With a disastrous qualifying effort of 29th earlier Sunday, Byron had his work cut out for him for a good finish. At the end of Stage 2, the No. 24 team finished ninth. He had a close call with his teammate Jimmie Johnson at the beginning of Stage 3 but fortunately carried on and wound up with a fourth-place effort.
“It was a good run for us,” Byron said to PRN Radio. “We obviously got the damage early on pit road. I was really surprised how well the car ran. I think we could have been even better with less damage but should’ve, could’ve, would’ve, we still ended up fourth and really happy with that. Just grinded it out and had a good day. It was a lot of wild starts, a lot of wild things going on. I was fortunate to hang on.”
Byron will be seeded 13th in the playoff grid.
Like Byron, Denny Hamlin and his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota had a poor qualifying outing of 33rd Sunday morning but had to start from the back due to an engine problem in practice. However, he worked his way through the field hoping to give Joe Gibbs Racing another crown jewel win. Hamlin finished eighth in Stage 1 but did not record a top-10 finish in Stage 2.
He was unable to lead a lap, but with four wins, Hamlin is playoff-bound and is ready to pursue the championship.
“I thought we had a second-place car but these cars and the track is such a hard combination together,” Hamlin said to PRN Radio. “We just couldn’t get the track position. Whoever was out front just had a tremendous advantage and that’s why the 4 (Harvick) controlled the race and everything worked out for them.”
“We got to get a little bit better, not going to a backup car, blowing tires and things like that. Certainly, we had to go to the back in most races. This is another great rebound for us.”
Hamlin is seeded second in the playoff points grid.
Kyle Larson and his No. 42 team were not so lucky after a crash on Lap 130 which eventually took him out of the race. He wound up in 33rd place. Despite the finish, the Chip Ganassi driver is making the Playoffs once more in his career.
“I feel good,” Larson said to PRN Radio about the playoff run. “Our cars have been really good here the past couple of months. Been extremely happy about that and our car today especially. I hate that I made the mistake there and spun, but overall, proud of the team and the cars we been bringing to the track lately.”
Larson finished second in both stages and will be seeded ninth in the standings.