William Byron earned his second consecutive NASCAR Cup Series victory after capitalizing on a two-tire stop and holding off the field on an overtime restart at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, March 12. Ryan Blaney, Tyler Reddick, Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick completed the top five right behind him.
It is Byron’s sixth career Cup Series win and the first time since Chevrolet in 2001 that a single manufacturer has won the first four races of the season.
But What Really Happened?
After two straight weeks of utter dominance, one has to start wondering if the HMS bowties have found something in the Next Gen that other teams have not.
For 265 of the 317 total laps, half of Hendrick Motorsports’ armada was unbeatable.
Now, let’s make it clear. In this case, the word ‘unbeatable’ doesn’t mean that they had decent cars and ran in the top five for most of the race. No. In this case, it meant that the HMS cars of Larson and Byron were entire straightaways ahead of third place.
Restart after restart, it was the same. Byron and Larson would put on a side-by-side show for a couple of laps at most before one of them prevailed and the other resigned to ride around in second. The duo dominated in the desert to lead a combined 265 laps.
To save you the math, that’s 84% of the race.
Now, compared to many racing beatdowns in the past, that doesn’t sound so bad. After all, just during last year’s Championship Finale race at Phoenix, Joey Logano and Team Penske teammate Blaney led a combined total of 296 laps out of 312.
However, unlike this case, the Penske drivers didn’t dominate the race a week prior as well.
At Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend, the same two culprits of Larson and Byron led 239 of 271 laps and finished 1-2. That’s also not mentioning their HMS teammate Alex Bowman, who finished third and even led a couple of laps himself.
It’s a vast change over the first-time winner excitement we were experiencing a year ago when Chase Briscoe won in a three-way battle for a first career win with Ross Chastain and Reddick.
In fact, in last year’s spring race, none of the HMS cars finished in the top 10. This year, all four of them did – yes, that even includes Chase Elliott‘s substitute Josh Berry.
But if HMS has found something, how long will its dominance last? How long will it take other teams to catch up? Will it be there when Elliott gets back in the…
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