HOMESTEAD, Fla. – William Byron dominated when it counted to earn his first NASCAR Cup Series win of the season during Sunday evening’s Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Byron, who started 31st at the 1.5-mile South Florida oval, kept chipping away at traffic throughout the race and saw his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE get better and better as the sun went down.
The Charlotte, N.C., native took the lead for the first time under green in the last corner of the second stage, then crushed the field when the lights came on and nighttime took over.
Byron led 100 of the final 108 laps en route to his second career Cup Series victory in 111 starts, pulling away from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson early in the final run and holding off a determined Tyler Reddick down the stretch.
Byron beat Reddick to the checkered flag by 2.777 seconds, earning his first triumph with new crew chief Rudy Fugle, who previously worked with Byron in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
“(Rudy) has been huge for my career. He’s the reason I’m here and I’m glad we could get him to victory lane. He’s just awesome,” lauded Byron. “This whole team did a phenomenal job. The pit crew, over the wall, we’re extremely blessed. … I’ve got a great boss in Mr. Hendrick, and support from Jeff Gordon and Axalta. This car looks really cool. I can’t even believe it, honestly. It was just a really smooth day.
“We worked hard in the winter on this track, and now we’re here with a win. I can’t believe it.”
The run to the finish was set up by a two-car incident with 68 laps left, when Aric Almirola came up into Ryan Blaney’s Ford trying to make a pass for position, sending both cars into the wall and the leaders to pit road once the caution flag was displayed.
Byron, who led the field prior to the pit stops, came off pit road sixth while Larson came off as the new leader. Larson controlled the restart from the bottom lane, but couldn’t get clear out front and slipped back as Martin Truex Jr. powered to the race lead.
However, Byron didn’t take long to take control of the race for good. He went to the bottom of the track, charged around Truex with 58 laps left and never gave up the top spot again from there.
Byron opened up as much as a five-second lead over Larson, who was the runner-up for most of the final run, but Reddick eventually charged forward from seventh and 12 seconds back in the closing laps.
Reddick made it inside the top five with 13 laps left and finally secured second from Larson with two to go, but at that point had no time left to try and mount a charge on Byron for the victory.
“Once I really saw how fast we were in clean air, when I saw how fast we were catching everybody, it’s beyond frustrating (to finish second),” said Reddick, who matched his career-best finish at the Cup Series level. “Three different decisions on restarts would have put me miles ahead, and I would have been within reach (to challenge Byron for the win).
“Second’s great, but I saw how much faster I was than those guys at the end, so naturally, it’s frustrating.”
Truex was the highest-finishing Toyota driver in third, with Larson’s Chevrolet fading to fourth on the last lap and Kevin Harvick’s Ford filling out the top five.
Sixth through 10th were Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman and Kyle Busch.
Defending Homestead winner Denny Hamlin was hampered by a speeding penalty during the final round of pit stops, but battled through drivability issues for much of the first two stages.
Hamlin eventually finished 11th after battling through traffic for the 60-lap run to the finish.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.
The post Night Time Is The Right Time For Byron In Miami appeared first on SPEED SPORT.