William Byron Wins Controversial Daytona 500

In a thrilling turn of events during the Daytona 500, William Byron handed team owner Rick Hendrick a delightful surprise in the 40th anniversary year of Hendrick Motorsports.

Amidst the chaos following a restart on Lap 197 out of 200, Byron managed to dash to the start/finish line and secure the white flag just as NASCAR intervened with the fifth caution of the evening. This caution was prompted by Ross Chastain’s and Austin Cindric’s wild skid through the infield grass as a result of a crash that started with Corey Lajoie.

This win marked Hendrick’s ninth victory in the Daytona 500, an achievement that tied the company with Petty Enterprises for the most wins in the history of the NASCAR Cup Series. Due to heavy rains over the weekend, the race had been postponed from Sunday to Monday.

“I’m just a guy who started racing on computers, and now here I am winning the Daytona 500,” remarked the jubilant 26-year-old Byron, clinching the 11th Cup Series victory of his career, and his second at Daytona, the first being in the 2020 summer race at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

Teammate Alex Bowman trailed closely behind, securing second place for Hendrick, marking the organization’s first victory in the 500 since Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s triumph in 2014. Furthermore, it marked the first Hendrick 1-2 finish in the “Great American Race” since Jimmie Johnson’s victory over Earnhardt in 2013.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s Senior VP of Competition, shed light on the decision-making process behind the caution, stating, “At the end of the race, we utilize all available resources. When the caution came out, we relied on video evidence and timestamps. At the moment of caution, it was 24 (Byron) over 48 (Bowman). Ideally, we would have preferred to let the race finish naturally, but once the 2 car (Cindric) spun and began heading back onto the track amidst the traffic, caution was the only option.”

The victory was particularly poignant for Hendrick, who expressed his elation in Victory Lane, stating, “You couldn’t have scripted it any better. When we first thought about coming down here, it felt like we didn’t belong. Now, winning this on our 40th anniversary to the day, and tying a record, it’s just… incredible.”

Before the final restart, Chastain found himself at the forefront on Lap 192 as the field wrecked behind him. Alex Bowman sent an unintentional bump to the rear of William Byron, turning Byron into Brad Keselowski. The ensuing mayhem involved a total of 23 cars, including reigning series champion Ryan Blaney, Keselowski, and Logano, eventually leading to a red flag for track cleanup, which lasted over 15 minutes.

The race continued to be fraught with drama, including an eight-car accident early on, followed by a colossal wreck later in the race that reshuffled the field and set the stage for the final showdown among the surviving contenders.

With 41 lead changes among 20 drivers, the race was a rollercoaster of excitement. Christopher Bell claimed third place, trailed by Corey LaJoie, Bubba Wallace, and AJ Allmendinger. Despite Chastain’s valiant effort in the closing laps, he finished 21st, just ahead of Cindric.

In the end, it was a remarkable victory for William Byron and Hendrick Motorsports, marking a historic milestone in the annals of NASCAR’s most prestigious event.