Overtime Daytona win locks Byron into Cup Series playoffs

Matt Thacker / Motorsport Images

Overtime Daytona win locks Byron into Cup Series playoffs

NASCAR

Overtime Daytona win locks Byron into Cup Series playoffs

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William Byron entered the final race of the regular season in Daytona above the playoff cutline, and Saturday night, he made sure he wasn’t knocked out by winning for the first time in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Byron was both lucky and good in the Coke Zero Sugar 400. Crew chief Chad Knaus and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team built a fast Liberty University Chevrolet, and Byron was in the lead pack all night. He also missed the race’s first big wreck on lap 153, which ended the playoff hopes of Ryan Newman, Erik Jones, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Ryan Preece.

A pair of multi-car wrecks seven laps apart dashed the playoffs hopes of many. Image by Miller/Motorsport Images

Rookie Tyler Reddick made an ill-timed move to the top lane, trying to take the lead. He bounced off the wall in front of Kyle Busch and Jones, slowing the field and triggering a chain reaction.

The final caution and multi-car crash occurred on lap 160. Reddick and Matt Kenseth were eliminated in that crash while Jimmie Johnson’s car was heavily damaged.

Although he bounced off both Joey Logano and Darrell Wallace Jr., damaging the left rear of his car, Byron made it through and on into the overtime attempt.

Restarting second in overtime, Byron took on Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. in the final two laps and prevailed. The 22-year-old was followed across the finish line by teammate Chase Elliott while Hamlin finished third.

“This is probably the hardest track to points race,” said Byron. “We had a great Stage 2 (but) kind of got back in the pack and got shuffled when everyone went single file. I thought my hopes were up right. We were racing around the 21 [Matt DiBenedetto] and the 48 [Jimmie Johnson] in the final stage, and I was like, ‘Man, I’ve got to really make something happen.’

“Luckily, I was able to push the 43 [Bubba Wallace]. He and the 22 [Joey Logano] made some contact and opened a hole for me, and I wasn’t going to lift. It was awesome.”

Truex finished fourth and Wallace fifth. Ryan Blaney finished sixth with Alex Bowman seventh, Brendan Gaughan eighth, Chris Buescher ninth, and Brad Keselowski 10th.

Earning the final playoff spot was Matt DiBenedetto, who finished 12th. It is the first time DiBenedetto has made the postseason and will be only the second appearance for Wood Brothers Racing.

DiBenedetto took the final spot over Johnson, who finished 17th with his damaged race car and misses the playoffs for the second straight year.

“Just disappointed; I didn’t do a good job,” said third-place finisher Hamlin. “Lack of focus or whatever it is. Not executing. If you have control of a green-white-checkered on a speedway, most of the time, the win is going to come from the front row, and you have to just make sure you make the right moves. And I just didn’t after I took the green. I don’t know what I was doing – I didn’t have a push from the 21 (DiBenedetto), and I was clear of the 24 (Byron) and just didn’t pull down. I don’t know what I was doing.

“Disappointing, but I guess we escaped some mayhem. Just a crazy race. Just everyone kind of out there for themselves and all the pushing and shoving and body-slamming and what not.

“Decent finish, but I hate having control and not (winning).”

Byron is the 21st different driver to win his first Cup Series race at Daytona, and the 11th to do so in the summer race. For Knaus, it was his 82nd career win as a crew chief but the first with a driver other than Johnson.

NASCAR Cup Series Race – 62nd Annual Coke Zero Sugar 400
Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, Florida
Saturday, August 29, 2020

1. (6) William Byron, Chevrolet, 164.
2. (27) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 164.
3. (10) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 164.
4. (2) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 164.
5. (21) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 164.
6. (9) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 164.
7. (8) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 164.
8. (40) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 164.
9. (17) Chris Buescher, Ford, 164.
10. (4) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 164.
11. (24) John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 164.
12. (15) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 164.
13. (23) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 164.
14. (26) Michael McDowell, Ford, 164.
15. (32) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 164.
16. (36) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 164.
17. (7) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 164.
18. (5) Aric Almirola, Ford, 164.
19. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 164.
20. (1) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 164.
21. (25) Corey LaJoie, Ford, Accident, 163.
22. (29) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 163.
23. (34) Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 162.
24. (35) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 161.
25. (12) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 161.
26. (30) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, Accident, 159.
27. (3) Joey Logano, Ford, Accident, 158.
28. (19) Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, Accident, 158.
29. (18) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, Accident, 158.
30. (16) Cole Custer #, Ford, Accident, 158.
31. (37) Joey Gase(i), Ford, 158.
32. (31) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Accident, 155.
33. (11) Kyle Busch, Toyota, Accident, 152.
34. (13) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, Accident, 151.
35. (20) Erik Jones, Toyota, Accident, 151.
36. (22) Ryan Newman, Ford, Accident, 151.
37. (28) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, Accident, 151.
38. (39) Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 151.
39. (38) James Davison, Ford, Accident, 139.
40. (33) JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, Engine, 3.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 153.766 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 39 Mins, 59 Secs. Margin of Victory: .119 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 6 for 21 laps.
Lead Changes: 35 among 16 drivers.
Lap Leaders: M. Truex Jr. 1;K. Harvick 2-5;W. Byron 6;K. Harvick 7;W. Byron 8-21;A. Bowman 22;A. Almirola 23;W. Byron 24-28;E. Jones 29-33;W. Byron 34-35;J. Logano 36-51;R. Blaney 52;B. Keselowski 53;C. Bell # 54-55;E. Jones 56-65;K. Busch 66-71;*. Suarez 72-90;J. Logano 91-101;M. Truex Jr. 102;K. Harvick 103;J. Logano 104-105;M. Truex Jr. 106-111;J. Logano 112;M. Truex Jr. 113-118;K. Busch 119-125;J. Logano 126-130;M. McDowell 131-132;K. Busch 133-150;K. Busch 151;D. Hamlin 152-155;T. Reddick # 156;D. Hamlin 157;J. Logano 158;D. Hamlin 159-162;W. Byron 163-164.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Joey Logano 6 times for 36 laps; Kyle Busch 3 times for 31 laps; William Byron 5 times for 24 laps; * Daniel Suarez 1 time for 19 laps; Erik Jones 2 times for 15 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 4 times for 14 laps; Denny Hamlin 3 times for 9 laps; Kevin Harvick 3 times for 6 laps; Christopher Bell # 1 time for 2 laps; Michael McDowell 1 time for 2 laps; Brad Keselowski 1 time for 1 lap; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 1 lap; Kurt Busch 1 time for 1 lap; Aric Almirola 1 time for 1 lap; Tyler Reddick # 1 time for 1 lap; Alex Bowman 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 22,20,8,12,48,95,24,34,11,18
Stage #2 Top Ten: 22,19,14,1,48,2,21,47,12,95

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