Hendrick Motorsports Dominates Phoenix and Continues Season Domination

Story posted March 14, 2023 in CommRadio, Sports by Ethan Ellis

In a race that at one point saw three different drivers look to be on their way to victory lane, NASCAR once again showcased one of the most famous sayings in sports: it’s never over til it’s over.

The race, which many saw as the preview for the championship race there in the fall, was once again a Hendrick0dominated race. Hendrick drivers William Byron and Kyle Larson were the class of the field during the entire race, combining to lead 265 of the 317 laps. This dominance wasn’t limited to the race though, the Hendrick duo also had strong qualifying runs, qualifying in first and third.

Byron was the first driver to show off his car’s speed in the race. The driver of the #24 car led almost every lap in stage one en route to yet another stage win for him on the season. However, he went on to lose the lead during pit stops at the stage break.

Throughout the race, one of the biggest factors were restarts. Phoenix is famous for its dogleg right past the start/finish line. Drivers utilized this on virtually every restart during the race and even helped Byron get the lead at the start of it. This wide area of the track made for some intense side-by-side racing including in the closing laps of the race where the race for second went three wide.

For the next chunk of the race, the spotlight shined on one driver: Kyle Larson. Larson dominated the second stage and went on to make a clean sweep of the stages for Hendrick Motorsports.

Throughout the closing stage of the race, Larson was unable to pull away from Kevin Harvick. Harvick, who passed Byron in the pits after stage two, had a much faster car than Larson when it came to lapping cars. After being stuck behind two lapped cars, Harvick caught up to and passed Larson.

It seemed that all hope was lost for Hendrick to close out the race with a win, until the cautions flew. Harvick had a lead of over four seconds when the first of these flew for Harrison Burton’s spin. On the ensuing restart, Larson took back the lead, but not for long as the field was slowed once again for a three car incident in turn two. With this caution, it was Byron’s time to shine.

On the restart in overtime, Byron made a bold move and took the outside lane on Larson going into turns one and two. Larson ran him up close to the wall but Byron made it stick and cleared Larson, who went on to be stuck three wide in a race for second.

This win was Byron’s second in a row as he also captured the win a week before in Las Vegas. This was the first time the #24 car had won back-to-back races since 2007 with Jeff Gordon.

As is the case with most close overtime finishes, there were some disagreements. The most notable of these were between drivers Denny Hamlin and Ross Chastain.

Hamlin was seen bumping into Chastain several times and pushing him up the track and into the wall. As a result, both drivers lost a ton of ground. The two were also seen talking after the race.

Next week, the Cup Series heads off to Atlanta Motor Speedway, a track that Byron won at last year and could very well continue his dominance on.

Ethan Ellis is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, please email ece5133@psu.edu.