Miami Cup takeaways: Familiarity breeds success for William Byron, Rudy Fugle


Last December, as he settled into his new role as crew chief for William Byron at Hendrick Motorsports, Rudy Fugle said his main goal was learning how Cup cars worked after spending eight years in the Trucks with Kyle Busch Motorsports.

As that process continues, Fugle has leaned on his past experience with Byron from their 2016 season together at KBM. That year, they earned seven wins.

Now, they’ve got one together at NASCAR’s top level after Byron dominated the final stage to win Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“(Familiarity) helped us, especially because of the fact that I’m new to the Cup Series,” Fugle said. “What I brought was a knowledge of William.

“…  I knew him, I knew how to push his buttons, I knew how to motivate him, and that helped buy me some time to learn these Cup cars that I don’t know yet, so I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Fugle took over the No. 24 crew chief role for Chad Knaus, who is now Hendrick Motorsports’ vice president of competition after guiding Byron in 2019 and 2020.

When Knaus moved into his new position, Byron knew that having someone on the same wavelength was essential.

“Obviously, you have to back it up with results … But I think the results come when you have people like that to work with,” Byron said. “You think on the same page, and somebody who puts that kind of effort in.

“(Rudy) puts a lot of effort in, but he’s obviously very intelligent. I feel like for me, it goes back to the Truck days and what we did there and the feelings that I had in those race cars and the things that I wanted to have in my Cup car and the feelings there.

“He’s really leaned heavily on (No. 9 crew chief) Alan Gustafson and all the crew chiefs at HMS to get up to speed and we have the best resources out there, so it’s all about making the most of them.”

Both Byron and Fugle made it clear that Knaus is one of those resources.

While their past history together certainly helped, so too has Knaus’ role in building the No. 24 team for the future.

“Chad prepped William to get to this point,” Fugle said. “I could not have done that three years ago. I couldn’t have prepped to learn how to work on Cup cars and prepped William, and then he built a great team. Not one other person has been changed out on this race team.

“I came in, and this was an amazing race team. We’ve got all the right pieces, and like I said, William said, they’re young and they’re ready and we should be here for a while. We should be able to go and do the right things, so, super exciting.”

Now, the task turns to making Byron a threat to win on a weekly basis.

“In the playoffs – to win a championship, you have to win a lot of races, so we have to learn how to do that now and get used to that to be able to contend for a championship,” Fugle said. “We’re not a championship team yet, but over the next 20-some weeks we’re going to become one, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

Rough restart costs Reddick

Tyler Reddick
Tyler Reddick charged in the final 60 laps of Sunday’s Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway to finish second, but an ill-fated restart may have cost him a shot at the win. (Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Entering Sunday, Tyler Reddick was tabbed as a prime candidate for continuing the trend of first-time Cup winners to open the season. Reddick earned two Xfinity titles at Miami in 2018 and 2019 thanks in part to his ability to make speed everywhere on the 1.5-mile oval, particularly around the top.

That ability was on display in the closing laps. Taking full advantage of a car that came to life as day turned to night, Reddick went toward the front and ultimately finished in second place.

But if not for the day’s final restart with 60 laps to go, Reddick may have gotten to the lead and stayed there.

He lined up seventh for that restart, but through Turns 1 and 2, Kurt Busch and Cole Custer nearly got together ahead of him.

That seemed to blunt Reddick’s momentum. He ended up losing four spots and was 11th when he returned to the start/finish line.

Following the race, Reddick pointed to that restart as to what kept him from challenging for the win.

“Just because I knew that it was going to take a well executed restart, which unfortunately I didn’t do the last two, three – maybe it was four or five spots,” he said. “Five too many. It takes time to get back around those cars. They’re good drivers, they know what they’re doing, and that’s just the difference.

“… When you see how much faster you were than the guys in front of you and you know you’re running out of time, it gets frustrating. Really, if you go back and look at one or two things, that would have changed the outcome.”

Another thing that could have? Having a faster car in the day to help him move quicker from 35th on the grid.

Reddick called the lack of speed at that time “odd,” but noted he had faced the same problem in Saturday’s Xfinity race. He took the checkered flag second on Saturday, but was disqualified after his car failed rear heights in post-race inspection.

“I feel like that helped me be able to kind of explain to the team and believe that as it transitioned into night, we were going to get better, so that was a positive,” Reddick said. “Unexpected, but that helped us get through it.

“We weren’t trying to be conservative. We brought what we thought was a really good race car. It showed up at the end, but it wasn’t there to begin with.”

Newman in the lead pack

Prior to Sunday, Ryan Newman‘s last top 10 finish outside the superspeedways had been a seventh-place finish in the 2019 season finale at Miami.

Newman equaled the result at the same track, making his own contribution to a solid afternoon for Roush Fenway Racing that included Chris Buescher winning the first stage and leading a career-high 57 laps before finishing 19th.

Newman hovered around the top 10 for the first half of the race, until the one-lap dash to end the second stage saw him shuffled from eighth to 17th.

Following pit stops, he restarted the final stage in 21st but methodically rose up the scoring pylon. He re-entered the top 10 early in the 60-lap green flag run to the finish.

“More than anything, I’m glad and excited for a good run – it’s what we needed,” Newman said. “Our guys have been working extra hard all offseason, and to come down here and collectively show what we were able to do says a lot about the progress we’ve made.

“We still have work to do yet, but I’m happy with a top 10.”

Another recovery for KB1

Kurt Busch’s solid run on Sunday appeared to go south with 40 laps to go.

After reporting a vibration on his car early in the green-flag run to the finish, he was forced to pit from fourth place for a loose wheel.

But while his chances of winning went away, his long-run speed didn’t. With fresher tires at his disposal, Busch climbed from outside the top 25 to finish eighth.

It was his second recovery drive in as many weeks. Last week on the Daytona road course, Busch spun while leading mid-race and came back to finish fourth.

Now up to sixth in the standings, Busch heads home to Las Vegas, where he won the Round of 12 playoff opener last year.

NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron, Kyle Busch rank 1-2


Kyle Busch moved closer to the top spot after his win Sunday at WWT Raceway, but William Byron keeps hold of No. 1 after another top-10 run.

The series heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend, the second race of the season on a road course.


(Previous ranking in parenthesis)

1. William Byron (1) — He goes into Sonoma with six consecutive top-10 finishes after his eighth-place result at WWT Raceway. Byron has led a series-high 717 laps this season.

2. Kyle Busch (4) — Recorded his third win of the season Sunday. He is tied with Byron for most wins this year. Busch scored 59 of a maximum 60 points and won his first stage of the year Sunday. He has 16 playoff points. Only Byron has more with 17 this season.

3. Kyle Larson (3) — His fourth-place finish continued his up-and-down season. In the last nine races, Larson has two wins, four top fives, a 20th-place result and four finishes of 30th or worse. He has led 588 laps this season, which ranks second this year to Byron.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (2) — His fifth-place finish is his sixth top 10 in the last eight races. He ranks third in laps led this year with 383.

5. Denny Hamlin (7) — Runner-up result at WWT Raceway is his fourth top 10 in the last seven races.

6. Ryan Blaney (10) — Followed Coca-Cola 600 win with a sixth-place run at WWT Raceway. He had an average running position of 2.6 on Sunday, second only to winner Kyle Busch’s average running position of 1.9.

7. Joey Logano (9) — Third-place finish is his second top 10 in the last four races.

8. Kevin Harvick (NR) — His 10th-place finish is his fourth consecutive finish of 11th or better.

9. Ross Chastain (6) — Lost the points lead after placing 22nd, his third consecutive finish outside the top 20.

10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (NR) — Headed for his eighth top 15 in a row until he was collected in a crash after the contact between Austin Cindric and Austin Dillon late in Sunday’s race.

Dropped out: Chase Elliott (5th), Tyler Reddick (8th)

NASCAR will not penalize Austin Cindric for incident with Austin Dillon


Despite Richard Childress and Austin Dillon saying that Austin Cindric intentionally wrecked Dillon late in Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway, NASCAR will not penalize Cindric.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that there would be no penalty to Cindric after reviewing the contact.

Dillon and Childress were upset about the incident, which brought out the caution on Lap 220 of the 243-lap race. Dillon said NASCAR should suspend Cindric for the contact, just as NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for hooking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.

Contact between the left front of Cindric’s car and the right rear of Dillon’s car sent Dillon up the track into Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Dillon finished 31st. Cindric continued and placed 13th.

Dillon told “I was wrecked intentionally by (Cindric), hooked right just like Chase and Denny and Bubba’s deal (in wrecking Kyle Larson at Las Vegas in 2022). He better be suspended next week.”

Childress said: “(Dillon) had drove up to about 10th until (Cindric) wrecked him in there on purpose, sort of a payback.”

Sawyer said a review of the incident included viewing video and data.

“We didn’t see anything — and haven’t seen anything — that really would rise to a level that would be a suspension or a penalty,” Sawyer said. “It looked like hard racing. One car coming up a little bit and another car going down.

“As we said last week, we take these incidents very serious when we see cars that are turned head-on into another car or head-on into the wall. I spent a lot of time (Monday) looking at that, looking at all the data, looking at TV footage and just deemed this one really hard racing.”

Sawyer said NASCAR plans to talk to both Cindric and Dillon “to make sure we’re all in a good place as we move forward to Sonoma.”



Seven Cup drivers entered in Xfinity race at Sonoma


Kyle Larson is among seven Cup drivers entered in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

The race marks the first time the Xfinity Series has competed at the California road course. Teams will get 50 minutes of practice Friday because this is a new event on the schedule. That additional time will give those Cup drivers more laps on the 1.99-mile road course.

MORE: Sonoma Xfinity entry list

Here is a look at what Xfinity rides the Cup drivers will pilot this weekend:

The race is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.

The ARCA Menards Series West also is competing this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Cup driver Ryan Preece is entered in that event. Xfinity drivers Cole Custer, Riley Herbst, Sammy Smith and Parker Retzlaff also are entered in that race, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday.


Winners and losers at WWT Raceway


Winners and losers from Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway:


Kyle BuschWins the pole, leads the most laps and holds the field off over the last five restarts to win the race. He scored six playoff points, giving him 16 on the season, second only to William Byron’s 17. Busch left Joe Gibbs Racing after last season for Richard Childress Racing. Busch’s three wins this year equals what JGR has done so far.

Ryan BlaneyHis sixth-place finish moved him into the points lead. He last led the points after the spring 2022 Richmond race. Blaney also won a stage Sunday to collect another playoff point. He has seven this season.

Kyle LarsonFourth-place finish was a big turnaround after struggles earlier in the race. It has not been easy for this team the last few weeks. He has three top-five finishes and four finishes of 20th or worse in the last seven races.

Daniel SuarezHis seventh-place finish moved him up two spots to 16th in the standings, the final playoff transfer spot at this time.


Ross ChastainHe finished 22nd for his third consecutive result outside the top 20. He entered the weekend leading the points and fell to fifth afterward. He is 29 points behind new series leader Ryan Blaney with 11 races left in the regular season.

Tyler ReddickRebounded from an early spin to lead but had his race end after a brake rotor failed. He was one of four drivers eliminated by brake rotor failures. The others were Carson Hocevar, Bubba Wallace and Noah Gragson.