William Byron is heading to the playoffs for the second time in his career.
Byron took the lead on a green-white-checker restart and held off multiple challenges over the final two laps to get the first Cup Series win of his career at Daytona on Saturday night.
Byron found himself mired deep in the field with less than 20 laps to go after he pitted for fresh tires during a caution. That turned out to be a great call. Byron was third before the pit stop and the team decided that fresh tires were worth the track position he had given up.
They were right.
Matt DiBenedetto and Clint Bowyer also qualified for the playoffs Saturday night. Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and Erik Jones both missed as they were involved in crashes.
Jones crashed out of the race on lap 151 when Tyler Reddick passed Kyle Busch for the lead. Reddick tried to move up in front of Busch and, well, he might not have been clear. Busch tried to check up to allow Reddick to get in front of him and ended up in the wall and chaos happened behind. Jones was running third at the time to Busch and Reddick when the wreck happened.
Johnson made it a few more laps. Joey Logano passed Denny Hamlin for the lead with two scheduled laps to go. As Logano got in front of Hamlin, Bubba Wallace made a move for the lead on the outside. Hamlin bumped Logano’s car into Wallace’s and the field continued into turn 1 unscathed for a few seconds before all hell broke loose.
Johnson was in the middle of that hell. He was positioned to make the playoffs without the crash, but he ended up finishing 17th as Byron got an automatic playoff berth with the win and DiBenedetto finished 12th.
Byron escaped that crash and restarted second when the race resumed. He pulled ahead of Denny Hamlin and then kept everyone else at bay.