NASCAR Phoenix Notes: William Byron, Hendrick Make it Two in Row

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NASCAR Phoenix Notes: Byron Makes it 2 StraightChris Graythen - Getty Images

One week after Hendrick Motorsports finished first through third for the third time in its history, all four of the organization’s cars recorded a top 10 in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday.

William Byron earned his second straight victory, Kyle Larson took fourth, Alex Bowman finished ninth, his first top 10 at Phoenix since 2016, and Josh Berry, substituting for the injured Chase Elliott, placed 10th. Elliott watched the race from home and was in communication with his team during the event.

“These races are so long and I need to be able to learn this car a little bit better where I can give Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) a little bit better direction on how to help me,” Berry said. “Towards the end, we found that we were a little bit on the free side of our better runs.

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Ryan Blaney scored his first top-five finish of the season on Sunday.Chris Graythen - Getty Images

Blaney Finally Snares Top 5

Ryan Blaney’s sluggish start to the 2023 season got energized at Phoenix Raceway Sunday with a second-place finish, his first top-five this year.

A two-tire stop on lap 304 in the scheduled 312-lap race put Blaney in third behind Kyle Larson and William Byron, respectively, on the restart. Blaney attempted to snatch the lead from Larson by diving low on the restart, but Larson blocked him. Before they could take the white flag, a wreck involving Ty Gibbs and A.J. Allmendinger sent the race into overtime.

Once again, Blaney restarted third. This time he again shot to the inside of Larson, but on the backstretch Tyler Reddick pushed Byron passed the other two on the outside. Blaney managed to hold onto second place, but couldn’t catch Byron who finished 0.330-second ahead of him.

“We finished a little better than I thought we’d run,” Blaney said.

“I wanted to be on the bottom just in case the leader slides up, you can kind of roll the bottom. I thought I was in a good spot off (turn) two being underneath them.”

Yet, once Reddick pushed Byron, Blaney couldn’t stay even with the Hendrick Motorsports driver.

Prior to the Phoenix race, Blaney’s best finish this year had been eighth in the Daytona 500. He finished 26th at Auto Club Speedway after being involved in a restart accident and 13th at Las Vegas.

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Tyler Reddick finally had a good day after a disappointing start to the season.Chris Graythen - Getty Images

Reddick Rebounds from Disappointing Start

Entering the NASCAR Cup season’s fourth race, Tyler Reddick found himself in a surprisingly dismal situation. He had failed to finish the season’s first two races due to wrecks and he’d led only three laps en route to his 15th-place finish at Las Vegas.

However, Phoenix provided the turnaround the 23XI team needed. Even though the third-place Reddick admitted that on the final restart he failed to execute the way he needed to collect a victory.

“Just didn’t get the launch I needed to with William’s (Byron) back bumper to take advantage of it in turn one,” said Reddick, whose Toyota received four new tires on the final stop while six others took two. “I just screwed it up.

“Very frustrating, naturally. Last year, same thing. Didn’t have the best of restarts and finished third.”

When the race restarted on lap 310, Reddick’s Toyota was ninth. However, he quickly gained five positions and sat fourth when the fifth yellow flag waved the next lap. When the race restarted in overtime, he opted for the outside line behind eventual winner Byron and pushed the Hendrick Motorsports driver past Kyle Larson and Blaney.

“This car was solidly, I would say, a third- to fifth-place car all day long,” Reddick said. “Unfortunate to be on a tire advantage and not take advantage of it.”

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Fourth place not good enough to make Kyle Larson happy on Sunday.Meg Oliphant - Getty Images

Larson Unhappy at Phoenix

A late race-caution erased a more than three-second lead Kevin Harvick possessed over Kyle Larson with 10 laps remaining, giving Kyle Larson a shot at victory Sunday at Phoenix Raceway.

Larson’s crew performed a quick two-tire stop to get him off pit road in the lead. However, when another caution period caused a second restart in overtime, he couldn’t hold off a charging William Byron, Ryan Blaney and Tyler Reddick. Those three drivers relegated a disgruntled Larson to fourth.

“I’m pissed off,” said Larson, who led five times for 201 laps. “I felt like I ran William (Byron) up pretty high … and into the marbles. I was expecting him to lose some grip, but he did a really good job of holding it to my outside, clearing me down the back (stretch).”

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Kevin Harvick scored valuable points on Sunday.Chris Graythen - Getty Images

Harvick’s Streak Continues

With 10 laps remaining in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Phoenix, Kevin Harvick possessed a comfortable lead over Kyle Larson. His Ford had been good on long green-flag runs throughout the race and the event currently had gone 108 laps without a caution.

Then, on lap 302, Harrison Burton spun, causing the fourth of five caution periods. Pitting for new rubber was a non-issue; however, Harvick opted for four tires while six front-running drivers—William Byron, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin—opted for two. That left Harvick seventh on the restart.

On the next two restarts, traffic boxed in Harvick, and he gained only two positions before the checkered flag waved.

“That one is not fun to swallow,” said Harvick, who noted the four-tire stop was the correct call. “We had a great car and didn’t need that caution at the end. Just hate missing an opportunity when you have a car that strong.”

Still, Harvick’s fifth-place finish allowed him to keep two record streaks alive. Harvick has competed in 41 Cup races at Phoenix without a DNF. He also owns a record of 20 consecutive top-10 finishes. His average finish is 8.6, he has 30 top-10 finishes and he has led 1,699 laps.


NASCAR Cup Series Race

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Phoenix Raceway

1. (3) William Byron, Chevrolet, 317.

2. (8) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 317.

3. (12) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 317.

4. (1) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 317.

5. (15) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 317.

6. (5) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 317.

7. (24) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 317.

8. (9) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 317.

9. (18) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 317.

10. (17) Josh Berry(i), Chevrolet, 317.

11. (16) Joey Logano, Ford, 317.

12. (25) Ryan Preece, Ford, 317.

13. (7) Michael McDowell, Ford, 317.

14. (19) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 317.

15. (21) Chris Buescher, Ford, 317.

16. (30) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 317.

17. (13) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 317.

18. (4) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 317.

19. (23) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 317.

20. (22) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 317.

21. (10) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 317.

22. (11) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 317.

23. (2) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 317.

24. (6) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 317.

25. (20) Austin Cindric, Ford, 316.

26. (28) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 316.

27. (26) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 316.

28. (14) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 316.

29. (32) Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, 316.

30. (35) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 315.

31. (34) Zane Smith(i), Ford, 315.

32. (29) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 314.

33. (31) Aric Almirola, Ford, 313.

34. (36) Cody Ware, Ford, 311.

35. (27) Harrison Burton, Ford, 310.

36. (33) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, Fuel Pump, 50.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 105.491 mph.

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 0 Mins, 18 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.330 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 5 for 35 laps.

Lead Changes: 10 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders: K. Larson 1;W. Byron 2-63;K. Larson 64-118;R. Chastain 119;B. Keselowski 120;K. Larson 121-246;E. Jones 247-260;K. Larson 261-268;K. Harvick 269-304;K. Larson 305-315;W. Byron 316-317.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kyle Larson 5 times for 201 laps; William Byron 2 times for 64 laps; Kevin Harvick 1 time for 36 laps; Erik Jones 1 time for 14 laps; Brad Keselowski 1 time for 1 lap; Ross Chastain 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 24,5,20,11,45,12,1,4,6,8

Stage #2 Top Ten: 5,24,4,6,45,11,20,12,1,14