William Byron earns his first win of the season in the NASCAR Cup Series Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway on Sunday night.
The NASCAR Cup Series remains in Florida one more week for Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This is always a highly anticipated race with action across the track. It did not disappoint on Sunday afternoon as fans witnessed multiple strategies play out for good and bad. Many drivers were strong early and faded from contention throughout the race, and many drivers struggled early before coming to fruition late in the race.
A Surprise Winner in the First Stage
Christopher Bell kicks the first stage off by taking the green flag from the pole. His time in the lead was cut short as Joey Logano made the pass on the first lap. Logano held the lead for twelve laps as Brad Keselowski charged ahead.
Keselowski continued to lead through the competition caution on lap 26. The race moved into a long green-flag run where Chris Buescher was moving his way up through the field. On lap 53, Buescher made the pass on Keselowski for the race lead. Chris Buescher had it working early, and he cruised to victory in the first stage.
A New Leader Emerges in the Second Stage
The second stage ran caution free up until the closing laps. Chris Buescher had to fend off Chase Elliott early in the stage. The field began to cycle down pit road under the green flag on lap 119.
Martin Truex Jr. made the pass for the lead right before coming to pit road. This late pass allowed Truex Jr. to cycle back into the lead once the rest of the field completed the cycle.
With six laps remaining, Corey Lajoie blew his engine, bringing out the only caution in the second stage. Martin Truex Jr. continued to hold the lead heading into the restart. Martin Truex Jr. was racing Denny Hamlin hard for the stage win. This held both drivers up and William Byron passed both drivers to steal the second stage victory.
The Final Stage Performance Seals the Deal
William Byron brought the field to the restart to begin the final stage. Byron was able to continuously increase his lead over the course of the stage. Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, and Tyler Reddick fought hard for the second-place position. Their efforts slowed them down enough for Byron to have no worries. William Byron’s final stage performance earned him his first victory of the 2021 season.
William Byron Earns his First Win this Season…and More
This win is William Byron’s second of his career and most proving thus far. His win last season came in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. His win on Sunday night proved to the rest of the field and fans that he can compete on 1.5-mile speedways. This is something that most young drivers have struggled with at the beginning of their cup careers.
Byron was not the favorite heading into the race with a 33rd starting position. He charged through the field and once the sun set on the track, he and his car settled in. His team had the car set up to run the bottom and once the track cooled down, Byron was able to let it rip.
Byron and Fugle a Winning Combination
Byron also has a new crew chief for the season with Rudy Fugle and they were able to find victory lane in just their third race together at the Cup level. They have worked together in the past, but it is different at the Cup level.
Byron still credits this win to Fugle and the team saying, “…it’s all about people in this sport. I’ve heard like Kevin say that and multiple people say that. You’ve got to have the people — I think that with Rudy, we had a lot of success on mile-and-a-halves. He knows what I want in a race car. I credit a lot to Kyle, working with Kyle Busch for a long time and kind of understanding some of the things there.
“…I wasn’t concerned that we were going to struggle at the mile-and-a-halves…it was just doing well at every racetrack we go to. I’ve had success at Homestead in the past with the trucks and then Xfinity, so I wasn’t concerned that Cup I hadn’t gotten the finishes yet because I really like coming here, and it’s so low grip and each lap is different that it kind of takes adaptation. Sometimes you don’t hit it right but you’ve got to kind of search and find grip.
I think the biggest weakness for me, I never really ran the wall here in Cup, so kind of understanding how I could do that…”
Byron and Fugle will have the rest of the season to build more chemistry and strengthen their team for the playoffs. It is always nice to win early; guaranteeing yourself a playoff spot. Now the team can experiment with new ideas to prepare themselves for the playoff.