NASCAR: William Byron didn’t clinch a playoff spot at Las Vegas

William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) /

William Byron won Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but his playoff spot isn’t officially secure yet.

Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron did what he usually does to open up the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season: finished poorly in the first two events, then found victory lane shortly thereafter.

Sitting in 29th place in the point standings entering Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet dominated and got to victory lane for the fifth time in his career and the fourth straight season.

Byron has a history of starting slow and then immediately turning things around. In six seasons, his highest finish in any one of a season’s first two races is 17th place, and he doesn’t have a finish higher than 22nd in such races since 2019. This year, he started off with finishes of 34th and 25th.

Yet in 2021, he won the season’s third race to start an 11-race streak of top nine finishes, and in 2022, the season’s third race began a six-race stretch during which he won twice and secured two other top five finishes.

While history has repeated itself once again, Byron isn’t yet locked into the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

There can still be more regular season winners than playoff spots, as there have been three winners in three races so far this year and there are 23 races to go before the postseason. Just 16 drivers qualify for the playoffs.

The 16 playoff spots are awarded to the regular season champion, even if he goes winless, and the 15 drivers who rank next highest in wins, meaning that all multi-race winners lock in since there can’t be more than 13 of them.

Single-race winners, however, still risk being eliminated if there are more than 16 winners (or more than 15 if the regular season champion is winless), in which case the point standings would serve as the tiebreaker to determine which single-race winners get in and which don’t.

It is possible, albeit unlikely, that the regular season champion ends up without any wins. Right now, Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain leads the point standings, and he hasn’t won any races since last April. Following the first three races of the season, his win drought sits at 29.

In fact, none of the drivers in the top seven in the point standings have won yet this year. The highest winner in the standings is currently Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch, who sits in eighth place. Byron sits in 13th, just behind the season’s other winner, JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr., in 12th.

Next. All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list. dark

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season’s fourth race is the United Rentals Work United 500, which is scheduled to take place on Sunday, March 12. The race is set to be broadcast live on Fox from Phoenix Raceway beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV and don’t miss it!