Avondale, Ariz – What an amazing couple of races for Hendrick Motorsports driver No. 24 William Byron had on the west coast. He has won two races back-to-back at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and here at Phoenix Raceway. Oddly enough, both of his wins came with late race cautions. Although No 22 Joey Logano was favored to win in Phoenix, Byron kept his eye on the prize.
Tyler Reddick and Chase Brisco didn’t have a good advantage when they started the race, but their hard work and the team work from their pit crews and crew chief they were able to finish in 3rd place and 14th place respectively.
Reddick stated in his interview that he is pissed off about the last restart and just not doing a better job. They were in position to do it, but his restart launch needs some work.
“We’re gonna keep getting better. We’re gonna keep learning together as a team and yeah, wish I could have that one back for sure.” He said after the race.
Brisco felt like he had a pretty strong and solid day overall. It just took forever to get to the top of the pack starting from so far behind. He felt that if he was put in the lead he would have been fine staying there – but it was just a matter of getting up there. Nonetheless his crew chief Johnny Klausmeier felt this was a good baseline for the team to use as a benchmark. They know what they can do and need to tweak in the upcoming weeks.
Many had their eye on Kevin Harvick to take home the win, sort of like his farewell montra as he is retiring after this season. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way for the No 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team. One thing is for sure though is it will give them confidence going into the rest of the season. If it wasn’t for the late race caution Harvick might have been the winner. He still has some work to do and can still become the Cup Series Champion in November.
Harvick entered pit road as the leader with 12 laps to go. Harvick felt that his final race decision was a tough one with four tires in favor of two right side tires. He said, “it was what he has always done”. He rather be on offense.
Byron along with five other drivers only changed two tires and ended up restarting ahead of Harvick. Although there was a final caution that sent the race into overtime, he didn’t have enough time to get back to the front of the pack and had to settle for a fifth place finish.
Harvick’s crew chief Rodney Childers wasn’t happy with how the race ended. “But I looked down and thought we would go back green with about seven laps to go and then we all pitted and rode around under caution for four laps waiting for it to be a green-white-checkered. I thought that was complete (expletive).
“If that’s what we’re going to do, we need to tell everybody that’s what we’re going to do instead of just letting everybody pit and then ride around like that.
We had a really good car all weekend. We hardly changed anything the whole weekend. Should have, could have won. “Harvick said Childers made the right call.
Being the pole winner doesn’t always guarantee you the win. Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson definitely had a great run this weekend. After practice and qualifying, he was the pole winner and had the first pit stall. Larson had the lead for most of the race and he was able to retake the lead coming out of pit road. Larson led on the restart but Byron definitely worked his way after taking the white flag.
Larson caught back up and was part of a three wide scenario with Reddick and Ryan Blaney. Unfortunately it just wasn’t enough time to get around Byron for the win. Larson was visibly pissed with the outcome but excited they did better than they did last year at Phoenix. He is hoping they are in the Final 4 when they return in November for the championship race.
Hendrick Motorsports have the most wins at Phoenix Raceway. Byron has now joined the list of 20 drivers to win here for the team. Although the win was a great feeling for the team, it also left Vice Chairman Jeff Gordon – Former NASCAR driver – says that having parts taken from all four cars Friday “was weighing on our minds coming into Sunday and certainly will continue.”
NASCAR took the hood louvers (air vents) from the cars of Byron, Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, and Josh Berry after Friday’s practice. They, also took a hood louver from the Kaulig Racing car of Justin Haley before Saturday’s qualifying. NASCAR stated Friday that it took the Hendrick hood louvers for further evaluation this week at the R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina.
NASCAR stated that if there were any penalties to the team that announcement could come this week. Penalties can range from fines, point deductions for the driver and/or team as well as playoff points. Gordon has been in communication with NASCAR since the louvers were taken. Now they will wait to see if they will get fined and what level it will be.
Car No. 9 raced in Phoenix, but it wasn’t with Chase Elliot. He is still out recovering from an off-track injury in Colorado where he broke his tibia in his left leg. Although no decision has been made yet on Elliott’s playoff chances, Nascar officials anticipate that he will receive a waiver for playoffs when he returns.
It is compared to Tony Stewart’s off track injury in 2016 where he won at Sonoma that season to make the playoffs, but was eliminated in the first round and finished 15th in the season standings. Asked about the possibility of granting a waiver to Elliott once he’s medically cleared to return, NASCAR senior vice president of competition Elton Sawyer told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio:
“I wouldn’t see any reason that he wouldn’t be granted a waiver, but we’ll go through that process and make sure we’re checking all the boxes.”
It has not been communicated when Elliott will return, but until then, Josh Berry and Jordan Taylor will share the driving duties in the car. Berry had a decent run here at Phoenix as he is still getting used to the new next gen car. He finished 10th in the United Rentals 500 race on Sunday.