Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron (64) and Kyle Larson (201) teamed up to lead 265 of the total laps at Phoenix and dominated the race. Kevin Harvick (14) and Brad Keselowski (1) were the only non-Chevy drivers to lead any laps at all in a race flat out owned by Chevy drivers.
Chevy has won every race this season and with Atlanta on the horizon, you wonder if it will be 5 in a row. Byron won this race last year he surely has the speed needed at Atlanta.
With a race that was dominated by Larson and Byron, there isn’t much to talk about except late race cautions that changed the outcome of the race once again. Kyle Busch probably would have been the winner at Daytona and Harvick might have cemented his legacy with a win at Phoenix. But the racing god’s had a different plan and that was for Hendrick to continue to look impressive and be a force in this years title campaign.
Things of note
My predictions last week were thus:
Ryan Blaney would lead laps again just like last year. That was not to be but like last year, he did finish 2nd and 2022 winner Joey Logano had another disappointing race finishing 11th.
I felt Kyle Larson might have the speed it would take to win at Phenix and he dang near did while Byron brought speed and handling to a track that isn’t his best.
I thought AJ Allmendinger would have a Top 15 and he might have if not for a wreck on lap 310 that forced overtime.
I also thought Joe Gibbs teams would fare well but only Christopher Bell grabbed a Top 10 finish. Martin Truex, Jr. lagged and Denny Hamlin decided that since he only took two tires under caution, when many others took 4, that he would rather take out Ross Chastain than get freight-trained and finish back with MTJ.
Not only did Hamlin decide to mess with Chastain but he admitted as much on a podcast afterwards! It will be interesting to see how NASCAR handles this news. NASCAR has been riding the fence between “boys have at it” and cracking the whip on actions detrimental to racing. Hamlin is taking a risk that he won’t be fined or docked points.
2022 saw an all new surface on the rough old Atlanta and Byron leading 111 laps and winning spring race with teammate Chase Elliott leading 96 on his way to victory lane. Ross Chastain was second in both races. Keep an eye on the Hendrick cars once again with Byron and Larson leading the way. But Larson will need to find a way to close out the race if he is to break his streak of bad luck here. Don’t count out Alex Bowman this week either.
Blaney has been decently fast and he led 25 laps to win the spring race in 2021 with Larson and Alex Bowman in tow. Larson led 269 of those laps. Blaney is also the highest rated driver in the last 5 races at Atlanta.
Harvick led 151 laps to win the June 202 race while Keselowski led 33 laps to win the spring race while Kyle Larson led 142 of those laps.
Aside from Blaney, MTJ (6.8) and Chastain (9.8) are the only other two drivers with a Top 10 average finish. But the way they have been running, you’d have to put your money on Chastain at this point.
Kyle Busch hasn’t run well here since he finished second to his brother Kurt in 2021.
Practice should tell us a lot about who has speed and handling to make the most of new Atlanta. Right now, it’s everyone against Team Chevy led by the Hendrick Boys.
Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
(Photo by Tim Parks/HHP for Chevy Racing)