By: Andrew N
Late caution paves way for William Byron’s 2nd consecutive win
William Byron won the United Rentals 500 on Sunday afternoon at Phoenix Raceway, his second victory in as many weeks, capitalizing on a late-race caution to restart on the front row and pass teammate Kyle Larson for the win with one lap to go. It was the 2nd consecutive week where Byron was able to utilize a two-tire stop following a caution to steal a victory.
Kevin Harvick appeared in position for the win on Sunday, which would have been the 10th victory at Phoenix for the “Cactus King”, but was burned when the caution came out with him well ahead of the rest of the field. Harvick passed Kyle Larson for the lead on Lap 269 (of 312) and quickly ran away – stretching his lead to a full five seconds with 10 to go – but Harrison Burton spun on Lap 302 to draw out the caution. Harvick, who had the best long-run car in the field but wasn’t the fastest on restarts, pitted for four tires, giving up the lead in the process to six cars who took two tires, but did not have enough laps to mount a charge. He finished a disappointing 5th on a day he was in position to earn his 61st career victory and lock himself into the 2023 playoff field.
When asked if the call for four tires was the right call for the 4 car, Harvick said “It’s what I would have done. I’d always rather be on offense. I just didn’t get a couple cars when that first caution came out. Kind of lost our chance. Still thought I had a chance there at the end. Those cars were quite a bit slower. They get all jammed up. “That’s the way it goes. Just smoked ’em up until the caution. They did a great job with our Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang. Didn’t need the caution at the end.”
Kyle Larson was the dominant car during the early and middle portions of this race, starting on the pole and leading over 200 laps on the day. For the 2nd consecutive week, he was burned by his teammate Byron on the final restart and could not come home with the win. Larson finished 4th.
Rivals Denny Hamlin and Ross Chastain got into each other and into the wall on the final restart of the race in overtime and finished as the last two cars on the lead lap. The 24th place finish for Chastain dropped him out of the top spot in the points standing. Alex Bowman is currently first in points as the only driver to finish in the top-10 in the first 4 races of the season.
Stage and Final Race results:
Stage 1 Top-10: Byron, Larson, Bell, Hamlin, Reddick, Blaney, Chastain, Harvick, Keselowski, Busch
Stage 2 Top-10: Larson, Byron, Harvick, Keselowski, Reddick, Hamlin, Bell, Blaney, Chastain, Briscoe
Top-10 Finishers: Byron, Blaney, Reddick, Larson, Harvick, Bell, Briscoe, Busch, Bowman, Berry
Other Notes from the race:
- Daniel Suarez’s top-10 streak came to an end with a 22nd place finish.
- Chevrolet drivers have won all four races this season.
- William Byron became just the 2nd driver in the Next Gen Car era to win consecutive races, joining Kevin Harvick (August 2022 at Michigan and Richmond).
- Chase Briscoe, the defending winner of this race rallied late to earn his first top-10 of the season.
- This race marked the debut of NASCAR’s new lower downforce package that will be run on all ovals one mile or less and road courses this year
- The Cup Series will return to Phoenix for the Championship race in November.
The Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway next Sunday (3:00pm EST, FOX). Race points for the United Rentals Work United 500 and Cup Series Standings