NASCAR: William Byron not the only big winner at Martinsville

William Byron led a 1-2-3 finish for Hendrick Motorsports as they celebrated the 40th anniversary of their first NASCAR Cup Series win at Martinsville Speedway.
William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR
William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR / James Gilbert/GettyImages

William Byron capped off a historic day for Hendrick Motorsports at Martinsville Speedway, holding off teammates Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson to secure a 1-2-3 finish for Rick Hendrick's team as they celebrated the 40th anniversary of their first Cup Series win at the same venue.

Byron won the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, and for the third year in a row, he became the first driver to reach two wins with his victory at Circuit of the Americas two weeks ago.

The 26-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina native's win in Sunday's 415-lap race around the four-turn, 0.526-mile (0.847-kilometer) Ridgeway, Virginia oval made him the first driver to three wins for the second year in a row.

But Byron wasn't the only big winner on Sunday afternoon, and we're not just talking about his race team, which saw Larson place second, Elliott third, and Alex Bowman eighth.

William Byron not the only big winner at Martinsville

Trackhouse Racing Team's Daniel Suarez has plummeted in the point standings since winning at Atlanta Motor Speedway in late February. Now riding a six-race streak of finishes outside of the top 10 and a three-race streak of finishes of 22nd place or lower, he finds himself in 17th.

He remains in the 16-driver playoff picture thanks to that win at Atlanta, but he is by no means locked in. There are still 18 races remaining on the regular season schedule, meaning that there is still a way for there to be more than 16 winners.

While the playoff format is often viewed as a "win and in" format, the fact that there can be more winners than postseason spots available inherently renders that perception false. The 16 playoff spots officially go to the regular season champion, winner or not, and the 15 drivers who rank highest in wins.

By winning twice, a driver cannot miss the playoffs, since no more than 13 drivers can win twice in a 26-race regular season. So Byron and Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin, who won at Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond Raceway, are the only two drivers officially locked in at this point.

But in the event that there are more winners than playoff spots, a points tiebreaker is used to determine which single-race winners get in and which don't.

It's really no different than when there aren't enough winners to fill the playoff spots; the tiebreaker, if you want to call it that, among non-winners to determine who gets the final spot or spots becomes points.

While it's still early, it is worth pointing out that Suarez is by far the lowest single-race winner in the standings. Joe Gibbs Racing's Christopher Bell, the winner at Phoenix Raceway, is the next lowest in 11th place, and the other one, Hendrick Motorsports' Kyle Larson, is the points leader. Larson won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

So if there was any driver other than Byron who was happy to see the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet win on Sunday afternoon, it was Suarez. For the second race in a row, no new winner emerged, keeping the tally at five through eight races.

Despite his drop to outside of the top 16 in points, his second career playoff spot remains relatively safe.

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Will a sixth different winner emerge in this coming Sunday afternoon's race at Texas Motor Speedway? The Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 is set to be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. Start a free trial of FuboTV and don't miss it!