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William Byron adds another Daytona 500 to the Hendrick legacy

William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

After never finishing a Daytona 500 inside the top twenty-five, William Byron gets Hendrick Motorsports another Daytona 500, ten years after their last.

Ten years after Dale Earnhardt Jr won his second Daytona 500, William Byron driving the iconic number twenty-four for Hendrick Motorsports gets the tenth victory for the team in the Great American Race. Byron, with Bowman in second place locked up the top two spots in almost photo finish. This victory comes at the beginning of Hendrick’s 40th anniversary season, a great opener for the most decorated team in the Cup Series garage.

William Byron’s Qualifying run:

Hendrick Motorsports prides itself in earning the front two spots for the Daytona 500. Since 2015, A Hendrick-powered Chevrolet has started on the front row, a reign of dominance, but only once won. There’s a clear trade-off between winning the pole and winning the race. If you win the pole, it seems you don’t have a good shot at winning the race.

Hendrick’s reign of dominance ended last week, with a Ford front-row lockout out with Joey Logano and Michael McDowell starting first and second. Hendrick Motorsports’ highest qualifier would be Kyle Larson in third. Chase Elliott would qualify fifth, Byron in sixth, and three-time pole winner Alex Bowman starting in seventeenth.

With Daytona’s duel races setting the lineup, Hendrick engines would rocket the four cars towards the front of the starting grid. In Duel 1, Elliott and Bowman would finish second and third, as Tyler Reddick’s last-lap charge to the lead was too much to counter. Larson would be the lowest finisher from Hendrick, in ninth.

In Duel 2, Byron would cause some trouble, with a big push from Brad Keselowski would send Ryan Blaney and several others spinning and wrecking. Byron would avoid a wreck and finish eighth. The starting order for Hendrick in the Daytona 500 would be Elliott in fifth, Bowman in seventh, and Larson and Byron in 17th and 18th.

Race Day:

After rain delayed the Daytona 500 to Monday, a weekend of rain opened up for blue skies and a beautiful Florida day. The Fords led the field to the green, and calamity struck on lap six. Nemechek would make contact with the #21 Ford of Harrison Burton, and collect five other cars. This early caution would begin some fuel saving amongst the drivers, trying to pit the latest to inherit the lead of the race later on.

Stage one would end with Chase Elliott and the three other Hendrick cars solidly inside the top ten. Stage two would be uneventful with the entirety of it staying green.

Towards the end of the race would be when chaos struck. The #24 would tag the right rear of Keselowski’s Ford. The contact would create a twenty-three-car wreck with nine to go. Byron and the Hendrick cars would make it through with little to no damage. Byron would take the lead from Ross Chastain with four laps to go. Austin Cindric would wreck with Chastain at the start-finish line on the white flag lap, ending the race.

Controversial Finish:

With the race ending under yellow many were left wondering who won. NASCAR has to find when the caution was put out and who was leading at that moment. Byron and Bowman were neck and neck when the caution came out and many believe Bowman got the win over the #24. NASCAR would release the camera footage they referenced when determining the winner, and Byron is inches ahead of the bumper of the #48.

This Daytona 500 is Byron’s second win at Daytona, with his first coming at the 2020 Coke Zero 400. It is the sixth win at Daytona for the #24 car and fourth 500 victory. William Byron and Hendrick Motorsports will continue their pursuit of the NASCAR Cup Series Championship, with the next race being in Atlanta.

Byron has won at Atlanta twice on the new configuration. In 2022, he would get his first win of the season there. In 2023, he would win a rain-shortened race, leading 19 laps. With lots of momentum and confidence from Daytona, I don’t think it is a long shot if the #24 team makes it two in a row to start 2024.

Can William Byron make it #24 in 2024? Stay tuned to Last Word on Motorsports for all your NASCAR news.




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