William Byron Dominant at The Glen; Takes Fifth Win of 2023 NASCAR Cup Season

The driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 led 66 of 90 laps on his path to his fifth victory of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.


hero image for William Byron Dominant at The Glen; Takes Fifth Win of 2023 NASCAR Cup Season

William Byron put on a driving clinic in Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series Go Bowling at The Glen. The driver of the No. 24 Valvoline Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was nearly flawless around the 2.45-mile Watkins Glen International for the duration of the event.

Starting from the second position, Byron led a race-high 66 laps in the 90-lap race, and once Michael McDowell was done in by penalties, and then a mechanical issue, there was never a doubt that the race was in Byron's hands.

The 25-year-old never put a wheel wrong and pulled off the victory, his fifth win of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season. This win also marks Byron's first win in 26 attempts on road courses in the NASCAR Cup Series.

RELATED: NASCAR Cup Series Go Bowling at The Glen Race Results

Finally breaking through on a road course is a big deal for the North Carolina native, and he credits Max Papis, and a new simulator rig at home for helping push him to the top of the scoring sheet this weekend.

"It feels really good, man," Byron said in his USA Network victory interview. "You know, just a huge credit to the race team behind me. I want to thank Max Papis. This first road course win, we've worked years and years for this. Thanks to him. I know he's watching back home.

"Thanks to all the guys on the team, Valvoline, Liberty, AXALTA. I did a lot of laps on iRacing this week. I got a new simulator at home, so thanks to those guys, and just thanks to everyone back home, the guys who support me. It's a great win."

Six races ago, Byron scored his fourth win of the season in a rain-shortened event at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and with the win he took the series points lead.

It looked like he was the favorite for the championship. But then, Byron and the No. 24 team struggled with five consecutive finishes outside of the top 10. Does Sunday's emphatic win at Watkins Glen signal that they're the team to beat?

"I don't know what it means and all that. I don't read into that. But I think it shows that when we're at our best, we can perform like this," Byron explained.

Denny Hamlin, who started on pole, would finish 2.632 seconds behind Byron in the runner-up spot. While it wasn't a win, the finish did mark Hamlin's best finish at a road course in the Next Gen era.

Hamlin was happy with his race overall but just wishes he could have fired off with a race-winning pace on Lap 1.

"Yeah, I'm happy with my day. I mean, it just takes me a while to get going," Hamlin explained. "With McDowell there at the beginning, he was ready and he is on kill, and I'm just working my into it. I just hate that I lost the lead, because I was looking at [Byron]'s back bumper the rest of the day. But it was a fun race."

It wasn't a win, but Hamlin made massive strides in his quest to earn the NASCAR Cup Series regular-season championship as he cut 21 points out of Martin Truex Jr.'s lead in the standings.

Hamlin will now enter Daytona International Speedway, the site of the regular season finale, 39 points behind his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate. It's a long shot, but Hamlin has a shot with the unpredictable nature of Daytona.

"It's doable. You've got to have some things go your way, but yeah, if we could talk NASCAR into those 25 points that they took away earlier in the season, we'd really make it interesting," Hamlin laughed.

Christopher Bell finished the day in third, and AJ Allmendinger came up just shy of securing a surprise Playoff berth with a fourth-place finish.

Ty Gibbs, the NASCAR Cup Series rookie of the year contender, came home in fifth and continues to try to work his way into a position to make the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

With his latest good run, Gibbs sits 32 points behind Bubba Wallace for the final Playoff spot heading into next weekend's Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona.

Martin Truex Jr., Chris Buescher, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, and Joey Logano rounded out the top 10 finishers in the race.

Michael McDowell, who won last weekend's race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, looked to have a car capable of winning for a second-consecutive weekend, but after leading 17 laps and winning Stage 1, McDowell was busted for running through too many pit stalls on his first pit stop of the day.

Still, McDowell battled his way back into the top 10, when his team would be flagged for jumping over the wall too early on his next pit stop. Even with the second penalty, the driver of the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford Mustang would climb back into the top 10, but while running eighth on Lap 74, the engine expired under the hood of his car and his day was done. McDowell would be credited with a last-place finish.

Chase Elliott was another driver that was running inside the top 10 of the race but found misfortune. Elliott brought out the lone caution of the race when he ran out of gas and came to a stop in the bus stop on Lap 56. With the fuel miscalculation, Elliott would lose a lap.

The driver, who needs a win to lock his way into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, would never see another caution and would remain trapped a lap down. Elliott would finish 32nd.

While Elliott is still looking to secure his berth in the 2023 Playoffs, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski officially clinched their spots in the Playoffs on Sunday with a previous winner (Byron) taking the victory.

Keselowski finished 15th in the No. 6 RFK Racing Ford, and Harvick finished 21st in the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. Both drivers clinched their Playoff spot on points.

Next up for the NASCAR Cup Series is the final race of the regular season, the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. That race is scheduled for Saturday, August 26th. That race will be televised on NBC at 7:00 PM ET. The Motor Racing Network (MRN) and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the radio broadcast of the event.

Photo Credit: Jonathan McCoy, TobyChristie.com

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