Updated: May 3
AVONDALE, Ariz. - In the fourth race of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, William Byron and Hendrick Motorsports found themselves in victory lane once again for the second straight week by claiming the United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway.
Multiple late-race cautions that involved Harrison Burton and the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series "Big Three" (AJ Allmendinger, Noah Gragson and Ty Gibbs) allowed HMS and Byron to capitalize on a two-tire strategy call from crew chief Rudy Fugle that put the No. 24 Chevrolet in position to seal the deal.
With this victory, Byron becomes only the second driver in the NASCAR Next-Gen era to win in back-to-back races, joining Kevin Harvick (Michigan and Richmond in 2022) on this shortlist.
Byron led 64 laps and earned 59 points out of a possible 60 after winning Stage 1 and finishing second in Stage 2. This marks the second consecutive week where Byron has earned 59 or more points, and it also marks the second straight season where Byron is the first driver to win two Cup races.
Despite Byron's victory, all eyes were on Harvick as he made his second-to-last appearance at Phoenix Raceway with history on the line. Harvick was looking to keep numerous streaks alive during the United Rentals Work United 500 and he did just that.
With Harvick earning a fifth-place finish, it marks his 20th consecutive race at Phoenix with a finish inside the top-10. With an average finish of 4.05 in his last 20 races at the track, Harvick extends NASCAR's all-time record for most consecutive top-10 finishes at one track.
In addition to Harvick's record-extending finish, he has now raced in 41 races in the NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix without recording a single DNF. Harvick's first race at Phoenix was in October 2001.
After leading 36 laps toward the end of the race and losing six spots on pit road due to the No. 4 team taking four tires instead of two, Harvick said in an interview with Fox Sports' Jamie Little that he still thought the four-tire call was the correct one.
"It's what I would have done," Harvick said. "I'd always rather be on offense. I just didn't get a couple cars when that first caution came out. Kind of lost our chance. Still thought I had a chance there at the end. Those cars were quite a bit slower. They get all jammed up."
The driver who Harvick passed for the lead late in the race was Kyle Larson, who led a race-high 201 laps including winning Stage 2 and finishing runner-up in Stage 1 to HMS teammate Byron. Larson went on to finish fourth, which gives the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Champion his second consecutive top-four finish after finishing second last weekend at Las Vegas.
Alex Bowman and Josh Berry, who piloted the No. 48 and No. 9 Chevrolets for HMS at Phoenix also had impressive days as both drivers finished inside the top-10 (Bowman ninth, Berry 10th) with their other HMS teammates. This top-10 finish marks Berry's first career top-10 in the NASCAR Cup Series, while it marks Bowman's fourth consecutive top-10, which makes him the lone driver in 2023 with all four finishes coming inside the top-10.
Other Race Facts
With Team Penske's No. 12 Ford Mustang finishing second, this marks Ryan Blaney's sixth consecutive top-10 finish at Phoenix and his fourth consecutive top-five finish at the track. In his last four races at Phoenix, Blaney has an average finish of third, despite never seeing victory lane in the "Valley of the Sun."
23XI Racing followed up Bubba Wallace's first top-five finish of the season with Tyler Reddick's first top-five of 2023. Although Reddick didn't lead any laps, the four-tire pit call on the second-to-last caution allowed Reddick to finish on the podium for his first top-five with his new team.
Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota driver Christopher Bell earned his third finish of the year inside the top-six. After finishing third in the Daytona 500 and fifth at Las Vegas, Bell earned a sixth-place finish at Phoenix.
Since the debut of the Next-Gen car, Stewart-Haas Racing's Chase Briscoe has been up near the front at each of the race at Phoenix. After earning his first career Cup win at the track in the last year's spring race, Briscoe followed up his performance with a fourth-place finish in the 2022 Championship Race and a seventh-place finish this time around.
Briscoe's SHR teammate Aric Almirola didn't have the same luck as his teammate, but like Harvick, continued an impressive streak. Despite finishing the race in 33rd and four laps down, Almirola now has 25 straight races at Phoenix without a DNF which is second to only Harvick.
With Chevrolet taking the victory in the first four races of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season (Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, Byron), it marks the first time since 2001 that the manufacturer has won the first four races of the season.
Results from the 2023 United Rentals Work United 500 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 second consecutive win at Phoenix Raceway bumps him ahead of HMS teammate Alex Bowman in the fourth NASCAR GRID Rating.
Here is the rest of the NASCAR Top-10 GRID Rating:
William Byron - 50
Christopher Bell - 33
Alex Bowman - 31
Kyle Larson - 30
Kyle Busch - 29
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - 25
Ryan Blaney - 22
Kevin Harvick - 22
Joey Logano - 19
Daniel Suárez - 19
Out of the 10 current drivers in NASCAR's fourth GRID Rating, six of them were in the pre-season poll completed by the members of GRID Network: Bell, Blaney, Busch, Larson, Logano and Suárez.
The next race for the NASCAR Cup Series is on Sunday, March 19 (3 p.m. ET on FOX) at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
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