By virtue of having the most wins this season, William Byron has made the Championship 4, and he has a chance to win it all for the first time in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Byron's Path to the Championship 4
Byron wasted no time this season by winning the third race of the season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Byron followed that up with a win the following week at Phoenix Raceway. Three more wins — at Darlington Raceway, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Watkins Glen International — put Byron atop the playoff standings with 36 playoff points.
In the Round of 16, Byron did nothing flashy. He kept the car pointed in the right direction and had finishes of fourth at Darlington, 15th at Kansas and ninth at Bristol. That was more than enough to send Byron through to the Round of 12.
The Round of 12 began with a win at Texas that sent Byron straight through to the Round of 8. To follow that up, Byron had two second-place finishes, at Talladega and the Charlotte Roval. One of the best rounds by a driver since the inception of the playoffs gave the No. 24 team confidence going to the Round of 8.
The Round of 8 wasn't bad at all for Byron, but something just seemed off for the team. At Las Vegas, Byron finished seventh, but he never showed winning speed, which was uncharacteristic of the team this season. A fourth at Homestead-Miami Speedway left Byron 30 points above the cut line, so it seemed as if the No. 24 team was fine going into Martinsville. This was not the case; at the halfway point of that race, Byron was on the outside looking in. The No. 24 team kept at it and finished 13th, which was enough to send Byron through to the Championship 4.
He heads to Phoenix, where he won earlier this year. ? pic.twitter.com/HMi6WHBi5R
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 29, 2023
Why Byron Will Win the Championship
The sportsbooks currently list Byron as the third favorite this weekend at +250 to win it all.
All you have to do is go back to the race at Phoenix Raceway this year to know that Byron will be in contention Sunday. Byron won a stage and won the race. There is more to winning a championship than just looking back at the last race at the track, but that has to give Byron and No. 24 team confidence.
Byron has won six races this season, which means he knows how to find victory lane. Finding victory lane is most likely the only way to hoist the championship trophy Sunday. At a winning rate of 17.14% this season, you can't count the No. 24 team out. Byron hasn't necessarily dominated in all of his wins either. When it comes to late-race execution, you can say the No. 24 team has figured it out. They will have Byron within striking distance at the end of the race to capitalize on the opportunities presented to him.
Byron was the driver Hendrick Motorsports went out and took from Toyota back in 2016. This was the vision the higher-ups had at Hendrick Motorsports when Byron was only 15 years old. They had enough confidence in him to put him in the famous No. 24 car at just the age of 20 in 2018. Rick Hendrick has an eye for talent, and now Byron is trying to prove Hendrick right by scoring his first Cup Series championship Sunday.
Why Byron Will Not Win the Championship
After having all of the momentum in the world in the Round of 12, the No. 24 team didn't look the same in the Round of 8. It appeared as if the team was playing to not make mistakes as opposed to being aggressive and going for it all. It eventually worked out for them, as they are in the Championship 4. But to win the championship, there is no being conservative in a one-race, winner-take-all format.
This is Byron's first time in the Championship 4 of the Cup Series. The lack of experience could be something to think about when it comes to the No. 24 team's performance Sunday.
It was a good thing that Byron had some wins where he did not dominate, but it can also be a little concerning. It has appeared that his teammate, Kyle Larson, has had more speed this season. With that speed, Larson has had more mistakes than Byron, but all it takes is one week where Larson doesn't make a mistake and Byron could be in trouble.
A lot is riding on William Byron this weekend. He has a chance to give the No. 24 that fifth championship that eluded Jeff Gordon for 14 years after his fourth title in 2001. The No. 24 team just needs to keep Byron inside the top 5 all day, and then he will have a chance to bring another championship home for Hendrick Motorsports.
Want More Sports News?
Get the biggest and best sports news sent directly to your inbox.