NASCAR: Major penalty could haunt William Byron

William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, Watkins Glen International, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, Watkins Glen International, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

NASCAR issued William Byron and the No. 24 team a hefty penalty a few months ago, and that penalty could come back to haunt them.

Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron earned his series-leading fifth victory of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season on Sunday afternoon at Watkins Glen International, and he has now more than doubled his career win total this season alone.

With the win, Byron scored six playoff points, one for winning stage two and five more for winning the 90-lap Go Bowling at The Glen around the eight-turn, 2.454-mile (3.949-kilometer) Watkins Glen, New York road course itself.

Given that he has five wins and eight stage wins this season, logic would suggest that he leads all drivers with 33 playoff points. While he does lead all drivers, he only has 28 playoff points to his name.

Shortly after the 100-point and 10-playoff point penalties issued to all four Hendrick Motorsports teams at Phoenix Raceway in March due to hood louver violations were rescinded, NASCAR cracked down on the No. 24 team once again, docking them and their driver 60 points and five playoff points following the race at Richmond Raceway in April due to a greenhouse violation.

Considering the fact that playoff points are points that drivers carry with them to start each round of the postseason, plus the fact that we have seen drivers advance or be eliminated by the narrowest of margins, a deduction of five playoff points hurts no matter how you look at it.

Yes, Byron still leads the series with 28 playoff points. But he has largely been a hot and cold driver heading into the postseason. How far will that take him in the playoffs?

His only two top 12 finishes in the last eight races are both wins. He can certainly win anywhere, but given his and his team’s lack of consistency, will those five missing playoff points come back to bite them if he goes cold at the wrong time?

What’s worse for William Byron is the fact that he might actually be missing more than five playoff points by the time the NASCAR Cup Series regular season concludes.

Additional playoff points are awarded to the drivers who finish the regular season in the top 10 in the point standings on a 15-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale.

Byron currently sits in third place in the standings, eliminated from winning the regular season championship due to the fact that he is 76 points behind Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. for the lead. Without the 60-point penalty, he would be sitting in second and only 16 points back, well within reach of the title.

Instead, he can finish anywhere from second through fourth place. The difference between winning the regular season championship and finishing in fourth is eight playoff points.

So now instead of a deduction of just five playoff points, we’re talking about a deduction of up to 13 playoff points.

For Byron’s sake, let’s hope that his April penalty doesn’t end up being the difference between elimination and the chance to compete for his first career championship at Phoenix Raceway in November.

FanDuel Sportsbook, which is giving fans an instant $200 for placing any $5 bet, lists Byron as the second favorite to win this year’s championship at +550.

With odds and availability subject to change, lock in your $200 today!

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Daytona International Speedway is scheduled to host the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season finale this Saturday, August 26. NBC is set to broadcast the Coke Zero Sugar 400 live beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and tune in!