Back-to-Back for Byron at Phoenix
A cloud of smoke around the finish line cleared to reveal William Byron’s No. 24 car parked following the conclusion of Sunday’s race at Phoenix Raceway.
Byron’s burnouts celebrated his second consecutive victory, just four races into the season. Sunday’s Phoenix finish resembled the Las Vegas race just a week prior.
On lap two, Byron passed teammate Kyle Larson and drove away with the lead on the way to win Stage 1. Larson would retake the lead on pit road, however, and Byron became trapped in dirty air, unable to get back to the front. Fighting for fourth near the end of the race, a late caution gave the 24 team another opportunity.
Crew Chief Rudy Fugle made the call to put two tires on the Valvoline Chevrolet, and Byron left pit road in second place behind Larson once again.
The ensuing restart saw Larson jump to the lead as Byron attempted to fend off a charging Ryan Blaney. However, another crash resulted in NASCAR Overtime.
“I wasn’t counting my blessings,” Byron told the media after the finish. “I was kind of like, man, I’m probably going to end up crashing here.”
Instead of crashing, Byron jumped in the gas on the final restart and drove deep into turn one to stay alongside Larson. As the Hendrick duo battled on the edge of control, Blaney snuck three wide up the inside before a bump from charging Tyler Reddick shoved Byron clear into the lead. As in Las Vegas, Byron held off the field on the final lap to take the victory at Phoenix.
“There was just enough grip up there (off of turn two), and I think I was just far enough up on (Larson) that I was able to stay in (the gas),” Byron said. “I got that big push from Tyler down the backstretch, that was huge. That kind of got me out into clean air.”
Byron credited Fugle for the team’s success.
“I owe the last couple 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.”
Five of Byron’s six career wins have come in the first eight races of the NASCAR season.
This marks the first time Byron has scored back-to-back victories.
Next week at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Byron will attempt a three-peat when he looks to repeat his 2022 victory at the venue.
Barnes is a sports reporter for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on Twitter