April 20, 2024

Daytona 500 Winner William Byron Out to Buck NASCAR Trend at Atlanta


  • Matt Kenseth was the most recent NASCAR Cup Series driver, in 2009, to open the NASCAR Cup season with back-to-back wins.
  • Others who won the first two races of the Cup Season were Jeff Gordon (1997), David Pearson (1976), Bob Welborn (1959) and Marvin Panch (1957).
  • William Byron will try to pull off the feat this weekend.

One driver has won the first two races of the NASCAR Cup Series season only five times since 1957.

Recently retired Matt Kenseth was the most recent, in 2009. Others who doubled their fun in the first two races: Jeff Gordon (1997), David Pearson (1976), Bob Welborn (1959) and Marvin Panch (1957).

Daytona 500 winner William Byron, who burst out of his “other guy” status at Hendrick Motorsports with Monday’s victory, has that opportunity this month, and his numbers entering Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway are shiny.

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Matt Kenseth in 2009 was the last NASCAR Cup Series driver to open the season with back-to-back wins to open the season.

AMS was reconfigured in 2021, and the changes effectively put the track into the “superspeedway drafting” category. Banking was increased from 24 degrees to 28, and the racing surface was narrowed from 55 feet to 40 feet in the turns.

Since those changes dramatically impacted racing at the suburban Atlanta track, Byron has won two of the speedway’s four races, scoring victories in March 2022 and July 2023. He leads all drivers in laps led on the new configuration with 171.

There have been 13 races on drafting tracks in the Next Gen car, and Byron leads all drivers with three wins in those events. Chase Elliott, a Hendrick Motorsports teammate, has two wins and is the only other multiple winner.

Byron’s worksheet in the four AMS races since the layout changed does show a mix of feast and famine. He won in March 2022, finished 30th and 32nd in the next two races because of accidents and rallied from a spin to win last July.

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RacingOne//Getty Images

Another driver of the No. 24, Jeff Gordon, started the 1997 season with back-to-back wins. Gordon went on to win the championship that year.

There is considerable room for challenges to Byron’s AMS strength. Ford Performance has had strong cars at Atlanta, with Joey Logano winning there last March and Ford drivers leading 366 of the 445 laps raced on the track last year.

Byron, with nine victories the winningest driver in the Next Gen car, is one of only four drivers who have finished in the top five more than once since Atlanta’s reconfiguration. Others are Ross Chastain, Corey LaJoie and Daniel Suarez.

Although overtime finishes seem almost expected in the season-opening Daytona 500, Atlanta’s new status as a drafting track has not led to late-race calamity there. AMS has not had an overtime finish since February 2016.

Qualifying for Sunday’s 3 p.m. 400-miler is scheduled at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Cup teams are not scheduled to practice.



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