NASCAR Homestead-Miami: Byron provides NASCAR one other shock winner at Homestead – Sports activities Speak Florida

 

HOMESTEAD, Florida (AP) – After a handful of drivers – actually the same ones – dominated NASCAR’s highest level almost every week for years, the Cup Series sees a small parity at the start of the season.

For some, it’s a welcome sight. Others hope it’s a fleeting moment.

William Byron was the third surprise winner in three races this season with his win on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Byron joined Michael McDowell and Christopher Bell as this season’s unlikely winners.

Byron controlled most of the final two stages at Homestead, winning a second time in 111 Cup starts. His first came in Daytona last August, putting him in one of the last places in the playoffs.

Nobody saw it coming.

Few had this on their radar.

Byron started the weekend with a 28-1 shot to win a race that many expected would return to normal for the racing series. Instead, McDowell and Bell have company in the relatively weird group of 2021 winners and drivers who have post-season seats blocked.

“A lot of people have obviously made some good decisions about how to get better,” said 2017 serial champion Martin Truex Jr., who finished third. “The box we have to work on is so small … the rules are the rules and they haven’t changed in a while. The smaller teams can catch up. ”

Truex was quick to point out that he still believes the top teams – the heavyweights like him, so to speak – will be back to the top sooner rather than later.

But the first three races brought a lot of eyebrow-raising moments. Tyler Reddick was nearly 3 seconds behind Byron on the second Sunday. McDowell had his third consecutive top 10 result. Chris Buescher ran with the front in the first part of the race.

“It definitely closed the void,” said McDowell.

McDowell and Bell were the first season opener winners. That rare run already aggravated the playoff race in less than a month in NASCAR’s long season. One win earns an automatic berth and it is unusual to have multiple unique winners in one season.

Few could have predicted that this trio would have put pressure on some of NASCAR’s top teams. Two-time serial champion Kyle Busch is currently in the top 16 of the overall standings, as are Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney and Aric Almirola – all playoff qualifiers a year ago.

Byron hardly qualifies as a big shocker like the two predecessors because he drives the famous No. 24 for Hendrick Motorsports. But he wasn’t exactly a regular in the winning streak either.

On the other hand, the members of the Hendrick organization felt he could see something big this season since he reunited with former crew chief Rudy Fugle.

“This guy has been huge for my career,” said Byron. “He’s the reason I’m here and I’m just glad we got him. … We really think the same way. ”

They had their best year together when they ran the Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2016 and even won at Homestead.

When Byron’s former crew chief Chad Knaus rose at Hendrick Motorsports, Rick hired Hendrick Fugle and paired him with Byron. It was a rare move for Hendrick, who normally maintains his crew chiefs within the organization.

Fugle spent eight years at KBM and led the truck program to two driver championships and five owner titles. His trucks won 28 races, seven of them with Byron at the wheel.

“He knows how to push my buttons and keep me motivated,” said Byron. “Of course you have to back it up with results. Results come when you have the kind of people to work with. ”

Buescher dominated the race early and won the opening phase (the second stage win of his career). The Roush Fenway Racing driver completed a total of 57 laps five times, but it started to fade “as sunset approached. Buescher dropped from sixth to 23rd place after a restart at the beginning of the final phase.

“It’s a step in the right direction for us,” said Buescher.

Byron took over from there, making some of the biggest names catch up for the first time in years.

“It’s difficult because there’s not much you can do right now,” said Truex.

CREW MEMBER DELETED

A tire carrier for the No. 11 Toyota Joe Gibbs Racing was cleared for entry into Sunday’s race after being cut off in the pit lane the day before.

Josh Shipplett complained of rib pain after Xfinity Series driver Daniel Hemric crossed his pit stop and hit one of the tires on the right that Shipplett wore during an early pit stop. The contact knocked Shipplett to the ground. In the end, he got x-rays that were negative and was cleared to participate in the Cup series.

BET PAID

Retired driver and current Fox Sports racing analyst Clint Bowyer wore a Tom Brady jersey during the pregame show to cash out a Super Bowl bet with Tampa-based former Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola. Bowyer is from Kansas and is a huge Chiefs fan. He jokingly tossed a replica of the Lombardi Trophy on the pavement, disgusted with his clothes.

NEXT

The series goes west for two weeks, starting with the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this coming Sunday. Joey Logano is the defending champion.

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More AP NASCAR: https://apnews.com/NASCAR

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