Connect with us


William Byron Dominates at Watkins Glen

Image: Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

Another beautiful weekend, another road course. This past weekend, the stars of NASCAR headed north to the beautiful village of Watkins Glen. The town that is about five hours northeast of New York City has a rich history of racing. This year, another chapter of racing history was added to Watkins Glen. Coming into this week, the big question was if Chase Elliott could win at Watkins Glen to lock himself into the NASCAR playoffs. When the sun was setting on the famed Road Course, it was another Hendrick Motorsports driver that had stolen the headlines.

Pure Domination from Byron:

Right from the drop of the green flag, it seemed that this race was going to be a repeat of last week at Indianapolis. Michael McDowell, who won at the Indianapolis Road Course, dominated the first portion of the race. McDowell took the lead from pole sitter, Denny Hamlin, on lap four. He then would go on to lead the rest of stage one and win the stage, picking up another playoff point. The very next lap after the end of the stage, McDowell pitted, bringing Hamlin with him. William Byron’s crew made the call for him to stay out an extra lap compared to McDowell. That’s when the day started unfolding for McDowell. He received a pit road penalty for driving through too many pit boxes, effectively ending the day for McDowell. Once Byron got the lead, it was going to be hard to get it back from him.

The day started turning in Byron’s favor when there was a caution that flew in the middle of the second pit cycle. How does that benefit Byron? Byron’s crew chief, Rudy Fugle, made the call to have Byron come down pit road before the caution was waved. If the caution is waved before Byron makes it onto pit road, then pit road is closed, and he would’ve received a penalty. The rest of the day for Byron was relatively calm. William Byron would go on to win at Watkins Glen for the first time in his career. This win is his fifth of the season and the ninth of his career. With Byron’s fifth win of the season, he looks to go make a run for the championship starting in two weeks at Darlington. But as one Hendrick driver celebrates, this weekend was one to forget for another.

Trouble for Chase Elliott:

From the start of the weekend, there were signs that it was going to be a miserable race for Chase Elliott. We just didn’t know it was going to be this bad. On Saturday, Elliott failed to advance to the final round of qualifying. This resulted in Elliott starting in the fifteenth position on Sunday. It was going to be a tall task for Elliott to come through the field. Watkins Glen is undoubtedly Chase Elliott’s best track. Dating back to 2018, Elliott finished in the Top-4 in each of those races. Two of those races were races that Elliott won. The pressure was on Elliott, and it did not help with a somewhat poor qualifying effort. He made his way up to the Top-10 through the first half of the race, but the day went south quickly during the second pit cycle.

Remember the caution that benefited Byron? That caution was for Chase Elliott. He had run out of fuel during the pit cycle due to an unfortunate miscalculation by crew chief, Alan Gustafson. Gustafson made an aggressive call early on lap 17 to pit Elliott, which cycles him up to the Top-10. How did Elliott run out of fuel? Gustafson told Elliott to run until the car would stumble, and then flip the fuel reserve switch. That switch gives the cars an extra lap or so of fuel to make it back to pit road for pit strategy. Gustafson told Elliott he could run three more laps after flipping the switch. This miscalculation by Gustafson and the team has put Elliott in a must-win situation going into the next race, Daytona.

What to Expect from Daytona:

This weekend, the field heads back to where the regular season started, Daytona. There is only one playoff spot open for the field, and that currently belongs to Bubba Wallace. Both Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick clinched a playoff spot on points this past weekend. Currently, Wallace is 32 points ahead of Ty Gibbs, who is currently seventeenth in the playoff standings. All Wallace must do is have a good day and avoid the big wrecks. Easier said than done. Daytona is the definition of chaos, even without the fact that there’s the last playoff spot on the line. Drivers will do anything to get into the playoffs. Because Daytona is this coming weekend, it would not be a surprise if there’s a first-time winner on the season. Keep an eye on Wallace, Elliott, and maybe 2022 Daytona 500 Winner, Austin Cindric.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Featured Articles

Featured Writers

More in Features