Pennzoil 400: William Byron and Hendrick Motorsports Dominate Las Vegas
William Byron, the driver of the No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet, burns it down after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo: Chris Graythen | Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - In the third race of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet hit the jackpot in Sin City as the team swept the top-three spots and combined to lead 89% of the total laps during the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas.
Even with a late caution to set up NASCAR Overtime, a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet going to victory lane was no crapshoot.
William Byron, earned his fifth career NASCAR Cup Series win in dominating fashion. He led five times for 176 laps (65% of the race), sweeping both stages and earning the maximum 60 points and seven playoff points to jump 16 spots in the standings.
"Yeah, just been really confident about the group of guys that I have on this 24 team," Byron said in a post-race interview. "They work extremely hard and we spend a lot of time in the off-season just going through running at the sim with Chevy and running on iRacing and just trying to get better as a race car driver and as a team"
Due to NASCAR's "win-and-in" playoff format, Byron has clinched one of the 16 open spots in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, despite being 13th in the regular season standings. However, if NASCAR were to have more than 16 regular-season winners, Byron's spot would not be guaranteed. Looking at the parity we saw in 2022, getting a second win this season would certainly give Byron a greater level of comfort.
2021 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Kyle Larson, who pilots the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick, also had an impressive day for the team, earning 53 points after finishing runner-up in each stage and the race itself. If the late caution caused by Aric Almirola hitting the outside wall never came out, Larson would have likely earned the victory after leading 63 laps, with most of those coming in the final 72 laps of the race.
Alex Bowman was the third-place finisher that resulted in the HMS 1-2-3 finish. Bowman, who pilots the No. 48 Chevrolet, won the Las Vegas spring race last year over his teammate Larson. Bowman also leads the NASCAR Cup Series with an average finish of 5.33 this season and sits second in the standings. Bowman joins Daniel Suárez as the only two drivers to finish in the top-10 in each race this season.
In other news, Chase Elliott did not compete in Las Vegas after fracturing his tibia in a snowboarding accident, a few days prior to the race. NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Josh Berry replaced Elliott for the race and finished in 29th. Elliott is projected to miss multiple weeks after having surgery, and replacement drivers for Elliott are expected to be announced on a weekly basis.
Other Race Facts
23XI Racing completed its first race of the season without full-time drivers Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick failing to finish the race. Wallace, the driver of the No. 23 Toyota, finished fourth after being towards the front for the majority of 406.5 miles. He also finished eighth in Stage 1 and sixth in Stage 2, helping him earn 41 points during the race. Reddick, the driver of the No. 45 Toyota, went on to finish 15th after leading three laps.
Toyota had one of its better races to start the season as five of the six entries finished in the top-15. Joe Gibbs Racing saw Christopher Bell finish fifth, Martin Truex Jr. finished seventh, Denny Hamlin came home in 11th and rookie Ty Gibbs ended up 22nd.
Once again, Trackhouse Racing had a consistent performance as Suárez earned his third-straight top-10 finish (10th), while points leader Ross Chastain finished 12th to earn his seventh-straight top-15 finish dating back to last season. Chastain also has an average finish of fifth-place in his last seven races.
For the first time since 2010, Chevrolet has won the first three races to start the NASCAR Cup Series season. In 2010, Jamie McMurray won the Daytona 500 and Jimmie Johnson won both the Auto Club 500 and the Shelby American (Las Vegas) in the following weeks.
Two-time Pennzoil 400 winner and pole-sitter Joey Logano didn't finish the race after wrecking on Lap 183. Logano went on to finish 36th after his Damage Vehicle Policy (DVP) clock ran out.
Results from the 2023 Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas are listed below.
The 2023 GRID Ranking will be the seventh year of the premier motorsport ranking in the world, and it will be released during the week of April 2.
Before the official ranking releases on the first Sunday of April, drivers in the seven racing series that participate in the ranking (NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula 1, Formula E, World Rally Championship, Repco Supercars, MotoGP) earn GRID Ratings, which help determine their initial seeding when the GRID Ranking releases.
For NASCAR, William Byron's win at Las Vegas earns him 25 points and puts him in a four-way tie for second. Byron's HMS teammate Bowman takes the lead in the third NASCAR GRID Rating after another top-10 performance.
Here is the rest of the NASCAR Top-10 GRID Rating:
Alex Bowman - 29
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - 25
Kyle Busch - 25
Christopher Bell - 25
William Byron - 25
Joey Logano - 19
Daniel Suárez - 19
Chase Elliott - 18
Kyle Larson - 18
Ross Chastain - 17
Out of the 10 current drivers in NASCAR's third GRID Rating, seven of them were in the pre-season poll completed by the members of GRID Network: Bell, Busch, Chastain, Elliott, Larson, Logano and Suárez.
The next race for the NASCAR Cup Series is on Sunday, March 12 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX) at Phoenix Raceway.
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