Byron Struggles in Second Playoff Race, on to Bristol
William Byron’s streak of bad luck continued at Richmond Raceway Saturday night with a 19th place finish, leaving him 18 points below the cutoff line heading into the final race of round one.
Byron’s day started out rough with a 19th place finish in stage one. He worked his way up to 11th from a 14th place starting spot in the first few laps, but he would slowly tumble down the order to his 19th place finish in stage one.
After a rough stage one, Byron pitted for four tires, fuel and adjustments under the stage break and appeared to finally turn a corner come stage two. Byron restarted 16th and slowly worked his way up to 10th after two cycles of green flag pit stops.
He was unable to keep his position, however, and fell to 13th position towards the end of stage two. The stage had gone caution free, which meant that race leader Denny Hamlin had lapped most of the field by the end of the stage, slowly catching up to Byron.
Try as he might, Byron just did not have the handling to hold off Hamlin and fell one lap down with four to go in the stage. One last hope did come in the form of the lucky dog, which means that whoever was the first car one lap down under a caution gets their lap back.
Unfortunately, Byron had a contender for that as well in teammate Chase Elliot. Elliot had led 58 laps on the evening and fell one lap down after backing his car over a jack during green flag pit stops in stage two.
Elliot was right on Byron’s tail as Hamlin drove away and made quick work of the No. 24 car. Byron remained one lap down through the end of stage two and never recovered, limping home in 19th place for the evening.
The finish puts Byron in a precarious situation going into the final race of round one at Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday night. He sits in 15th in the playoff standings, 18 points behind the 12th place cutoff line.
The clinching scenarios for Byron are as follows:
• Byron wins at Bristol.
• Byron outscores Alex Bowman and Kurt Busch by 19 points and Tyler Reddick by 14 points with no new winner from outside of the top 12 in points.
• Byron outscores Alric Almirola by 22 points, Alex Bowman and Kurt Busch by 19 points and Tyler Reddick by 15 points with a new winner from outside of the top 12 in points.
Byron has historically struggled at Bristol with only one top 10 finish (8th in May 2020). He saw his playoffs come to an end there last year as well, with a 38th place finish after a crash in stage two. The race will take place Sept. 18 at 7:30 p.m. EST on NBCSN.
Bristol has been termed “the world’s fastest half mile” due to its high speeds for a 0.5-mile bullring. The track has 29 degrees of banking in the corners, which allows the cars to carry more speed, keeping lap times around 15 seconds.
Lipowski is a sports reporter. Follow him on Twitter at @jlipowski18.