Nighttime, or at least twilight, was the right time for William Byron Sunday. After starting 31st the Hendrick Motorsports driver ended the day in victory lane winning the NASCAR Cup series Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Byron led a race high 102 laps in route to his second career Cup win and the first for his new crew chief Rudy Fugle. Fugle was appointed to the No. 24 crew chief slot when Chad Knaus was promoted to an executive position after last season.
“Yeah, that guy has been huge for my career,” Byron said of Fugle his crew chief in his first National Series season in 2016 where the duo scored a series-best seven wins together. “He’s the reason I’m here and I’m glad we could get him. He’s just awesome. This whole team did a phenomenal job. Everybody. The pit crew, over the wall, we’re extremely blessed.
“It was just a really smooth day. And we worked hard in the Winter on this track. I can’t believe it.”
Tyler Reddick made a valiant late race charge but ran out of time and had to settle for second tying his career best finish. Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top five.
“The track changed a lot.,” Truex said. On that last run, for whatever reason, I was just babying it. The 24 (William Byron) got the lead from me on that restart and then the 5 (Kyle Larson) got by us and I’m just biding my time waiting for them to start coming back to me and they just never did. They obviously were really fast at the end and we weren’t quite as good that last run.”
The race started in mid-afternoon with temperatures in South Florida hovering near 90 degrees. In the heat in the early going an entirely different cast of characters took center stage including Brad Keselowski who led 47 laps and Joey Logano who led 12. Chris Buescher seemed to be the car to beat as he took the lead on lap 53 of 267. He would go on to win Stage 1 and lead the second most laps of the day 57 but had to settle for 19th.
When the sun went down, Byron’s car came alive. He won Stage 2 and took the lead for the final time on lap 210 and never looked back leading at times by just over 5 seconds and winning by 2.7 seconds.
“You had to go with the wall at certain times; (Turns) 3 and 4 were really fast up there,” Byron said. “I definitely didn’t do it as good as the Xfinity cars do it, but I used it when I had to, and this car was just awesome. It’s really a lot of hard work. I think we went to the simulator four or five times this off-season and it just pays off, man. It’s awesome.”
Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell was sixth, Ryan Newman seventh, with Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman and Kyle Busch rounding out the top 10.
Three-time Homestead winner Denny Hamlin was awarded the pole earlier in the week but had to start in the back of the field for unapproved adjustments to his No. 11 Toyota. Hamlin fought his way back inside the top 10, but a speeding penalty on lap 208 during a caution for debris after Aric Almirola and Ryn Blaney they got together, sent Hamlin to the back of the field again. He was able to rally and finish 11th.
There were six cautions on the day including a competition caution but none after the Almirola, Blaney incident. The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next Sunday for the Pennzoil 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Dixie Vodka 400
Sunday, February 28, 2021
- (31) William Byron, Chevrolet, 267.
- (35) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 267.
- (9) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 267.
- (17) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 267.
- (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 267.
- (6) Michael McDowell, Ford, 267.
- (23) Ryan Newman, Ford, 267.
- (5) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 267.
- (13) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 267.
- (24) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 267.
- (1) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 267.
- (22) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.
- (15) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 267.
- (11) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 267.
- (21) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 267.
- (7) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 267.
- (32) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 267.
- (30) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 267.
- (12) Chris Buescher, Ford, 267.
- (3) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 267.
- (8) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 267.
- (19) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 267.
- (10) Cole Custer, Ford, 267.
- (27) Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 267.
- (2) Joey Logano, Ford, 267.
- (20) Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, 266.
- (18) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 266.
- (37) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 266.
- (14) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 266.
- (16) Aric Almirola, Ford, 264.
- (28) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 263.
- (26) Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 261.
- (36) Josh Bilicki, Ford, 259.
- (34) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 258.
- (38) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 258.
- (25) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, Engine, 151.
- (29) James Davison, Chevrolet, Engine, 61.
- (33) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Electrical, 21.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 124.669 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 12 Mins, 45 Secs. Margin of Victory: 2.777 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 6 for 36 laps.
Lead Changes: 20 among 9 drivers.
Lap Leaders: D. Hamlin 0;J. Logano 1-12;B. Keselowski 13-52;C. Buescher 53-67;W. Byron 68;C. Buescher 69-72;B. Keselowski 73-78;C. Buescher 79-82;B. Keselowski 83;C. Buescher 84-88;C. Elliott 89-92;C. Buescher 93-121;D. Suarez 122;B. Wallace 123-124;M. Truex Jr. 125-155;W. Byron 156;M. Truex Jr. 157-159;W. Byron 160-201;K. Larson 202-206;M. Truex Jr. 207-209;W. Byron 210-267.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): William Byron 4 times for 102 laps; Chris Buescher 5 times for 57 laps; Brad Keselowski 3 times for 47 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 3 times for 37 laps; Joey Logano 1 time for 12 laps; Kyle Larson 1 time for 5 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 4 laps; Bubba Wallace 1 time for 2 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 17,2,19,24,48,5,22,9,1,3
Stage #2 Top Ten: 24,11,1,19,5,17,4,12,48,2
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