William Byron takes the checkered flag on ‘The Track Too Tough Too Tame’

DARLINGTON, SC – William Byron didn’t lead very many laps on Sunday but he did lead the most important one – the final one.

On Mother’s Day, Byron actually led the final two laps to win NASCAR’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway on Throwback Weekend as part of NASCAR’s 75th anniversary celebration.

Byron was the unlikely winner of a race either Kyle Larson or Ross Chastain seemed destined to win.

William Byron races for the win during Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway. Photo by David Barks

“Yeah, it’s pretty amazing,” said Byron, who earned his third win of the season and the 100th for the No. 24 car on the Hendrick Motorsports team.

“My granddad passed away on Thursday, and just, man, I wish my family could be here. Just things have a way of working out, honestly. It just worked out that way today. We didn’t have the best third stage. We just kept battling, and things just kind of come back around.

“Definitely didn’t expect this. But just thankful for a great team, and, yeah, just things have a way of working out, and to come back here to Darlington and have it go exactly the other way.”

The win also took a bit of the sting away from last year’s Darlington race where Byron was leading when he was wrecked by Ross Chastain with just three laps to go.

Byron’s opportunity this year came after the race’s seventh caution – a massive eight-car wreck on the 282nd lap of the scheduled 293-lap race over the historic 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval called ‘The Lady in Black’ and ‘The Track Too Tough To Tame’.

Martin Truex Jr (19), Bubba Wallace (23), and William Byron (24) lead the field early in Sunday’s Goodyear 400. Photo by David Barks

There would be only six laps to go when the race restarted with Chastain on the inside row with three Hendrick Motorsports teammates around him – Larson on the outside, Byron behind Chastain, and Chase Elliott behind Larson.

On the restart, Chastain edged ahead and tried to force Larson up the track.

That didn’t work out.

The two crashed, ending Chastain’s day and putting Larson back into 20th place.

“Full commit into Turn 1,” said Chastain. “I got really tight and drove up and turned myself. I wanted to squeeze him. I wanted to push him up. We’d been racing back and forth all day. But I definitely didn’t want to turn myself.”

“How does that make any sense, running us into the fence?” said Cliff Daniels, Larson’s crew chief over the team radio. “That’s three races he’s taken us out of—the 1 car—three races he’s taken us out of.”

The crash also forced a two-lap, winner-take-all shootout.

It also put Byron into the lead. He chose the outside lane, followed by Elliott.

Kevin Harvick was on the inside front row with Brad Keselowski behind.

Byron got the lead and held off Harvick for a 0.781-second victory with Harvick second, Elliott third, Keselowski fourth, and Bubba Wallace fifth.

“We had a good car all day, we just couldn’t get up front,” said Harvick. “We did get up front there at the end even with the front of our car ripped up pretty good. I got up to him at the end, I just couldn’t catch him. Congratulations to William.”

“It’s the best finish since my return (from a broken leg suffered during a snowboarding accident in Colorado earlier this season),” said Elliott. “I felt like our car was plenty good throughout the day. I just did a terrible job of driving through traffic. We’re improving. I’ll definitely take third.”

Rounding out the top 10; Harrison Burton, Kyle Busch, Justin Haley, Ryan Blaney, and Chris Buescher.

Martin Truex Jr (front left) and Bubba Wallace (front right) lead the field at the start of Sunday’s Goodyear 400. Photo by David Barks

It was a relatively uneventful race through the first two stages with only one caution called for fluid on the track on lap 39.

The leaders used the break to head to the pits for fresh tires.

Larson, who’d been running eighth, had trouble when his car fell off the jack, causing a 17-second pit stop, sending him back to 25th place.

Starting from the pole position, Martin Truex had a strong start.

Sitting next to Truex on the front row, Bubba Wallace jumped into the lead but that lasted just the first lap.

Truex retook the lead on lap 2 and held it for the next 137 laps, good enough for the Stage 1 win, and on through the middle of Stage 2, building a nearly six-second lead over Byron and Chastain along the way.

But after a cycle of green-flag pit stops, Truex’s lead was down to just over one second.

Chastain caught Truex on lap 151, going on to win the stage.

Larson, meanwhile, had an excellent pit stop this time and was able to restart Stage 3 in sixth place.

Truex’s day got worse when he hit the wall in Turn 3 of lap 186, with the caution carrying over to the end of State 2.

“When we got into Chastain there at the end of the second stage going for the win, it knocked the toe out, so we were tight from there on out,” said Truex. “Just an unfortunate deal. There was plenty of room there, but he just came off the wall and hit me.”

Mayhem began with a nine-car wreck on lap 195.

Truex’s day ended when he got in the middle of an eight-car wreck on lap 282.

“Like I said, knocked the toe out in the right front. Pretty crappy from there, and then on that restart, I guess I just got real tight and I don’t even know who I squeezed into the wall, but I apologize to them. Probably my fault; just got real tight and couldn’t stay down the track.”

That set the stage for the fateful restart that knocked Chastain out of the race, sending Larson back to 20th and setting up Byron for the win.

William Byron, left, celebrates while standing on his car as smoke billows from his burnout after winning Sunday’s Goodyear 400. A Hendrick Motorsports pit crew member, right, celebrates atop the pit row wall. Photo by David Barks.

NASCAR honored its all-time top 75 drivers during Throwback Weekend. More than 30 of the 44 living legends were honored at the track before the race.

Next up, the NASCAR All-Star weekend featuring the Truck and Cup Series next weekend at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

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