Another week another NASCAR Cup win for William Byron

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - MARCH 12: William Byron, driver of the #24 Valvoline Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 12, 2023 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Late  race cautions are William Byron’s friend it would seem. In a repeat of last weekend, Byron took the lead coming to the white flag on an overtime finish to grab the lead over his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson and held on to win at Phoenix Raceway by .330 of a second Sunday.

It was Byron’s second win of 2023 and his first consecutive victory for the first time in his NASCAR Cup career. He won last week at Las Vegas thanks in large part to a late race caution.

Kevin Harvick had the race well in hand after taking the lead from Kyle Larson on lap 269 of the scheduled 312 laps. With 15 laps to go Harvick had a five second lead and seemed on his way to a record 10th win. But on lap 303 Harrison Burton spun on the frontstretch leaving a trail of tire debris that forced NASCAR to throw a caution and erase his lead.

During the ensuing pit stops, Harvick was the first car to take 4 tires. The top six led by Larson and Byron took only two and Harvick was forced to restart deep in seventh.

Byron gave credit to his crew chief Rudy Fugle for the two tire call that led to the win.

“Owe the last couple of weeks to him,” Byron said. “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, doing a great job.”

Larson would take the lead on the restart, but a multicar crash erupted behind them as AJ Allmendinger bounced off the Turn 2 wall sweeping up Noah Gragson and Ty Gibbs. The race’s fifth and final caution froze the field and set up the overtime.

Harvick was stuck in seventh again on the restart. Larson led to the white flag, but Byron was able to charge underneath at the start finish line and held on for the win as Larson battled three wide behind. Ryan Blaney emerged with second, Tyler Reddick third, and Larson was fourth. Harvick managed to finish fifth. Harvick said he felt the final four tire call was the right one.

“It’s what I would have done,” Harvick said. “I’d always rather be on offense. I just didn’t get a couple cars when that first caution came out. Kind of lost our chance. Still thought I had a chance there at the end. Those cars were quite a bit slower. They get all jammed up.

“That’s the way it goes. Just smoked ’em up until the caution.”

Early in the race Byron looked to be the car to beat taking the lead from his second place starting position on the second lap. He would go on to lead the first laps and win Stage 1. Polesitter Larson with the number 1 pit stall however, was able to grab the lead off pit road and would go on to lead the most laps,2021, and win Stage 2.

Late in the going Byron seemed to be struggling and Larson seemed in control until Harvick took the lead shortly after a round of green flag stops. The late race caution though would deny Harvick, and the overtime would snatch the win from Larson.

“Restarts are just tough,” Larson said. “I felt like I ran William up pretty high. I was expecting him to lose some grip. But he did a really good job of holding it to my outside, clearing me down the back.”

Christopher Bell was sixth, last year’s Phoenix winner Chase Briscoe seventh with Kyle Busch, Alex Bowman and Josh Berry subbing for Chase Elliott rounded out the top 10.

NASCAR heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway next Sunday with Byron is the defending winner.

Photos: NASCAR at Phoenix Raceway Sunday March 12, 2023

NASCAR Cup Series Race Results United Rentals Work United 500
Phoenix Raceway
Avondale, Arizona
Sunday, March 12, 2023

1. (3) William Byron, Chevrolet, 317.
2. (8) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 317.
3. (12) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 317.
4. (1) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 317.
5. (15) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 317.
6. (5) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 317.
7. (24) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 317.
8. (9) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 317.
9. (18) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 317.
10. (17) Josh Berry(i), Chevrolet, 317.
11. (16) Joey Logano, Ford, 317.
12. (25) Ryan Preece, Ford, 317.
13. (7) Michael McDowell, Ford, 317.
14. (19) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 317.
15. (21) Chris Buescher, Ford, 317.
16. (30) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 317.
17. (13) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 317.
18. (4) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 317.
19. (23) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 317.
20. (22) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 317.
21. (10) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 317.
22. (11) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 317.
23. (2) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 317.
24. (6) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 317.
25. (20) Austin Cindric, Ford, 316.
26. (28) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 316.
27. (26) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 316.
28. (14) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 316.
29. (32) Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, 316.
30. (35) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 315.
31. (34) Zane Smith(i), Ford, 315.
32. (29) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 314.
33. (31) Aric Almirola, Ford, 313.
34. (36) Cody Ware, Ford, 311.
35. (27) Harrison Burton, Ford, 310.
36. (33) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, Fuel Pump, 50.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 105.491 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 0 Mins, 18 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.330 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 35 laps.
Lead Changes: 10 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K. Larson 1;W. Byron 2-63;K. Larson 64-118;R. Chastain 119;B. Keselowski 120;K. Larson 121-246;E. Jones 247-260;K. Larson 261-268;K. Harvick 269-304;K. Larson 305-315;W. Byron 316-317.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kyle Larson 5 times for 201 laps; William Byron 2 times for 64 laps; Kevin Harvick 1 time for 36 laps; Erik Jones 1 time for 14 laps; Brad Keselowski 1 time for 1 lap; Ross Chastain 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 24,5,20,11,45,12,1,4,6,8
Stage #2 Top Ten: 5,24,4,6,45,11,20,12,1,14

Greg Engle