NASCAR Cup Series
NASCAR takeaways: William Byron wins second in a row; Kevin Harvick not bitter
NASCAR Cup Series

NASCAR takeaways: William Byron wins second in a row; Kevin Harvick not bitter

Published Mar. 12, 2023 9:28 p.m. ET

AVONDALE, Ariz. — William Byron didn't dominate the NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday, but the result was the same for the second consecutive week as he celebrated in victory lane.

A week after passing Martin Truex Jr. in an overtime restart at Las Vegas, Byron snagged the lead from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson on an overtime restart to capture the win at Phoenix Raceway.

"We've done a good job to put ourselves in those positions on the front row with a shot at the end," Byron said.

Hendrick drivers led 265 of the 317 laps Sunday but it appeared Kevin Harvick was going to win before a late caution for Harrison Burton. Harvick took four fresh tires on the ensuing pit stop while six drivers took two, leaving Larson and Byron to pretty much fight for the win.


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Takeaways from Phoenix where Ryan Blaney finished second, followed by Tyler Reddick, Larson and Harvick:

Byron Celebrates

William Byron went winless for 30 races before his back-to-back victories. The 25-year-old Byron — now in his sixth season as a Cup driver — doesn't have a championship as his teammates Larson and Chase Elliott do, but he's shown he can perform in the clutch the last two weeks.

"I see a progression with William ever since he came to Hendrick," said team co-owner Jeff Gordon, the four-time Cup champion. "You've got to remember how young he was coming into the Cup Series, so much to learn, young in racing in so many ways."

He didn't have the best car Sunday, but he made the most out of his opportunity by making a somewhat bold move on the outside to get by Larson.

Byron celebrates Phoenix win

William Byron was victorious in Phoenix for his second straight Cup series win.

"When you have that level of commitment that you know you have on a green-white-checkered [in overtime] to come out the other side, it's either going to go really good or not," Byron said.

Larson had another week of what-could-have-been and was a little frustrated in getting beat.

"I ran William up pretty high," Larson said. "I was expecting him to lose some grip. But he did a really good job of holding it to my outside, clearing me down the back."

Byron was not too concerned on whether they would wreck each other as they battle.

"My situation having a win, him not having a win yet — I assumed he would be more aggressive," Byron said about the dynamic of a win being an automatic qualifier into the NASCAR playoffs. "But my counter was that I got a win, I'm going to do whatever I can, too. It was a game of chicken a little bit.

"I have a lot of trust in Kyle. He's an amazing driver. We've gotten to know each other off the track. I feel like we always communicate well."

Harvick Not Bitter

Kevin Harvick is a driver who likes to take four tires and rarely has good outcomes when he takes two. So he wouldn't argue the call by his crew chief Rodney Childers.

Harvick could only work his way up to fifth after two restarts that followed the Burton caution.

"It's what I would have done," Harvick said. "I'd always rather be on offense. I just didn't get [past] a couple cars when that first caution came out. ... That's the way it goes.

"[We] just smoked them up until the caution."

'That's the way it goes'

Kevin Harvick spoke on the late race caution that caused him to lose his late lead.

Childers said he had hoped there would be more green-flag laps after their pit stops but the race didn't restart until just three laps remained in regulation. The caution came out again for a wreck, but Harvick couldn't gain many spots in overtime as well.

"I just didn't feel like we could win on two," Childers said. "We've just never been able to do that. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe we would have won. But you look at that last lap — it was kind of a logjam and the 45 [of Reddick] had a better restart and I thought he was going to win.

"We just needed some things to go better."

Hendrick Banner Day

Hendrick Motorsports needed to have a good day as it faces possible points penalties and crew chief suspensions after NASCAR confiscated louvers from all four of the team cars Friday.

Louvers are coverings that direct air from the radiator ducts through the hood, and there have been issues with the way those fit and what teams can do, if anything, to them that wouldn't be considered illegal modifications.

Any penalties will be announced Tuesday or Wednesday.

Hendrick Motorsports responded by putting all four cars in the top 10, with Alex Bowman in ninth and Josh Berry, who is filling in for the injured Chase Elliott, placing 10th.

Larson speaks about Byron's win

Kyle Larson said William Byron just executed well on the final restart in Phoenix.

"That really solidified some of the hype and things that were being focused on Friday," Gordon said. "These guys have speed in the car.

"There was nothing, not last week, not this week, that was getting them to Victory Lane other than a lot of hard work and great teamwork."

For Berry, it was big improvement over last week's 29th-place finish at Las Vegas, his first race subbing for Elliott.

 "We obviously improved a lot from last week," Berry said. "I knew we would. Just having a week to work on it and talk about things [and] I think this is a pretty good race track for me.

 "We were able to just build on what we did before."

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

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