By Tyler Head (Photo by: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

William Byron wheeled his rainbow schemed number 24 Chevrolet to a place it’s very familiar with on Sunday, victory lane. Byron scored his second career NASCAR Cup Series victory at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in the Dixie Vodka 400.

Unlike Byron’s first win, which came at Daytona in the last summer’s regular season finale where chaos and the luck of the draft played a factor, the 23 year old left no doubt that he had the car to beat on Sunday. He lead a race high 102 laps including the final 58 en route to the checkered flag. He also managed to snag the stage 2 win after taking advantage of Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr’s aggressive battle for the lead.

1.5 mile tracks haven’t exactly been a strong suit for Byron through the first three seasons in the Cup Series, but a rekindling with his former Camping World Truck Series crew chief Rudy Fugle appears to have changed that. The pair won seven races together in 2016, including at Homestead, and there was a high level of optimism heading in to 2021 after it was announced they’d be back together. Fugle, who had never crew chiefed at the Cup level prior to this season, has put the entire garage area on notice that the 24 team is going to be a serious threat this season.

Prior to Byron’s late race dominance, the early stages of Sunday’s race provided quite a mixed bag of contenders and a few surprising names up at the front. Early on Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski showed the way, combining to led the first 52 laps, before an unlikely face in Chris Buescher showed his speed. Buescher, driving for Roush-Fenway Racing a team that has been on the decline over the past half-decade, pulled away from the Penske duo and survived restart chaos to win stage 1.

The 17 car’s speed carried over into stage 2 as it looked like he may be well on his way to a second playoff point on the day, but he was eventually run down and passed by Truex Jr just as pit stops were beginning halfway through the stage. Buescher would finish the stage in sixth, but his car was not nearly as good in traffic and he finished an underwhelming 19th.

Once Truex was out front, it seemed that an all too familiar sight of him running away with a race at an intermediate track was sure to come to fruition. Unfortunately for the 19 team though, as the sun began to set their speed went away and they’d instead have to settle for third.

Honorable Mentions:

Tyler Reddick (2nd): Reddick was a popular choice among many heading into Sunday as serious threat to add his name to the list of first time winners in 2021. Homestead is a track that compliments his dirt racing skillset and everyone was anticipating to see his number 8 Chevrolet riding the fence all race long. Reddick did just that, but the high groove wasn’t proving to be very successful through the first two stages. The end of the race was a different story. In the final 18 laps, Reddick used the high line to fly through the top 10 before grabbing second with just a few laps to go.

Michael McDowell (6th): You can call his Daytona 500 win a fluke if you’d like, but McDowell is proving he’s no flash in the pan. Sunday saw him net his third top 10 in as many races and there’s no reason to think that this streak can’t continue at Las Vegas next week.

Dixie Vodka 400 Results:

1. William Byron
2. Tyler Reddick
3. Martin Truex Jr
4. Kyle Larson
5. Kevin Harvick
6. Michael McDowell
7. Ryan Newman
8. Kurt Busch
9. Alex Bowman
10. Kyle Busch
11. Denny Hamlin
12. Austin Dillon
13. Ricky Stenhouse Jr
14. Chase Elliott
15. Daniel Suarez
16. Brad Keselowski
17. Ross Chastain
18. Chase Briscoe
19. Chris Buescher
20. Christopher Bell
21. Ryan Preece
22. Bubba Wallace
23. Cole Custer
24. Anthony Alfredo
25. Joey Logano
26. Justin Haley
27. Erik Jones
28. Matt DiBenedetto
29. Ryan Blaney
30. Aric Almirola
31. Garrett Smithley
32. Cody Ware
33. Josh Bilicki
34. BJ McLeod
35. Quin Houff
36. Corey LaJoie
37. James Davison
38. Timmy Hill