NASCAR race at Las Vegas: William Byron wins thanks to restart

NASCAR race at Las Vegas: William Byron wins thanks to restart

Mar 5, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver William Byron (24) celebrates his victory of the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 5, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver William Byron (24) celebrates his victory of the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

William Byron led 176 laps on Sunday — and that included the final one.

The 24 car swept all three stages at Las Vegas Motor Speedway en route to his first win of the 2023 season. It also marked the first win for Hendrick Motorsports on the year — reminding the rest of the field how dangerous Hendrick cars are on intermediate tracks: HMI teammate Kyle Larson finished second, and HMI teammate Alex Bowman finished third.

This was Byron’s fifth victory in 183 races.

“I’ve just been really confident about the guys that I have on this 24 team,” Byron told the Fox broadcast after the win. “They work extremely hard, and we spend a lot of time in the offseason just going through and running through the sim with Chevy and running on iRacing and trying to get better as a racecar driver and the team. It’s all about the team.”

The race ultimately came down to an exciting late-race restart. With four laps to the good, Larson had a three-second lead over second-placed Byron when Aric Almirola got loose and spun into the wall. That prompted a caution and meant overtime and a crucial pit stop.

Martin Truex Jr. elected to stay out and took the lead spot. Larson and Byron went down pit road and both took two tires, and Byron ever-so-slightly edged Larson on that pit stop to give him second place on the restart.

After a good jump, Byron maneuvered around Truex with ease and subsequently held off Larson until he was able to do a celebratory burnout and fetch the checkered flag. Sunday marked Byron’s first victory and his fourth Top 10 in 11 races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Larson was happy for his teammate post-race. But he also will probably look back on Sunday and imagine what would’ve happened had that final caution not come.

What was he thinking about when the caution came out with a few laps to go? “Damn,” he said with a laugh.

“It’s just part of Cup racing it seems like,” Larson said. “You count laps down, lap-by-lap, and then sure enough the yellow lights come on, so yeah I mean you just gotta try to get over that and then try to execute a good pit stop. And I thought I did a really good job getting to my sign, and getting to the commitment line. I had a gap to William behind me, and their pit crew must’ve just done a really good job and got him out in front of us, and that (meant we) gave up the front row, so I knew I was in trouble.”

Larson added: “Just a bummer that we didn’t end up the winner, but all-in-all, William probably had a little bit better car than I had today, and their pit crew executed a little bit better there at the end.”

The race saw 13 total lead changes and eight leaders. Among them: Byron led 176, Larson led 63 (a bulk of which was before that restart), Denny Hamlin led 10 and Joey Logano led nine. The only Hendrick car that didn’t finish in the Top 5 was the No. 9 car driven by Josh Berry, who replaced Chase Elliott after he sustained an injury to his left leg after a snowboarding accident this past weekend.

Sunday saw about as clean a Cup race as possible. There were a total of four cautions for 26 laps.

The only other caution-prompting crash besides Almirola’s aforementioned one came in Stage 3 in Lap 183: Logano got squeezed into the wall running three-wide alongside Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch and subsequently spun out. That ended his day.

Logano didn’t collect anyone in his wreck and it certainly didn’t affect Byron — the 25-year-old Charlotte native who pretty much locked in a playoff spot with Sunday’s win.

Unofficial results from Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Pos. Car Driver Time behind Laps
1 24 William Byron 271
2 5 Kyle Larson 0.622 271
3 48 Alex Bowman 0.766 271
4 23 Bubba Wallace 0.866 271
5 20 Christopher Bell 1.173 271
6 2 Austin Cindric 1.385 271
7 19 Martin Truex Jr. 1.39 271
8 31 Justin Haley 1.463 271
9 4 Kevin Harvick 1.631 271
10 99 Daniel Suarez 1.8 271
11 11 Denny Hamlin 2.103 271
12 1 Ross Chastain 2.11 271
13 12 Ryan Blaney 2.184 271
14 8 Kyle Busch 2.376 271
15 45 Tyler Reddick 2.588 271
16 10 Aric Almirola 15.03 271
17 6 Brad Keselowski 40.282 271
18 16 AJ Allmendinger 98.924 271
19 43 Erik Jones 1.766 270
20 7 Corey LaJoie -1 270
21 17 Chris Buescher -1 270
22 54 Ty Gibbs # -1 270
23 41 Ryan Preece -1 270
24 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -1 270
25 34 Michael McDowell -1 270
26 21 Harrison Burton -2 269
27 3 Austin Dillon -2 269
28 14 Chase Briscoe -2 269
29 9 Josh Berry(i) -2 269
30 42 Noah Gragson # -2 269
31 38 Todd Gilliland -3 268
32 78 BJ McLeod -5 266
33 15 JJ Yeley -6 265
34 77 Ty Dillon -6 265
35 51 Cody Ware -12 259
36 22 Joey Logano -88 183

This story was originally published March 5, 2023, 7:39 PM.

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Alex Zietlow writes about NASCAR, Charlotte FC and the ways in which sports intersect with life in the Charlotte area for The Observer, where he has been a reporter since August 2022. Zietlow’s work has been honored by the N.C. and S.C. Press Associations, as well as the APSE, which awarded him with Top-10 finishes in the Beat Writing and Short Feature categories in its 2021 writing contest. He previously wrote for The Herald in Rock Hill from 2019-22.