DARLINGTON, S.C. – A year after nearly scoring the win at Darlington Raceway on throwback weekend, William Byron scored the victory in an overtime finish in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Byron is the first driver to win three races in the 2023 season, which is also a single-season high for the 25-year-old. The win is also the 100th in the history of the No. 24. This victory is also the 296th for Hendrick Motorsports.
PHOTOS: See the scenes from victory lane for the No. 24 team
"I'm just thankful that I was able to get in this No. 24 car," Byron said of earning the milestone 100th win for the No. 24. "I was too young at the time I feel like, but growing up, maturing and just having a great team around me and being able to build the core that we have. I have a great group of guys -- Rudy (Fugle, crew chief), Brandon McSwain, Tyler (Jones, car chief). Everybody on the team does a great job preparing good cars, and we work hard at it."
After spending much of the race in the top five, Byron encountered a tough pit stop on lap 248 due to having to avoid a car that was leaving pit road under green. Thanks to several late cautions and avoiding a big wreck off the lap 281 restart, he lined up third for the lap 288 restart. Contact between Ross Chastain and Kyle Larson brought out another caution, but also gave Byron the lead for the first time in the No. 24 Axalta Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 ahead of the overtime restart. From there, he was able to drive around the outside of Kevin Harvick to keep the lead for good and score the seventh Cup Series win of his career.
PHOTOS: All of Byron's wins in the Cup Series
"It's up there for sure," Byron said of winning at the South Carolina track. "Being up front, being in contention, and based on the past history we've had here, I think it definitely -- it stacks up pretty high."
The win is Hendrick Motorsports’ 15th win at Darlington and their first since 2012. It is also the series-leading fifth win of the season for the organization.
Chase Elliott brought home the No. 9 LLumar Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 with a third-place finish. The result is his best finish in the four races he’s run since returning from a fractured tibia. It was a methodical day for the 2020 Cup Series champion, who earned his best Cup Series finish at Darlington. He battled a tight race car early but was able to crack the top 10 at the start of the final stage. From there, they outlasted a host of others, even taking on some damage in the eight-car accident on lap 282.
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"It was a solid finish, for sure," Elliott said. "I felt like our No. 9 LLumar Chevy was plenty good enough to go up there and battle with those guys to win. I just struggled so bad in traffic. ... I just feel like from that standpoint, I’ve got a lot of work to do on my end.
"Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and our team have done a really good job preparing good race cars. Our pit stops really kept us in the game all day."
Prior to the slew of late-race cautions, it looked like it would be Larson in victory lane. He rallied from a tough pit stop early in the race to get back into the top five by the end of stage two. Pitting ahead of the leaders under green on lap 247, a great pit stop of 10.01 seconds by the No. 5 HendrickCars.com pit crew set him up to take the lead when the pit cycle was complete. Larson led when the caution came out on lap 277 and another solid pit stop kept him in the lead.
Chastain and Larson made contact on the lap 281 restart but the row behind them was involved in a wreck to bring out another caution. On the next restart on lap 288, the two came together once again while battling for the lead. Having chosen the outside, Larson was running the high lane when Chastain squeezed him into turn one and heavy contact ensued between the two cars. The 2021 Cup Series champion finished 20th on the day and led 29 laps.
Josh Berry finished 30th in the No. 48 Ally Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The NASCAR Xfinity Series regular for Hendrick Motorsports affiliate JR Motorsports had a tough day, getting into the wall several times and having significant damage to the car that left him multiple laps down. This was his third race filling in for Alex Bowman, who remains out with fractured vertebra.
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The results at Darlington marked the fourth time this year that Hendrick Motorsports finished with at least two cars inside the top three in a race (Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway and Kansas Speedway). It is also the sixth time this year that the company has multiple cars inside the top five in a race (Las Vegas, Phoenix Raceway, Circuit of The Americas, Richmond and Kansas).
Next up for Hendrick Motorsports in the non-points paying All-Star Race on Sunday, May 21 (8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), at North Wilkesboro Speedway. The event pays the winner $1,000,000 and is the first Cup Series action at the track in 27 years.