William Byron claimed his second-career NASCAR Cup Series win Sunday evening in the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway after leading 102 laps of the 267 that made up the race. The win was the first Cup victory for crew chief Rudy Fugle in his third race in the series.
“Yeah, that guy has been huge for my career,” Byron said. “He’s the reason I’m here, and I’m glad we could get him. He’s just awesome. This whole team did a phenomenal job. Everybody. The pit crew, over the wall, we’re extremely blessed. Thanks, God, for all the things that it takes to get to this level. Great boss in Mr. Hendrick and Jeff Gordon, and Axalta. This car looks really cool. I’m can’t even believe it, honestly. It was just a really smooth day. And we worked hard in the winter on this track. I can’t believe it.”
Tyler Reddick passed Kyle Larson on the final lap to take runner-up honors, a career-best finish.
“Well, finishing second is a good night, considering how the first two weekends of the season have gone, but I hate that I didn’t get this Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevy into victory lane, because if I would have, then I would have gotten a lot of people in America free chicken tenders on Monday night,” Reddick said. “Once I really saw how fast we were in clean air at the end of the race, and I saw how fast we were catching everybody, it became beyond frustrating, because I know just two or three different decisions on a restart would have put me miles ahead. I knew that we were going to have to have a well-executed restart. We didn’t do that, and it takes time to get around all of those cars who pass you on a restart, because they are all really good drivers. That’s the difference. I thought we would be better in the day and everyone would catch up at night, but it was the opposite of that. We tried to work on our Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevy throughout the night. We learned a lot. You have to win these races by being very consistent and making the right calls as a driver and as a team. I’m proud of how fast we were at the end of the race.”
Martin Truex Jr. also got past Larson on the last lap for third, relegating Larson to a fourth-place finish.
“The track changed a lot,” Truex said. “Our Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry was really fast at times. At times, a little bit off. On that last run, for whatever reason, I was just babying it. The 24 [Byron] got the lead from me on that restart and then the 5 [Larson] got by us, and I’m just biding my time waiting for them to start coming back to me and they just never did. They, obviously, were really fast at the end and we weren’t quite as good that last run. These things are so hard to win. These cars are so touchy and just needed one more adjustment to have a chance.”
Byron took the lead on the final lap of the second 80-lap stage of the race to take the stage-two win on lap 160. From there, he dominated the remainder of the race. Byron lost positions on pit road during a caution for an incident involving Ryan Blaney and Aric Almirola with 76 laps remaining, but with 58 to go, he retook the position.
“You had to go with the wall at certain times; [turns] three and four were really fast up there. I definitely didn’t do it as good as the Xfinity cars do it, but I used it when I had to, and this car was just awesome. It’s really a lot of hard work. I think we went to the simulator four or five times this off-season, and it just pays off, man. It’s awesome.”
Denny Hamlin started on the pole but had to drop to the back for the initial green flag because of an unapproved change to his car. He got back up to as high as second in the running order before a pit-road speeding penalty sent him to the back, again, during the caution for Blaney and Almirola’s wreck. Hamlin, the defending winner of the race, wound up 11th at the checkered flag.
With Hamlin to the back at the start of the race, Joey Logano led the first 12 laps of the race before losing the lead to Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski. The opening stage was dominated by the Ford trio of Logano, Keselowski and Chris Buescher.
Buescher was first off pit road during a caution for a James Davison blown engine on lap 64. Keselowski retook the lead briefly on lap 73 before Buescher moved pack into the front spot with two laps remaining in the first stage to take a stage win on lap 80.
Buescher continued to run up front early in the second stage, briefly losing the lead to Chase Elliott on lap 89. Buescher was back up front on lap 93, but after a cycle of green-flag pit stops completed on lap lap 125, Truex was the leader. Truex continued up front until Byron took his stage-winning lead.
Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five.
“We, actually, had a good car the second half of the race,” Harvick said. ”We were just way too loose in the first third of the race. The Busch Light Ford team did a great job of getting the car better and a great job on pit road keeping our track position and the things we had early in the race, so I’m just really proud of the way that everybody is battling right now. I would consider these three tracks that we’ve gone to, so far, kind of hit or miss for me as far as my likeability as far as driving and the things we have going on. To have the finishes that we’ve had in the first three races says a lot about our team.”
Michael McDowell finished sixth, Ryan Newman was seventh, Kurt Busch eighth, Alex Bowman ninth, and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-10.
“I think it says a whole lot for this whole Front Row Motorsports organization,” McDowell said. ”We’re just making huge improvements, and to come here to a very challenging mile-and-a-half and run in the top-10 and not luck our way in — we raced there all night long — is super impressive. Thank you to everybody back at the shop. I’ve got to thank Love’s Travel Stop, Speedy Cash, Freight Auctions, Speedco and, especially, Ford. And our Roush Yates engines are super strong right now. Everything is clicking. The momentum is going, and it’s pretty awesome right now. It’s exciting to be a part of this organization and to have this momentum. Like I said, this is a win for us to come to Homestead and run in the top-10.”
DIXIE VODKA 400 RESULTS