HOMESTEAD, Fla — On Saturday, William Byron scored the pole for Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was shaping up to be a very good weekend for the Hendrick Motorsports driver as he entered 6 points below the cutline but the driver he was chasing was starting 14th.
Byron used that track position to finish 2nd in Stage 1. Hamlin was 13th. That had him on the good side of the cutline after. Then a 3rd place finish in Stage 2 and Hamlin being 10th allowed Byron to pull further ahead. He just had to manage it from that point forward.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t.
Byron’s car faded in the final stage. He went from a top 5 to 13th and forced Rudy Fugle to have them go off strategy and use the final stage on a two stop cycle. However, a terrible pit stop and a caution for a Ryan Blaney spin five laps later pinned Byron outside the top 10 for the final stint and didn’t allow him to get back inside of the top 10 as a result.
“We just had one bad run,” Byron said. “We restarted second and kind of maintained in second for maybe a couple of laps, and then the car fell off and disappeared. That one run was just really weird, so we lost a lot of track position.”
He was worried in the closing laps when on the ensuring restart, he was outside the top 15. Hamlin was 4th. Hamlin would go from 4th to 1st and now had a guaranteed spot to Phoenix if he could hold his teammate (Martin Truex Jr.) and Kyle Larson off.
However, another caution would fly on Lap 244 which would bring everyone back down pit road. Hamlin would restart on the front row. He couldn’t keep it.
He’d fade to finish 7th. Byron rebounded to come home 12th which while it was a bad final stage, he still gained 11 points on the day and heads to Martinsville 5 points above the cutline.
Byron won the last race at Martinsville this past spring and has five Top-8’s in his last six Martinsville starts including a runner-up in the playoff race in 2019, fourth and fifth respectively last year and a win in the spring race.