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February 22, 2024

Atlanta Turning Point: Daytona 500 fallout, trending story lines, news, more


cars race at Atlanta

Here’s what’s happening in the world of NASCAR with the Daytona 500 in the rearview mirror and the Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway right around the corner.

THE LINEUP ️

1️⃣ Will William Byron ride an early playoff spot to a second straight Championship 4?

2️⃣ Is Hendrick Motorsports going to be in a class of its own in 2024?

3️⃣ Don’t blame this on Ross at all’ after daring Daytona move

4️⃣ He’s won everywhere, man: Stats show Byron is a superstar

5️⃣ Catch the pack — news and notes from around the garage

william byron sprays champagne

1. Will William Byron ride an early playoff spot to a second straight Championship 4?

One of last year’s Championship 4 contenders is already destined to have a date with the 2024 NASCAR Playoffs after a thrilling Daytona 500 win.

One down, 15 to go. With Byron already penciled in as one of the 16 drivers that will compete for the 2024 Cup Series championship, it’s time to start prognosticating … even if the postseason won’t start for another, oh, seven months or so. Byron is notoriously known for his hot starts – and occasional midseason lulls – but him winning the 2024 Daytona 500 is a Big Deal™️.

There are a million wonderful aspects to it, but one part of the beauty of NASCAR’s biggest race is that anybody in the field can win. We’ve seen that happen with some one-hit wonders (Trevor Bayne, Derrike Cope, etc.), some veterans getting their crowning-achievement moment (Ward Burton, Austin Dillon) and even maybe the greatest driver of all time finding every way to lose one before finally cracking the code after 20 years of trying and frustration (Dale Earnhardt), but Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano are arguably the only championship favorites to win the race in the past decade.

Until now.

It’s possible there isn’t a driver in the sport with a faster-rising star than Byron, already a 10-time Cup Series winner entering his Age 26 season fresh off a Championship 4 appearance a season ago – a season in which he led the series in wins – before adding his first Harley J. Earl to the trophy case.

Let me be clear – this is terrible, crummy news for the rest of the field. All that excitement about what could be in store for 2024 – the championship field was wide open! – and then this guy goes out and puts a damper on it in one fell swoop. To make matters worse, he’s the most recent winner at Atlanta and enters the weekend as one of the favorites to do it again.

Byron and his longstanding relationship with crew chief Rudy Fugle has paid tremendous dividends in the Cup Series after the two were successful together in lower ranks. The two only continue to deepen that bond and get stronger race each race. And now they have 25 more pressure-free races to prepare for Byron’s 10-race sprint from September to November in search of his first title.

Tough break, everyone. Better luck next year.

Then again, there’s a reason trophies aren’t handed out before the checkered flag, and there’s a reason a champion isn’t crowned in February. Anything can happen from here.

But every driver wishes they were in Byron’s position.

rick hendrick in victory lane with team

2. Is Hendrick Motorsports going to be in a class of its own in 2024?

Byron off to a hot start is no surprise, but the rest of Hendrick’s stable of drivers have championship aspirations of their own.

You’d better get used to seeing Mr. H in a backward (or oversized) hat in Victory Lane this year.

His No. 24 Chevrolet’s massive Daytona 500 victory, while monumental, was not a shock. Byron is a former Daytona summer race winner and was already targeted as the championship favorite as voted on by NASCAR.com’s staff. It also won’t be a shock to see the rest of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates pile on plenty of 2024 wins and join him in the title talk.

Two of them – Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson – have won championships of their own this decade, while the other – Alex Bowman – just finished runner-up to Byron in the 500, is a seven-time Cup winner himself and was leading the points for a few weeks last season before a back injury derailed his Playoffs hopes.

In short, Rick Hendrick’s arsenal is loaded.

Mr. H never brings a bad lineup to the race track, but the pure talent level and stature within the sport of this current quartet feels about as formidable as early in the last decade when it also showcased a pair of superstar Cup champs, the sport’s other Most Popular Driver and a talented racer from out west that could pop off a win any given weekend.

We still have a whopping 25 regular-season races to sort out who the contenders and pretenders are, and we’ve seen comers and goers aplenty over the years. From everything we’ve seen so far and how 2024 is shaping up on paper, however, the Fab Four coming out of the Hendrick shop might just be that upper echelon of teams that the rest of the garage is chasing all year.

william byron shakes hands with chase elliott

3. Inside the Race: ‘Don’t blame this on Ross at all’ after daring – but unsuccessful – Daytona move for the win

The heat was quickly put on No. 1 driver Ross Chastain after what happened in the closing moments of the Daytona 500 – but should it have?

4. He’s won everywhere, man: Stats show Byron is a superstar

How much of a force is No. 24? Not only does he win … he wins big, he wins often and he wins on any kind of track type.

DateTrackTrack TypeStarting PositionLaps Led
8/29/2020Daytona International Speedway2.5-mile superspeedway624
2/28/2021Homestead-Miami Speedway1.5-mile intermediate31102
3/20/2022Atlanta Motor Speedway1.54-mile superspeedway12111
4/9/2022Martinsville Speedway0.526-mile short track5212
3/5/2023Las Vegas Motor Speedway1.5-mile intermediate2176
3/12/2023Phoenix Raceway1-mile short track364
5/14/2023Darlington Raceway1.366-mile intermediate47
7/9/2023Atlanta Motor Speedway1.54-mile superspeedway1819
8/20/2023Watkins Glen International2.45-mile road course266
9/24/2023Texas Motor Speedway1.5-mile intermediate186
2/19/2024Daytona International Speedway2.5-mile superspeedway184

5. Catch the pack — news and notes from around the garage

Power Rankings: No. 24 Byron begins 2024 in best way possible – with a Daytona 500 win

Paint Scheme Preview: See the schemes for Atlanta triple header

Analysis: With Daytona 500 win, William Byron forging own path with No. 24

Worth the wait: Byron the latest among drivers who won on Monday

Raw reaction: Rick Hendrick finds out his team just won the 2024 Daytona 500

@nascarcasm: Fake texts to Daytona 500 winner William Byron

Austin Hill wins third straight Xfinity Series opener at Daytona

Chastain: ‘I can go to sleep tonight knowing that I took the white flag, making the move to win the Daytona 500’

Kyle Petty: Bad blocks or great superspeedway racer? It depends

cars race at atlanta motor speedway

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