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William Byron wins at Homestead for his second career victory

Nick Bromberg
·5 min read
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William Byron has his second Cup Series win.

Byron drove away from the field over the final 40 laps of Sunday's NASCAR race at Homestead to put himself in a position to make the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

Byron was so fast over the final stage of the race that no one could mount a challenge. The fastest car over the final laps belonged to Tyler Reddick, but he had to charge from the back half of the top 10 to finish a distant second to Byron.

Byron stole the win in the second stage of the race on a one-lap shootout and then had by far the best car over the final stage of the race. His lead was so dominant that drivers outside the top 10, like Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, pitted for fresh tires with about 30 laps to go in the hopes of making up track position with fresh rubber on the extremely abrasive track.

Reddick was the driver to watch as Byron was on cruise control at the end. He ran down Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. in the final 10 laps and passed them both before the checkered flag.

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 28: William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on February 28, 2021 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
William Byron now has two Cup Series wins. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Byron's first win of his career came at Daytona in August. He then finished 14th in the points standings after he was 11th in 2019.

A win typically guarantees a driver a spot in the playoffs. But after three races in 2021, it's hard to make that proclamation at the moment. The winners so far have been Michael McDowell, Christopher Bell and Byron. If you assume that drivers like Kevin Harvick, Truex, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott and Keselowski, Logano and Team Penske teammate Ryan Blaney win races during the regular season, there isn't much room for other surprise winners to lock their way into the playoffs.

If there are 17 or more winners in the first 26 races — a possible but still improbable outcome given that no season with a win-and-in NASCAR playoff has had more winners than playoff spots — the top 16 drivers in the points standings would make the playoffs.

Team Penske drivers fade

Logano and Keselowski had some of the fastest cars at the start of Sunday's race. That speed disappeared as the sun went down and nighttime enveloped the track.

Keselowski finished 16th after the late pit stop gamble and Logano ended up 25th.

Blaney, meanwhile, found himself in 29th after he got cut off by Aric Almirola. Blaney was on the outside of Almirola in Turns 3 and 4 in the final stage as Almirola came up the track like Balney wasn't between him and the wall. The collision damaged both drivers' cars enough to cause a caution and render them uncompetitive for the rest of the race.

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 28: Chris Buescher, driver of the #17 Fastenal Ford, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on February 28, 2021 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher led 57 laps on Sunday. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Chris Buescher leads 57 laps

The surprise winner theme looked like it could carry on during the first and second stages of Sunday's race as Chris Buescher had some great speed.

Buescher led 57 laps and won the first stage of the race ahead of Keselowski and Truex. He finished sixth in stage 2 but fell off in the third stage and ultimately finished 19th.

The 57 laps Buescher led are the most he's ever led in a single Cup Series race. And the most he's ever led in a single Cup Series season. Buescher's previous season-high in laps led was 33 a year ago. In 188 previous Cup Series starts, he had led a total of 188 laps.

Is this parity a blip? Or a sign of things to come?

It's hard not to wonder if 2021 will be a season without a dominant driver after the first three races of the season. But will that wonder become reality? It's probably too soon to tell.

Why? The first three races of the season have been held on distinctly different types of tracks. Sequences like that typically lead to short bursts of parity in a Cup Series season.

It's also hard to draw a significant conclusion from a three-race sample anyway. That's why NASCAR modified its playoff system ahead of the 2017 season to allow drivers to carry points earned over the course of the regular season throughout the playoffs. Those points helped minimize some of the randomness that appeared in previous playoff formats.

So let's wait a bit before we make sweeping judgments about the 2021 season. We could be in for a season full of unpredictable winners. But there's no need to draw conclusions about a 36-race campaign that isn't even 10% complete.

Race results

1. William Byron

2. Tyler Reddick

3. Martin Truex Jr.

4. Kyle Larson

5. Kevin Harvick

6. Michael McDowell

7. Ryan Newman

8. Kurt Busch

9. Alex Bowman

10. Kyle Busch

11. Denny Hamlin

12. Austin Dillon

13. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

14. Chase Elliott

15. Daniel Suarez

16. Brad Keselowski

17. Ross Chastain

18. Chase Briscoe

19. Chris Buescher

20. Christopher Bell

21. Ryan Preece

22. Bubba Wallace

23. Cole Custer

24. Anthony Alfredo

25. Joey Logano

26. Justin Haley

27. Erik Jones

28. Matt DiBenedetto

29. Ryan Blaney

30. Aric Almirola

31. Garrett Smithley

32. Cody Ware

33. Josh Bilicki

34. BJ McLeod

35. Quin Houff

36. Corey LaJoie

37. James Davison

38. Timmy Hill

Points standings

1. Denny Hamlin, 139 points

2. Kevin Harvick, 119

3. Joey Logano, 108

4. Michael McDowell, 106

5. Chase Elliott, 105

6. Kurt Busch, 104

7. Christopher Bell, 99

8. Kyle Larson, 97

9. Martin Truex Jr., 96

10. Brad Keselowski, 95

11. Austin Dillon, 90

12. Ryan Preece, 90

13. William Byron, 76

14. Cole Custer, 68

15. Chris Buescher, 67

16. Bubba Wallace, 67

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