You know how the old saying goes: Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Well, William Byron proved, Sunday in the Pennzoil 400, that when you're both, it leads to victories in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The 25-year-old driver of the No. 24 RaptorTough.com Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, who started the race from the second position, was stout all race long, as he led a race-high 176 laps in the 271-lap event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway en route to victory.
However, in the closing laps of regulation, it looked like Byron would be coming home runner-up to his teammate Kyle Larson. That is until a caution came out for Aric Almirola going into the outside wall with three laps to go.
Here is a video of Almirola's incident, which set up overtime:
This caution gave Byron a chance to re-rack at a shot for the win. After his pit crew got its job done and got the No. 24 car out of the final stop of the day ahead of Larson's No. 5 car, Byron knifed around Martin Truex Jr. for the race lead in an overtime finish.
Following the race, Byron gave praise to his pit crew for nailing perfect pit stops all race long.
"Yeah, honestly, the one pit stop that they had that we lost the lead, I slid through the box or slid long, and that delays the stop," Byron said. "That was on me, and I knew they could get it done at the end."
Larson would cut his way to second to finish just over half of a second behind his Hendrick teammate Byron.
While it was a statement day for Byron on the track, the driver couldn't help but think about his teammate Chase Elliott, who will be sidelined for multiple weeks after breaking his tibia in a snowboarding accident on Friday in Colorado.
Thinking of Chase back home. Wish he was out here with us. He’s a great race car driver, great teammate.
"Wish he was out here, but thankful to Mr. H., Jeff Gordon. I know he’s watching, and this raptortough.com Chevy was awesome," Byron said. "Honestly, when we got back in traffic, it was a little bit tight, but we knew we had speed so we just had to have the right things play out, and Rudy made a good call, so it was good."
What was Larson, who seemingly had the race won before Almirola's incident with three laps to go, thinking when the late-race caution came out?
"Damn," Larson laughed. "It’s just part of Cup racing. It seems like kind of laps down, lap by lap, and then sure enough, the yellow lights come on.
"Yeah, you’ve just got to get over that and then try to execute a good pit stop, and I thought I did a really good job getting to my sign, and getting to the commitment line, I had a gap to William behind me, and their pit crew must have just did a really good job and got out in front of us, and that gave up the front row to us. I knew I was in trouble with [Truex] staying out. I felt like William was going to get by him."
Larson credits his teammate and the No. 24 pit crew for being good when it mattered most on Sunday.
"Yeah, just a bummer that we didn’t end up the winner, but all in all, William probably had a little bit better car than I had today, and their pit crew executed when they needed to there at the end," Larson stated.
Alex Bowman, who won this race a season ago, made it a clean Hendrick sweep of the top-three spots in the final running order as Bowman came home third.
Bubba Wallace brought home a fourth-place finish for 23XI Racing, while Christopher Bell rallied from issues late in the race to finish fifth.
Austin Cindric, Truex, Justin Haley, Kevin Harvick, and Daniel Suarez rounded out the top 10 finishers in the race.
Truex, who opted to stay out under the final caution in an attempt to steal the win, was a sitting duck and faded to finish seventh.
On the final lap of the race, there was a big crash involving AJ Allmendinger, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon, Brad Keselowski, Chase Briscoe, Michael McDowell, and Ryan Preece.
Everyone aside from Jones was able to get back to the finish line following the crash.
Here is a video from NASCAR on FOX of the last-lap melee:
Aside from the big crash on the final lap of the race, and the Almirola incident that set up the overtime finish, the only other incident of the day was Joey Logano, who spun off of Turn 4 on lap 184 of the race.
Logano, who was running three-wide with Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, ran out of room off of the turn, popped the wall, and spun through the infield grass.
The damage sustained proved to be too much for the No. 22 Team Penske team to make the necessary repairs in time to remain in the race. Logano, the polesitter, would be credited with a last-place finish.
Here is a video of Logano's excursion through the infield grass:
Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images