By: Ashley McCubbin
The road to one of the best seasons ever for NASCAR continues, as the Dixie Vodka 400 writes another chapter in the book.
Despite starting 31st, William Byron knew he had a fast Chevrolet underneath him and showed it by finishing fourth in the opening stage. A couple adjustments of perfection, and boom – he won the second segment. The finale was seeing him dominating the closing portion en route to his first win of the year.
While Byron has not showed this kind of promise at Homestead-Miami Speedway before, the performance is not a total surprise as Hendrick Motorsports consistently has placed a car in the top-10 there, and commonly top-five as evident with Chase Elliott’s runner-up in 2020. Besides, Alex Bowman showed just as much speed as Byron on Sunday, but a late-brush with the wall slowed him to ninth. It seems those tracks where you need to run the high line, they know their stuff as everybody will remember the speed shown by the organization at Darlington Raceway last season, too.
Combining Hendrick Motorsports’ ability to know what they are doing at Homestead with Byron reuniting with Rudy Fugle and it is a recipe for success. Recall, the pair were magic in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with seven trips to victory lane. Byron having experience under his belt and knowing what it takes to be in the playoffs, combined with chemistry could be the perfect set-up for 2021.
While there was no dramatic closing to the event, or late race pass, you cannot let it take away from what was displayed. Throughout the entire event, battles were showcased throughout the speedway. The restarts with the 550 package were as crazy as anticipated, as everyone fanned out in looking for running room at times four-wide. Just because they spread out a little with more laps did not mean you got bored, however. There were those were able to make headway moving forward and create passes, resulting in a side-by-side showcase no matter when you tuned into Fox’s coverage. Just take the late-race battle for second between Kyle Larson, Tyler Reddick, and Martin Truex Jr.
Reddick will probably be asking himself what if, considering he had the speed at the end and made a considerable charge up through the top-10 to finish second. A restart may have changed the picture as to who was in victory lane, even if he says the Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet was at it’s best on the long run.
The bigger surprise for many was seeing the sixth-place finish from Michael McDowell. When he won the Daytona 500, a lot of people called it a surprise entry into the playoffs, not expecting much in future events with top-10 performances. He proved them wrong, though, not lucking into that position as he battled up front amongst the contenders throughout the duration of the day.
Considering he only posted four top-10’s in 36 events last year, and now has three in a row to start 2021, it shows the progression Front Row Motorsports has made with their program, and makes you wonder what else the little team can do. Could we be seeing another run as we saw with Furniture Row Racing’s growth?