Byron wins Dixie Vodka 400, how it happened and my main takeaways from Sunday’s race at Homestead

HOMESTEAD, Fla — William Byron kept the theme of wildcard winners at the start of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season going. Following back-to-back wins for Michael McDowell and Christopher Bell the last couple of weeks in Daytona, Byron was victorious in Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was the Hendrick Motorsports drivers’ second win in 111 career starts in his No. 24 Chevrolet. 

As much of an upset win that this could have been on the surface, combine a number factors and it’s easy to see why Byron’s the one celebrating in victory lane when it was all said and done. 

First off Byron and his new crew chief Rudy Fugle had a great plan. They also have a great relationship. More on that later. But, the duo have the history to be able to get their Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet dialed in. 

Byron, passed Martin Truex Jr. for the lead on Lap 209 and would lead the final 58 laps of the event to score his second win in the last 14 races at that. The North Carolina native led 100 of the final 108 laps as for the 14th time in the last 15 Homestead races we didn’t go to overtime. 

Truex, said that he battled his car all day and that he felt like Byron was just a little bit better than him in the end. 

“The track changed a lot,” said Truex following his first top 10 of the season. “Our Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry was really fast at times; at time, a little bit off.”

Truex says that his car came to him by the final stage, but it just wasn’t a good as the guys in front though in the end.

“On that last run, who whatever reason, I was just babying it,” Truex continued. “The 24 (William Byron) got the lead from me on that restart and then the 5 (Kyle Larson) got by us and I’m just biding my time waiting for them to start coming back to me and they just never did. They obviously were really fast at the end and we weren’t quite as good that last run.

“These things are so hard to win. These cars are so touchy and just needed one more adjustment to have a chance.”

Tyler Reddick battled his No. 8 Chevrolet all race too. It was terrible early but came on as the sun set and the lights came on. The problem was, he had a bad final restart in his opinion which cost him a shot at a victory. 

“Obviously this was a 400-mile race, and everyone knew that,” Reddick said. “I just didn’t have a very good last restart. We kind of struggled to get our Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevy going, and I had just a poor restart, and it was the difference, unfortunately. That’s all there is to it. Needed to be able to hold on better at the start and just didn’t.”

Unfortunately, they weren’t good at all early too. Reddick, was just 25th by the end of Stage 1 and only 18th in Stage 2. When the sun set and the lights came out, off his car went. He was blazing fast and the car came to him finally.

He just says that the final restart that he didn’t get the launch that he needed to which if he did, he thinks he would have been there in the end battling for the win.

Reddick, made up nearly eight seconds in the final 15 laps as he crossed the finish line 2.777 seconds behind William Byron.

“I knew that it was going to take a well executed restart, which unfortunately I didn’t do the last two, three — maybe it was four or five spots,” a disappointed Reddick continued. “Five too many. It takes time to get back around those cars. They’re good drivers, they know what they’re doing, and that’s just the difference. I don’t know why we were so off in the beginning of the day here. Last year or in the summer, we took off really, really good in the daytime, so I saw we would be better in the day and everyone is going to catch up at night, and it was the opposite.

“Yeah, when you see how much faster you were than the guys in front of you and you know you’re running out of time, it gets frustrating. Really if you go back and look at one or two things that would have changed the outcome. Yeah, I get it, can’t go back and change it, but we had a really bad start to the year. Second is great, but it’s not going to put us in a great — we’re still way back in the mess, in the mix of it.”

Kyle Larson was there in the end too. He was there all day in fact. It’s just that his car was too loose for most of the race which greatly affected his long term speed. Then, it got too tight in the end to do anything with it. 

“It got pretty intense there at the end,” said Larson. “I was just trying to take care of my tires and was just struggling on the long runs. We were loose for a majority of the race and in that last run, we actually got kind of tight. But I felt like being tight was better for my long runs than loose, just because I could be a little more confident.

“I would have liked to finish second, but those guys were better than me in the end and I just couldn’t hold them off. I hate that I gave up those spots. But it was a good day for the NationsGuard Chevy team. Congrats to William Byron. It’s really cool for William to get a win this early in the year. Hats off to their team and hopefully we can get it done soon.”

Here are my main takeaways from Sunday’s race. 

Byron/Fugle Click Early

One of the more underrated driver-crew chief swaps of the offseason was the one that saw William Byron get Rudy Fugle in charge on top of his pit box for 2021. The combo had seven wins in 23 starts in the Truck Series a few years ago and for the first time since then, they’re reunited again and it’s a move that’s already paying off. 

Byron, had never led a lap in Cup competition at Homestead prior to this weekend and he walks away with 102 of them including the final lap when it was all said and done. He also started off his career with no wins in his first 97 career starts but has since scored two in the last 14. 

Furthermore, Byron now has five top 10 finishes in his last nine starts dating back to last season and eight in the last 15 overall too. 

“I think honestly the work and the effort goes back a long ways,” said Byron. “Getting Rudy on board and just having a guy like that to work with. We really think the same way, and it helps us in a lot of ways to progress through races and communicate well and work through the off-season.

“I’d say it’s a lot to do with off-season prep, and as soon as we got into the race the track was super slick to start. We had to start pretty far back but made our way up and just had to keep adjusting on the car and kind of finding those little bits. I think the 19 was really strong to start the race. The 17 was surprisingly really good, so we had to kind of work on that and had a really good restart the last one. The 2 pushed me super hard down the backstretch and the car was just good enough.

“It’s cool when you have cars like that and you can make moves and make them stick. Love this racetrack; it’s really fun.”

This could be the momentum that he needs to get his career jump started in the way Chase Elliott’s was following his early victories a few years back. Fugle, is his third crew chief four seasons and it appears this could be one that is here to stay. 

“I mean, obviously you have to back it up with results, so I think for me, I wanted to make sure we had results, but I think the results come when you have people like that to work with. You think on the same page, and somebody who puts that kind of effort in,” Byron continued about Fugle.

“He puts a lot of effort in, but he’s obviously very intelligent. I feel like for me, it goes back to the Truck days and what we did there and the feelings that I had in those race cars and the things that I wanted to have in my Cup car and the feelings there. He’s really leaned heavily on Alan Gustafson and all the crew chiefs at HMS to get up to speed and we have the best resources out there, so it’s all about making the most of them.

“I feel like for us we just communicate throughout the race. He knows how to push my buttons and get me motivated and get the answers out of me that he needs to make the car better.

“It’s all about people in this sport. I’ve heard like Kevin say that and multiple people say that. You’ve got to have the people — I think that with Rudy, we had a lot of success on mile-and-a-halfs. He knows what I want in a race car. I credit a lot to Kyle, working with Kyle Busch for a long time and kind of understanding some of the things there.

“I didn’t really — I wasn’t concerned that we were going to struggle at the mile-and-a-halfs. I think it was just doing well at every racetrack we go to. I’ve had success at Homestead in the past with the trucks and then Xfinity, so I wasn’t concerned that Cup I hadn’t gotten the finishes yet because I really like coming here, and it’s so low grip and each lap is different that it kind of takes adaptation. Sometimes you don’t hit it right but you’ve got to kind of search and find grip.

“I think the biggest weakness for me, I never really ran the wall here in Cup, so kind of understanding how I could do that. I watched some on-boards of Kyle Larson and just kind of trying to see if I could do that if I needed to, and luckily we were able to do that at times tonight just to kind of keep our gap the way it was.

“It was good.”

Fugle says that while this win can be considered somewhat of a shock, it doesn’t mean that come this Fall that they can’t be a championship caliber team then either. 

I mean, first of all, with the weird winners we’ve had so far, and I don’t think we’re weird but it kind of is a little bit weird, you have to be careful that you’re not going to get too many one wins, so you want to keep attacking for that reason,” said the first year crew chief in Cup. “Two is we want to learn how to be a winning race team. In the playoffs to win a championship you have to win a lot of races, so we have to learn how to do that now and get used to that to be able to contend for a championship.

“We’re not a championship team yet, but over the next 20-some weeks we’re going to become one, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

Fugle says that the circumstances of him being in Cup with Byron now is perfect timing. The Cup car is more similar to the Truck Series right now anyways. So, a lot of what he and Byron had together in Trucks translates over. 

“What helped us about the previous relationship was the fact that we’ve worked together before and I knew him, I knew how to push his buttons, I knew how to motivate him, and that helped buy me some time to learn these Cup cars that I don’t know yet, so I think that’s the biggest thing,” he said. 

“The 550 stuff is pretty similar to the trucks. We fight a lot of the same things. You’re trying to balance speed versus handling and drag versus downforce. It’s a lot of the same stuff, which is fun. And then I think most importantly, I think the car needs the same thing that a truck needs to do at a mile-and-a-half. Yeah, that part is fun, getting into this season and fighting the same type of little things in the war rooms, trying to decide on do you need straightaway speed or corner speed that week.”

Fugle also credits Chad Knaus for getting Byron to where he’s at today as he said without much knowledge of Cup cars prior to this year, it wouldn’t have been a good combo for he and Byron to team up prior to now. Knaus, helped mold Byron which made it easier for he and Fugle to hit the ground running. 

“Chad (Knaus) prepped William (Byron) to get to this point,” said Fugle. “I could not have done that three years ago. I couldn’t have prepped to learn how to work on Cup cars and prepped William, and then he built a great team. Not one other person has been changed out on this race team. I came in, and this was an amazing race team. We’ve got all the right pieces, and like I said, William said, they’re young and they’re ready and we should be here for a while. We should be able to go and do the right things, so super exciting.”

Byron agreed. 

“I think Chad brought me from running 20th in the Cup Series to making the playoffs two years in a row, and I think that was huge,” Byron said. “Gave me a chance to really learn under the fire and kind of put myself in some situations that I could learn from some veteran drivers. I had a couple run-ins with Kyle at one time, Brad. None of that stuff would have happened if I wasn’t up there and fast. That’s a lot of credit to Chad and the preparation.

“I think what Chad did well was the preparation side. I mean, the team that he’s put around me with young guys is kind of here to stay, and I credit that to him for finding the right people.

He found a lot of good people that want to come to work every day, want to do a good job, so I credit that to him, but with Rudy and I, yeah, I don’t really compare it to anything. I think it’s just that we have that — we mesh, and it is what it is.”

SHR/JGR/Penske Missing Setups Allow New Teams Up Front, Will This Stay For A While Now?

Michael McDowell. Christopher Bell. William Byron. McDowell was 0-for-357 entering his win. Bell, was 0-for-38. Byron, was 1-for-110 heading into Sunday. All three are now Cup winners this year out of the gates and all have playoff spots by virtue of that. 

While Byron isn’t necessary a shock win on that type of impact level, it still is perplexing in the sense that most thought Sunday’s race at Homestead would be the place that this all came back full circle. I mean, Daytona is Daytona. A superspeedway and ROVAL could create chaos and mayhem in which we saw. But Homestead?

At the start of Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400, it appeared that Team Penske would be the ones to beat. Joey Logano jumped out to the early lead while Brad Keselowski quickly moved from outside of the top five to second. He’d pass Logano on Lap 12 and lead the next 40 laps. 

Unfortunately for them, as the track changed as the race went on, so did their cars. They went from running 1-2 to fading as the race carried forward. Keselowski still finished second in the first stage, but Logano faded to seventh and Ryan Blaney in 18th. 

For the second stage, pit strategy and a one lap shootout for the stage win put them eighth (Blaney), 10th (Keselowski) and 15th (Logano). They were all really outside the top 15 prior to that caution. When the final stage got going, the anchor came back out again. 

Keselowski finished 16th for his third result outside of the top 15 in his last six Homestead starts. He was 18th in 2019 and 10th last year. 

Logano, was the last car on the lead lap in 25th. He was 27th last year. Prior to 2020, Logano was in the top six for five consecutive years. 

Blaney, had contact with Aric Almirola on Lap 199 and ruined his night. It wasn’t like he had much speed prior anyways as he’d still finish 29th, one lap down. Blaney, has only come home 30th, 15th and 29th this year for a rough start to 2021. 

Stewart-Haas Racing was really no where to be found either. 

They went 13-17-21-27 in Stage 1, 7-14-19-30 in Stage 2 and would finish 5-18-23-30 in the end. 

Joe Gibbs Racing was really no where to be found either with the exception of Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin for a brief moment. They went 3-12-15-16 in Stage 1, 2-4-16-28 in Stage 2 but just 3-10-11-20 in the end. 

“I didn’t really race around our teammates very much, and usually they’re — typically we’re all kind of around each other I guess is what I’m trying to say,” said Truex Jr. “Probably got a little bit of work to do, but we’ll get to work on that tomorrow and hear how everybody else fared. It’s tough, there’s not a whole lot you can do right now, so it’s all about getting set up right, and tonight we got it pretty close.”

Hamlin was the odds on favorite entering Sunday’s race at that. He swept both stages a year ago en route to a dominating win. He also had won three of the four stages run in 2021 and had a top five result in each race. Oh yeah, his No. 11 Toyota was starting from the pole too. 

Unfortunately, that’s where his day was likely lost. He was moved to the back at the start due to an unapproved adjustment. He struggled to come through the field as a result. 

Hamlin, went from the back to 22nd quickly, but he then stalled out. He did finish 12th in the first stage and with track position coming in, he was able to pounce. He was second in stage 2 and exited pit lane following the pit stops at the end of the stage break in third. 

That’s where it was altered again. Hamlin, was speeding on pit lane and dropped back as a result. He’d only rebound back to 11th. While he won last year in Homestead, he was 10th in 2015, ninth in both 2016 and again in 2017, 12th in 2018, 10th in 2019 and now 11th. 

Busch, failed to lead a lap and has led just two combined the last two years in Homestead. Combined, that’s just two cars in the top five and only three of the top 10 between the 11 cars among these organizations. That opened up the door for new drivers up front again.  

“I think the rules have been the same for a while, and everybody has had all off-season to kind of work on our stuff and understand where they were last year and a lot of people obviously made some good decisions on how to get better,” said third place finisher Martin Truex Jr. “Yeah, definitely seeing a lot of guys running up front today that we don’t normally see, but I think it’s just the box that we work in is so small and the longer we have the same rules package the closer everybody is going to get.”

Byron had never previously led a lap at Homestead, let alone scored a top five before this weekend, but here he was leading 102 of them en route to the win in Sunday’s race. Chris Buescher led 57 laps and won the first stage. He had a top five car for the first half of Sunday’s race too. Tyler Reddick charged up to finish second. Michael McDowell was sixth for his third straight top 10 and Ryan Newman even in seventh. It was a new mix of drivers up front all day, for which some of these drivers think it may stay like this for a while now. 

See, McDowell says that he’s not done anything differently this year in comparison to last. He’s with an underfunded team in comparison to those listed above and here he sits fourth in points after three races on the heels of three top 10 results on three different types of race tracks. 

 “I think that it’s been kind of a steady progress,” McDowell said. “Homestead last year for us was a big step forward. We ran in the top 15 most of the night. I think we ended up finishing 15th. But we felt like we were pretty close to being in that top-10 speed. When you get to 15th those next few spots are pretty hard, but we felt like we were pretty close on it.

“Like I said, I think one of the biggest things for us is there hasn’t been a tremendous amount of development, not new chassis, new parts, new pieces. We used to fall so far behind, but now I feel like we’re able to build on what we had in the past and make our cars a little bit better each time we come to the racetrack without changing all the fundamental pieces and kind of starting over and having to re-engineer everything.

“It’s kind of simplified the process for us a little bit just to keep building on what we have and try to make it better. But what an incredible run for our Front Row team. It’s so exciting to be a part of this organization. We’re really doing it, and it’s fun to be a part of it right now, and I’m so thankful that I get to drive it.

“I didn’t do anything different tonight as far as me. I didn’t come with a different approach of how I was going to drive it. I just did what I normally did do, and we were fast. Really thankful we had a strong car tonight.”

McDowell’s three straight top 10 finishes is the most he’s had in-a-row ever. he had zero back-to-back top 10’s in his 13 years prior. 

“That they’re crazy,” McDowell said on what he would have said if he was told before the season that he’d have three straight top 10’s to start the year off with. “You know, I think that we are realistic about where we finished the year and where we wanted to be, and we thought that we were in that 15th to 20th range pretty consistent last year.

“To make a big jump like we did, I wouldn’t say that it’s a complete, like, unbelievable shock, but it’s pretty close to it. We have definitely out-performed where we thought we’d be, especially on the mile-and-a-half. These places, especially these slick places are really tough for the smaller teams. I think that at the same time we had a good run here last year and something to build on, so we came back and made some improvements, and yeah, we kind of shocked ourselves.”

With a new car coming out in 2021, maybe most teams decided to forego some big money upgrades for this year and chose to refine what they previously had since the cars and setups wouldn’t change much between this year and last. That’s why we could see some wild racing then for even longer. I mean Kurt Busch won at Las Vegas last year and was outside the top 10 for most of the race. That’s where we go to next which means we could see another wild ending with another wild winner at this time next Sunday evening. 

“Well, I think so far we are,” said Truex. “I think so far we’ve seen a great sign of that, two new winners in the first two races and then a young guy wins tonight, and talking to Michael or listening to Michael talk, how good they ran.

“Yeah, I mean, you know, the rules are the rules, and they haven’t changed in a while, and everybody is really just trying to work on the same things here each and every week. So it gives you time to work on your stuff and not have to really develop a lot of things. The smaller teams definitely get to catch up.

“We’ll see if it continues. I still think the strong teams will end up being the teams to beat when all is said and done, and I feel like for us in particular on the 19 we’ve been really strong all year. We’ve been really fast. We had some tough breaks in Daytona and then we were in the hunt today. We’re feeling good about things and hopefully we can just continue to find some stuff to get better and keep running up front.”

McDowell agrees, but says eventually the best teams will still rise again.

“It definitely has closed the gap, but the best teams and the top teams will always be the top teams,” he said. “They just consistently do it just a tad better. Pit road, execution, lighter, faster, more downforce. We’ll just take it as it goes.

“The one thing about this 34 team is we race our guts out, and if we have a 25th place car we’re going to race our guts out and finish 23rd. And if we’ve got a 10th place car we’re going to race our guts out and finish eighth. We just come into it with an open mind and just doing everything we can to get the most we can. Obviously if we keep this streak going and 10 races from now we’re still running in the top 10, I’ll probably feel a little bit different about it. I’d tell you, yeah, we’re definitely going to do this every week, but right now we’re going to take it one week at a time and just keep fighting hard and see what the season brings.”

Another Wildcard Win Means It’s Time To Start Eyeing Points

Following Daytona, everyone started talking about how we really needed to start eyeing points now. Michael McDowell was the odd ball winner for the Daytona 500. Now, you get Christopher Bell and William Byron was victors. While Bell and Byron aren’t necessarily “fluke” winners, what they are were drivers that most expected to be towards the back of the playoff grid and maybe even wildcard drivers. Now, each have wins. 

In the end, it takes wins away from the bigger named drivers at that. That’s three of the 16 spots now taken with none of them by past champions. 

“Absolutely,” Denny Hamlin said last Sunday at Daytona on if the midpack teams should be getting nervous about the playoffs. “I think the 34 (Michael McDowell) certainly is a surprise. He’s going to be in the Playoffs. 90% of the people that know anything about the sport, 95% really would put the 20 car in the Playoffs one way, shape or form anyway. I don’t think that that’s really taking up a spot that wasn’t already probably pegged.”

Last year, we saw just how tight the bubble was. Cole Custer and Austin Dillon took two of the spots via wins which made it difficult for drivers like Erik Jones, Jimmie Johnson and Tyler Reddick to make it in.

This year, you’re more than likely going to see some more big teams not make it. I mean, numbers alone prove it. You have four JGR cars, four at Hendrick, four at Stewart-Haas and three at Penske. That’s 15 cars right there among those big four teams. That doesn’t even count the alliance from the Wood Brothers with Penske or 23XI Racing with Gibbs. What about the two Chip Ganassi Racing cars? That pushes that number to 19. Then throw in both cars at RCR and you get honestly 21 cars that are playoff caliber. So, with McDowell winning, it takes one spot away from them. Then, with Bell and Byron taking wins the last two weeks and not having to worry about a wildcard spot anymore, it essentially takes away another couple. 

Byron, was 29th in points entering Sunday at that. 

You still have Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick all likely to take 10 of those 13 wildcard spots. Then you have Kurt Busch, Ross Chastain, Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick, Bubba Wallace, Matt DiBenedetto, Aric Almirola, Cole Custer and Chase Briscoe all battling for three spots among nine drivers. The more drivers off this nine person list win, the more it’s going to force the bubble higher to make those 10 on the first list nervous.

“The dynamic has changed dramatically right now,” said Keselowski. “We’re very early in the season and it’s not turned into a points race for those last few spots. Hopefully it doesn’t matter for us. If you don’t win, you’re in a lot of trouble right now because it’s not looking like you’re gonna be able to get in the playoffs right now without a win.”

If this season plays out like its started, watch out. 

Will Homestead Give Us A Preview Of Who Will Be The Ones To Beat Later?

For the first time ever last year, the NASCAR Cup Series was racing in South Florida and it not be November. See, Homestead has been the site of NASCAR’s championship weekend every year since 2002. But, with the finale site now being moved to Phoenix for 2020, Homestead needed a new place on the schedule.

Last year, that new place was supposed to be March. Unfortunately, this was the second race affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The race was moved from March to June.

The thing about Homestead in the past, especially under the Championship 4 format which was adopted in 2014, most drivers just got out of the way of the title contenders. It wasn’t uncommon for all four to finish in the top five of that race. In fact, since 2014, the winner each season at Homestead ended up being the series champion.

So, would the usual suspects still shine at Homestead when a championship trophy wasn’t the reward at the end? They didn’t a year ago and this year it was more of the same. 

Prior to 2020, Kevin Harvick had 12 straight top 10 finishes at Homestead and six top fours in-a-row. Martin Truex Jr. had three consecutive top two finishes and led 78 laps, 20 laps and 103 laps respectively in those races. Joey Logano had five straight top six finishes while Kyle Busch had five consecutive top six finishes, three of which being in the top two.

They’d be the top favorites right?

Instead, they combined to lead 78 total laps the last two years. Logano led 39 of those, including 27 of the 29 a year ago. Truex, has led 37, all coming on Sunday. The only other two laps led went to Busch in 2020. Harvick, has been shutout. 

Harvick and Logano each finished off the lead lap in 2020, Harvick (-1) in 26th and Logano (-2) in 27th. Truex, was only 12th. Busch, was sixth.

On Sunday, they combined to lead 49 of the 269 laps. Truex, did finish third. Harvick, came home fifth for his second finish in-a-row outside of the top four here. I know I’m splitting hairs, but he was 6-for-6 prior. He’s failed to lead a lap in each of the last two years at Homestead. 

Logano, faded to finish 25th after being 27th last year, that’s eye opening. Busch’s streak ends with a 10th place run too. He also failed to lead a lap on Sunday and has led just two over the last two combined years on the South Florida race track. 

So, did these races run differently without drivers racing them more conservatively? I don’t necessarily think so.

To me, the top three cars in terms of speed at that point last season finished 1-2-3. Denny Hamlin won the pole and he had seven wins a year ago. Chase Elliott finished second and he won five races and the championship in 2020. Ryan Blaney was third as he earned his fifth top four result in his last six tries at that point in June of 2020. Throw in his early season speed last year, and you get Blaney with what should have been his eighth top four finishes already in 2020.

This year, does this mean William Byron, Tyler Reddick, Kyle Larson and Truex Jr. are going to be the ones to beat come this Fall?

Parity Still Rings King

It all started June 30, 2019 at the Chicagoland Speedway with Alex Bowman. That’s when the 1.5-mile parity started. Then, Kentucky Speedway (Kurt Busch), Las Vegas in the Fall (Martin Truex Jr), Kansas (Denny Hamlin), Texas (Kevin Harvick) and Homestead (Kyle Busch). That’s six straight different winners. Last year, it was Las Vegas (Joey Logano), Charlotte (Brad Keselowski/Chase Elliott), Atlanta (Harvick), Homestead (Hamlin), Kentucky (Cole Custer), Texas (Austin Dillon), Kansas (Hamlin), Vegas (Kurt Busch), Kansas (Joey Logano), Texas (Kyle Busch) respectively.

This year, we get William Byron (Homestead) for the seventh straight different winner on 1.5-mile tracks. Overall, we’ve had 12 different winners on 1.5-mile tracks in the last 18 races on them.

Underrated Drive Of The Day

On paper, it would appear that Kurt Busch was off to a solid start to the 2021 season. He finished fourth on the Daytona road course last week and eighth in Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400. But, to get to those two top 10 results in consecutive weeks, well it was stressful. 

Busch, has had very fast race cars. He just ran into some bad luck with some tense moments in Daytona and then a late race vibration on Sunday took him deep in the field on both occurrences. 

At Daytona, he went from 27th to fourth at the end. In Homestead, he went from fourth to pit lane on Lap 228 for that vibration on his No. 1 Chevrolet. He was 28th, one lap down as a result. He not only unlapped himself without a caution flying over the final 50+ laps, but he drove up from 28th to come home eighth for his second top 10 in his last four starts at Homestead too. 

“I’m not going to second guess having to pit,” said Busch. “We had a vibration and a loose wheel and we had to pit. We unlapped ourselves and drove all the way back to eighth. It just took our chance of winning away or being up front for a final restart. But what a really good long-run speed car, the Monster Energy Chevy was really fast with the sun out and on long runs, so that’s the good. We just need to find our short run speed and when the track picks up pace at night.”

If problems don’t occur, watch out for Busch. I mean he goes back home to Las Vegas next week, a track also to where he won the last time out last Fall too. 

Top Stat

NASCAR began using stage breaks in their races in 2017, the eventual race winner of the Cup Series race on the South Florida 1.5 mile track has finished in the top five of every stage run now. They’re 10-for-10. William Byron was fourth and first respectively on Sunday. Denny Hamlin won last year’s race and swept both stages. Kyle Busch won the year prior and was 3rd and 1st in the two stages. Joey Logano was victorious in 2018 and was fourth and third respectively himself. Martin Truex Jr. was fifth and second respectively in his win in 2017.



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