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William Byron's front bumper is the reason Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and others saw their 2024 Daytona 500 dreams go up in smoke.

It's also the reason he won Monday's rain-delayed "Great American Race" by the skin of his teeth.

"There [were] a lot of things taking place at that moment …" Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon said after Byron won a record-tying ninth 500 for HMS. "To me, that's just racing. That's just a product of this type of racing that happens."

Gordon was referring to NASCAR rules that limit horsepower on Daytona's 2.5-mile superspeedway. The restriction leaves 40 cars often superglued to each other inside the pack, using drafting to pass and win stock car racing's crown jewel.

But when Byron hooked up with teammate Alex Bowman on Lap 193, something went wrong on the backstretch. Bowman's bump sent the No. 24 sideways, hooking second-place Brad Keselowski into oncoming traffic in what became the most serious wreck of the day.

"We were making the pass for the lead with eight laps to go in the Daytona 500," Keselowski said. "That's all you can ask for … it just didn't work out."

His elimination set the stage for a Chevy fight to the finish with Hendrick teammates Bowman and Byron able to gang up on leader Ross Chastain. They blew past the No. 1 car on the final restart, and when Chastain tried to fight back heading to the white flag, he made contact in the tri-oval and spun out.

NASCAR tried to throw the caution as Bowman realized what was happening, dipping to the inside of Byron to take the lead.

He didn't make it, by literally the width of Byron's front bumper.

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"I didn't really know at that point [whether] we were the leader or not," Byron said. "But it was just a pretty incredible sequence of events.

"You just don't know how these races are going to end, and you have to try to put yourself in a great spot."

As NASCAR scrambled to confirm Byron stayed ahead of the No. 48, his crew became so overwhelmed they forgot to tell him. Finally, crew chief Rudy Fugle crying over the radio without explanation offered a clue.

"I was like, 'Dude I hope he's crying for a good reason,'" Byron joked. "But I guess he was. He was a ball of emotion there. I was still like, did we actually win or not, and then I think Branden [Lines, Byron's spotter] came on the radio and said that we were first."

That front bumper gave Byron the first Daytona 500 win for Hendrick Motorsports since Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2014, launching him to the forefront of the sport's most accomplished team to start 2024. Coming off a career-best six-win season, the hope for Byron is he's able to carve his own niche this year aside the sport's Most Popular Driver (Chase Elliott) and its most diverse (Kyle Larson).

"I'm the other guy …" Byron joked. "I don't know if I'll ever get that chip off my shoulder."

Maybe it'll help that Byron's now got a chip on the board those HMS teammates do not -- he's the only active driver on that roster with a Daytona 500 victory. Turns out that front bumper can make one heck of a difference.

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Green: Hendrick Motorsports. A runner-up finish for Bowman and 13 laps led for Chase Elliott (14th) could help catapult comebacks after a 2023 season sidelined by injuries. With Kyle Larson 11th, four top 15s in this wreck-filled 500 has to be considered a huge win.

Yellow: Bubba Wallace. A fifth-place finish for Wallace marks his third in the Daytona 500 in seven career starts. But you wonder how much better it could have been without another 23XI Racing pit road mistake; not enough fuel on the final green-flag stop forced Wallace to stop before the final restart, costing him valuable track position and a shot at the win.

Red: Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time champion struggled to make the 500 to begin with, needing a last-lap pass on a majorly underfunded team whose former driver accused of not paying his salary. Then, Johnson was hit by a spinning car five laps into the race, sidelining his bid to be the first active Hall of Famer turned Daytona 500 champion.

Speeding Ticket: Saving fuel. In a bizarre twist, drivers in the pack started turning superspeedway racing into a fuel mileage affair, trying to gain an edge on gas instead of fighting through a pack they can never separate from. It caused them to slow so much midrace a car running around by itself was gaining one or two seconds a lap on a draft that would typically pull away from them by three or four.

"The one run, we were running 51, 50 [percent throttle], way off the pace from what race pace is," Jones said. "I wish there was something we could do about it."

It felt like everyone was just waiting for after the final green-flag pit stop to turn up the action; the biggest wreck of the day came right after that. It puts NASCAR in a tough situation with a type of racing fans love but drivers hate due to their limited ability to control the outcome.


The last-lap move from Chastain gone wrong left drivers buzzing after the aftermath. The No. 1 car had a run in the tri-oval but couldn't make it work under Byron, taking out Austin Cindric in the process to force the race to end under yellow.

"I saw the white flag of the Daytona 500 and we were crossing it," Chastain said, unapologetic for his actions. "We had a run on the leader ... we did everything right, and I was just too aggressive with my turn left."

Cindric focused his anger on Corey LaJoie instead, who soldiered on to a fourth-place finish despite making contact and helping send the No. 2 around.

"Congrats," Cindric said sarcastically to LaJoie. "He tried to send a car where there wasn't a car, and just continued to push through my left rear until I wrecked … there's 39 other cars that would have maybe handled that situation a little better."