Las Vegas — On Sunday, William Byron captured the checkered flag at the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Hendrick Motorsports finished the race with the top three finishers going 1-2-3.
“It was a dominant day, I had a great race car,” the 25-year-old race winner said at victory lane. “Just everyone at Hendrick Motorsports was working super hard. The RaptorTough.com Chevy was really good and I’m excited for the future. It felt like in practice we had a good car. I started the race good, I thought Kyle was really strong and he could stay close to me for a lot of the runs in the first and second stage. I felt like I was a little bit tight but trying to navigate lap traffic and navigate the wind and how it would change the handling. I’m just happy getting the first win of the year. It’s been a while since we’ve won–almost a year.”
It was Byron’s fifth win in the NASCAR Cup series and the first of the 2023 season. He beat his teammate, Kyle Larson, by a margin of 0.622 seconds. After the win, Byron moved up to 13th position in NASCAR driver points standings.
“It was a super fast car all day long,” said Ryan “Rudy” Fugle, Byron’s crew chief. “We got a chance here. It seems like it always happens here in Las Vegas, you get one last shootout at the end. The pit crew did an awesome job getting us off pit road second. We were able to pass the No. 19 and hold everybody else off.”
There were four caution flags for a total of 26 laps. The first two were for the end of the two stages. Then, on lap 183, Joey Logano hit the wall and spun out on turn four. That effectively put him out of the race–after starting from the pole.
Kyle Larson was leading laps 228-265 and it appeared he would cruise to an easy win. That’s until the caution came out after Aric Almirola spun out in turn four. Many teams came into the pits for new tires and fuel. Then, the race restarted with two laps to go bringing it to overtime. It became a race off of pit road to go for the checkered flag.
Local favorite Kyle Busch finished in 14th place and fellow Las Vegan Noah Gragson finished 30th. Kyle Larson finished second and last years winner, Alex Bowman, finished in third. Toyota drivers Bubba Wallace and Christopher Bell finished fourth and fifth. The best finishing Ford was Austin Cindric in sixth.
There were 13 lead changes among eight different drivers. William Byron led the most laps with 176, Kyle Larson led 63, and Denny Hamlin led 10. Other leaders included Brad Keselowski with five laps, Tyler Reddick with three laps, Martin Truex Jr. with three laps and Alex Bowman led two.
Race fans I spoke to said they had a great time at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and are looking forward to returning.
“Oh my god, it’s so exciting,” said Jayne Blair from Castle Rock, Colo. “This is the first one I’ve seen him win in person. I was actually praying for a caution because that was the only way Byron was going to catch him. I think it’s awesome that Hendrick finished 1-2-3.”
“It was amazing, it was wonderful,” said Janine and Patrick Wilk from Alma, Mich. “I’m so proud of my driver [Larson] and how he was in the lead for such a long time. He put in a helluva chase for second place, you did great. I’m very proud of him. It was an awesome race. We had a lot of fun. Byron had a well deserved win. If you lead all of those laps, you ought to win. This is amazing. We go to Michigan International Speedway every year. This fan experience is much better than Michigan. This fan area with the Neon Garage, you can’t beat it.”
Three ladies who competed in the Screen to Speed competition told me about the Esports tournament for women racers. The program was sponsored by Pennzoil, Init Esports, KellyMoss, Yahoo and iRacing.
“The top 20 women in Esports competed for $15,000 and a chance to drive a KellyMoss Porsche,” said Emily Howe from Charlotte, N.C. “Yesterday, our teammate Saoirse Fitzpatrick won the event. I finished second, Kristina fourth and Olivia sixth.”
Kristina Ryan from Columbus, Ohio, added: “This is the first time that I’ve been flown anywhere to compete in any type of eSports thing. I’ve never been west of Wisconsin, so this is a really big opportunity. First of all, I’m really glad I made the final. But to finish fourth in the final was really, really exciting. I’m really stoked.”
“It was just incredible,” said Olivia Hayward from Manchester U.K. “The great thing about it was everyone who was racing together was such good friends with each other. We’re just so proud of each other for what ended up happening. Saoirse worked so hard and deserved the prize, absolutely.”
There were many celebrities at this year’s Pennzoil 400. America’s Got Talent winner Terry Fator performed the national anthem. Country/rock singer Uncle Kracker performed a pre-race concert. Las Vegas native and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper served as the grand marshal. Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo (R) served as the honorary pace car driver.
Once again, William Byron won the 2023 race of the Pennzoil 400 in Las Vegas. Next up: The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Phoenix next Sunday for the United Rentals Work United 500.
Stay with AmericaJR for more coverage from the Pennzoil 400…