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Davidson: Byron wins the NASCAR Cup race at Homestead

Homestead, FL, Feb 28/21 (by John Davidson); William Byron ran away from the field in the final two Stages of the Dixie Vodka 400, heading Tyler Reddick by almost three seconds at the checkered flag. Reddick had stopped for new tires in the final Stage but Byron's lead was too great for him to be caught.

The pole sitter Denny Hamlin had been sent to the rear of the pack because of "unapproved adjustments" spotted on the grid. Of course, what those adjustments were may never be announced officially, just like many more such rulings in sports and especially in racing. Similarly, yesterday's second-place finisher in the Xfinity race, Tyler Reddick, was disqualified after his car failed post-race inspection by being too low in the rear suspension.

Tires made a difference again in Sunday's race, but they took second place to overall setup as William Byron took Rudy Fugle to victory lane as crew chief again. Fugle had been Byron's crew chief in the truck series before getting hired to chief for the No. 24 car in Cup this year.
Byron led a race topping 102 laps, dominating the last two Stages on the way to his second career win. His racing career started with computer-based iRacing and a kart session on Charlotte Motor Speedway's infield with Endurance Karting. He joined the two previous winners this year, Michael McDowell and Christopher Bell in earning a slot in the season-end playoffs.

Fugle's strategy calls were the determining factor in Byron's second career win: "Yeah, that guy has been huge for my career. 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, thanks, God, for all the things that it takes to get to this level. Great boss in Mr. Hendrick and Jeff Gordon, and Axalta," said Byron in Victory Lane.

"This car looks really cool. I can't even believe it, honestly. It was just a really smooth day. And we worked hard in the Winter on this track. I can't believe it.

"You had to go with the wall at certain times; (Turns) 3 and 4 were really fast up there. 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."

Martin Truex Jr finished third for Joe Gibbs Racing. "The track changed a lot. Our Toyota Camry was really fast at times," said Truex. "At times [it was] a little bit off. 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. These things are so hard to win.

"I felt like that last run, for whatever reason, it just didn't do what it had done all day. The 24 (William Byron) and the 5 (Kyle Larson) got by us on that restart and I was just going to take care of it here and this is going to be a really long run. That's where we were strong all day and it just never happened. My balance got off there in the last 40 laps or so and the car wouldn't do what it did earlier."

The top finishing Ford was Kevin Harvick's in fifth place: "We actually had a good car the second half of the race. We were just way too loose in the first third of the race."

Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell was right behind Harvick at the finish: "I think it says a whole lot for this whole Front Row Motorsports organization," he said. "We're just making huge improvements and to come here to a very challenging mile-and-a-half and run in the top 10 and not luck our way in, we raced there all night long, is super impressive. Everything is clicking. The momentum is going and it's pretty awesome right now."

• Click HERE for the race results


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