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Byron Picks Right Time To Win First Cup Series Race

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 30 2020

Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron is a Cup Series winner. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

William Byron’s final race of the regular season portion of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series schedule began with the young driver contemplating playoff-berth mathematics.

But the day ended in Victory Lane as the Hendrick Motorsports driver won Saturday night’s 400-miler at Daytona International Speedway.

The victory gave Byron an automatic berth in the 16-driver, 10-race playoffs, which begin next weekend at Darlington, and rendered all his math homework irrelevant.

The victory was the first of his Cup career.

“This is incredible man,” Byron said. “It’s been a hard couple of years in the Cup Series, trying to get my first win and trying to gel with this team. These guys did an awesome job today and got us into the playoffs and it’s amazing, man.”

Byron’s hopes rose and sank at a track where nothing is ever decided until the checkers fly.

His fate was decided in OT.

“Probably the hardest track to points race,” he said. “We were racing around the 21 (Matt DiBendetto) and the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) in the final stage and I was like, man, I really have to make something happen. I was able to push the 43 (Wallace) and the 22 (Logano) made some contact and it opened up a hole for me and I wasn’t going to lift.”

His joy at getting his first ever Cup win was counter-balanced by his soon-to-be Hall of Fame teammate.

Johnson saw his hopes of becoming the series all-time king come to an end as he was involved in a late wreck and missed out on securing a berth in the Cup playoffs, which begin next weekend.

Gone were hopes of an unmatched eighth Cup championship as Johnson has said 2020 will be his last as a full-time driver.

“First and foremost, congratulations to my teammate to get his first win like that,” Johnson said of Byron, whose crew chief, Chad Knaus, was Johnson’s crew chief for all seven of his championships. “I really thought we had a way to transfer, to win or find a way in the first two stages. And then things just got ugly. Unfortunate.”

Hendrick’s Chase Elliott finished second and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, looking to sweep at DIS this year, was third.

JGR’s Martin Truex Jr. was fourth and Bubba Wallace of Richard Petty Motorsports was fifth.

Johnson was jousting for the final berth in the 16-driver, 10-race playoffs when the wreck occurred with just over two laps to go.

“We had a really good car,” Johnson, who has not won a race since 2017, said. “The last couple of months we’’ve really been getting our act together, running well. Definitely disappointed about not being in the playoffs. That was our No. 1 goal to start the year. We missed it by six points.

“The last three years have been tough. We all know that.”

The evening started with just three of the 16 playoff berths up for grabs. Vying for those were Clint Bowyer of Stewart-Haas Racing, DiBenedetto of Wood Brothers Racing, Byron and Johnson.

Those three berths went to Bowyer, who clinched on points after the first stage, DiBenedetto and, winner Byron.

DiBenedetto finished 12th Saturday.

“We made it,” DiBenedetto said. “I don’t care how we did it.”

With 41 laps to go, Johnson appeared to be not just in position to qualify on points, but perhaps win the race. But, while running second, he moved up out of the outside line and found himself alone. He fell back to 14th.

Kyle Busch looked to be on the verge of ending his season-long winless streak as he was leading with 10 laps to go. A lap later, however, he was shoved up into the wall by rookie Tyler Reddick, who had passed and tried to block Busch. Busch was knocked out of the race.

“Slide job (by Reddick) gone bad,” Busch said. “We were a good car all night long. Made it to the front multiple times and were leading a lot of laps there. (Reddick) just not clear. I saw him coming and checked up and we still ran into each other. Whatever.

“It’s still 2020. Nothin’s changed.”

The ensuing wreck collected, among others, Busch’s brother, Kurt, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon, Erik Jones and Ryan Newman, who was involved in a scary wreck on the final lap of the Daytona 500 that sent him to the hospital.

“He had way too much speed to make that move up the hill,” Jones said of Reddick.

Reddick, who would wreck out a couple laps later, said he screwed up and was to blame.

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NASCAR Cup Series Race – Coke Zero Sugar 400

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Saturday, August 29, 2020

  1. (6)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 164.
  2. (27)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 164.
  3. (10)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 164.
  4. (2)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 164.
  5. (21)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 164.
  6. (9)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 164.
  7. (8)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 164.
  8. (40)  Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 164.
  9. (17)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 164.
  10. (4)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 164.
  11. (24)  John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 164.
  12. (15)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 164.
  13. (23)  Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 164.
  14. (26)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 164.
  15. (32)  Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 164.
  16. (36)  Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 164.
  17. (7)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 164.
  18. (5)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 164.
  19. (14)  Clint Bowyer, Ford, 164.
  20. (1)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 164.
  21. (25)  Corey LaJoie, Ford, Accident, 163.
  22. (29)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 163.
  23. (34)  Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 162.
  24. (35)  Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 161.
  25. (12)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 161.
  26. (30)  Daniel Suarez, Toyota, Accident, 159.
  27. (3)  Joey Logano, Ford, Accident, 158.
  28. (19)  Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, Accident, 158.
  29. (18)  Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, Accident, 158.
  30. (16)  Cole Custer #, Ford, Accident, 158.
  31. (37)  Joey Gase(i), Ford, 158.
  32. (31)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Accident, 155.
  33. (11)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, Accident, 152.
  34. (13)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, Accident, 151.
  35. (20)  Erik Jones, Toyota, Accident, 151.
  36. (22)  Ryan Newman, Ford, Accident, 151.
  37. (28)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, Accident, 151.
  38. (39)  Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 151.
  39. (38)  James Davison, Ford, Accident, 139.
  40. (33)  JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, Engine, 3.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  153.766 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 39 Mins, 59 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .119 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  6 for 21 laps.

Lead Changes:  35 among 16 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   M. Truex Jr. 1;K. Harvick 2-5;W. Byron 6;K. Harvick 7;W. Byron 8-21;A. Bowman 22;A. Almirola 23;W. Byron 24-28;E. Jones 29-33;W. Byron 34-35;J. Logano 36-51;R. Blaney 52;B. Keselowski 53;C. Bell # 54-55;E. Jones 56-65;K. Busch 66-71;*. Suarez 72-90;J. Logano 91-101;M. Truex Jr. 102;K. Harvick 103;J. Logano 104-105;M. Truex Jr. 106-111;J. Logano 112;M. Truex Jr. 113-118;K. Busch 119-125;J. Logano 126-130;M. McDowell 131-132;K. Busch 133-150;K. Busch 151;D. Hamlin 152-155;T. Reddick # 156;D. Hamlin 157;J. Logano 158;D. Hamlin 159-162;W. Byron 163-164.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Joey Logano 6 times for 36 laps; Kyle Busch 3 times for 31 laps; William Byron 5 times for 24 laps; * Daniel Suarez 1 time for 19 laps; Erik Jones 2 times for 15 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 4 times for 14 laps; Denny Hamlin 3 times for 9 laps; Kevin Harvick 3 times for 6 laps; Christopher Bell # 1 time for 2 laps; Michael McDowell 1 time for 2 laps; Brad Keselowski 1 time for 1 lap; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 1 lap; Kurt Busch 1 time for 1 lap; Aric Almirola 1 time for 1 lap; Tyler Reddick # 1 time for 1 lap; Alex Bowman 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 22,20,8,12,48,95,24,34,11,18

Stage #2 Top Ten: 22,19,14,1,48,2,21,47,12,95

 

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| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 30 2020
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