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William Byron goes back-to-back at Phoenix

Image: Associated Press

The stars of the NASCAR Cup Series rolled into the Arizona desert this past weekend. All eyes were on Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron after his dominating performance in Las Vegas. Byron led 176 at Las Vegas while winning both stages. There’s no way that Byron could win back-to-back races, right? Byron isn’t known for winning often. Since his Cup Series debut in 2018, Byron has only won five races up until the Phoenix race weekend. This weekend was a great opportunity for Byron to prove that he does deserve to be in his Hendrick Motorsports seat.

Hendrick Teammates dominate at Phoenix:

Right from the get-go on Friday, it was obvious that the Hendrick cars had speed. Kyle Larson was the fastest in practice, which was followed by Larson winning the pole on Saturday. Larson would be followed by teammate, William Byron in third on the grid. The day started strong for Byron after dominating and winning the first stage. For the most part, it was the Kyle Larson show. But it was Byron that came out on top in overtime to win in Phoenix. Here’s the problem with this win. It was announced on Friday that NASCAR confiscated hood louvers from all four Hendrick cars for further inspection. It’s hard to believe that Hendrick Motorsports will not receive penalties for these parts. But as William Byron claims another victory, one of his Hendrick teammates comes close to victory again.

Larson comes close once again:

It could be argued that Larson could have won in Las Vegas last weekend. But there is no doubt that Larson should have won at Phoenix this past weekend. Larson led a race-high 201 laps throughout the day on Sunday and won stage two. On lap 269 is when Kevin Harvick was able to get around Larson for the lead. With just 10 laps to go, an untimely caution came out which erased Harvick’s lead over Larson. The race would end up going to overtime which saw, as previously said, William Byron winning at Phoenix. Larson would go on to finish in fourth place. A disappointing result for the fastest car. But that’s racing. But overall, Larson’s first win on the season is right around the corner for him. This speed could be thanks to the new rules package, but how did the new aero package perform at Phoenix?

How did the new rules package work at Phoenix?

In late November, it was announced that a new rules package would be used at most short tracks and all road courses throughout the season for the Cup Series. This package includes two-inch spoilers and the removal of several diffuser and engine panel strakes. Officials were hoping that this would lead to a 30% reduction in downforce. The new rules package seemed to do its job well enough to have enough battles on the track and keep it clean for most of the race. The obvious problem with that is clean air is a premium. It has been documented recently that Phoenix is not a popular track amongst fans. Overall, there was a better racing product at Phoenix compared to last season. It should be more interesting as to how the new package will work at Circuit of the Americas later this month.

What to expect from Atlanta:

As NASCAR heads into Atlanta this coming weekend, what could be expected from the Cup Series this weekend? Last year was the first year that the new style of racing at Atlanta debuted. After the July Atlanta race in 2021, the track was repaved and reconfigured into a miniature superspeedway track much like Daytona and Talladega. If the trends stay true from last Spring, then expect William Byron to once again be at the front of the pack. Byron is a very good superspeedway race. Daytona is where Byron got his first career win in 2020 and won at Atlanta last Spring. It won’t be a shocker if Byron or if any Hendrick car wins this coming Sunday. If Byron can win on Sunday, it’ll put him in some company of the greats to win three races in a row.

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