It’s been an emotional week for William Byron, who lost his grandfather on Thursday. Perhaps grandpa was smiling down on Byron Sunday afternoon, as the Hendrick Motorsports driver was able to stay out of trouble long enough to win the Goodyear 400 in overtime at Darlington Raceway. Byron, who revealed his family tragedy during his postrace television interview, got a measure of redemption after narrowly missing out on the win last year. Byron was six turns from victory in Darlington a season ago before Joey Logano bumped him out of the way to claim the checkered flag.
With six laps to go, Ross Chastain and Kyle Larson crashed while racing for the lead on a restart to pass the baton over to Byron. As the green flag flew for the final time in overtime, Byron surged ahead of Harvick to lead the last two laps and win relatively easily. In doing so, he also earned the 100th victory for the #24 Chevrolet, most of which, of course, came with Jeff Gordon at the helm.
The early portion of the race appeared to be a prelude to Martin Truex’s coronation. The pole sitter dominated the opening stage, leading all but one lap to claim his 57th career stage win. However, things began to change in the second stage as Chastain started to make his presence felt. He was able to survive contact with the wall and a brush with Truex to win the middle leg of the race, setting the stage for an exciting final hundred laps.
Kevin Harvick finished the race second, followed by Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, and Bubba Wallace. Harrison Burton was sixth, with Kyle Busch 7th, Justin Haley 8th, Ryan Blaney 9th, and Chris Buescher rounding out the top 10.
The prerace ceremonies were just as star-studded as the finish was exciting. Darlington Raceway spearheaded the celebration of NASCAR’s official “Throwback Weekend” by honoring the 75 greatest drivers in the history of the sport. Not all of the living drivers were at the “Lady in Black,” but many of them were, including several in the field for the Goodyear 400. Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch also rekindled their rivalry by serving as honorary starters twenty years after they crossed the finish line in Darlington nearly simultaneously. Craven edged Busch by the closest margin in NASCAR history during the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 in 2003.
The series shifts to North Wilkesboro next weekend for the NASCAR “All-Star” Race.