William Byron is still locked into the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, despite the fact that he was docked 100 points and 10 playoff points after his win at Phoenix Raceway.
NASCAR confiscated the hood louvers from all four of their Chevrolets on Friday after the practice session for Sunday afternoon’s race at Phoenix Raceway, and it was later discovered that they had been illegally modified.
All four drivers were forced to qualify and race with new louvers, and the performance clearly wasn’t affected. Kyle Larson took the pole position, William Byron won the race, and the entire team finished in the top 10.
However, that didn’t stop NASCAR from penalizing William Byron, Kyle Larson, and Alex Bowman 100 points and 10 playoff points.
They also docked all four Hendrick Motorsports teams 100 points and 10 playoff points in the owner standings. Four-race crew chief suspensions and $100,000 fines were also issued to each team.
Bowman dropped from the points lead, which he had never previously held in his career, to 23rd place, Byron dropped from fourth to 29th, and Larson dropped from a fifth place tie to 32nd.
Chase Elliott wasn’t penalized since he has been sidelined with a fractured tibia for the last two weeks and didn’t compete at Phoenix Raceway, while Josh Berry, his replacement, wasn’t penalized because he doesn’t compete for Cup Series points as a full-time Xfinity Series driver.
But despite the fact that Byron took a hit in the standings — and an even bigger hit in the playoff picture with the 10 playoff point penalty — he is still locked into the playoffs.
NASCAR has, in the past, disqualified drivers from their race result after discovering something illegal with their car. Last year, Denny Hamlin even lost a win because of it.
NASCAR has also encumbered wins in the past, meaning that the wins still count on the stat sheet but not toward the playoff picture. But that hasn’t happened since they took a full-on disqualification approach starting in 2019. In 2017, Joey Logano had a win encumbered and missed the playoffs, despite having won a race.
But this situation is altogether different.
Nothing illegal was discovered as having been a part of a car used by Byron or Hendrick Motorsports during a race. The penalties, which still carry major weight across the board, are purely for modifying a single source vendor part, which is a massive no-no in the Next Gen era.
NASCAR put their foot down last year when it came to this issue, and nothing different was expected this time around.
Both of Byron’s wins, not just the one at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, still count toward his playoff eligibility and thus have him locked into the postseason. Plus, there is no longer a requirement for a driver to be in the top 30 in the point standings to qualify for the postseason.
Even if his Phoenix Raceway win had been stripped, Byron would still be in a good position, having won the race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. However, he wouldn’t be 100% locked in, since single-race winners can technically fall out of a playoff spot if there are more than 16 regular season race winners.