 400 will mark only the third series race on the superspeedway-style track. Live coverage of the race will broadcast on FOX and PRN at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 19.
Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images