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2023 Top NASCAR Storylines: William Byron Scores 300th Win for Hendrick in Breakout Season

Ever since William Byron first climbed into Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 24 in 2018, the shadow of Jeff Gordon and the legacy of the team’s most successful number have loomed large.

With each passing year, Byron has been expected to finally realize the full potential of that car. In 2023, he has finally managed to do that — and in the grandest of fashion, scoring Hendrick’s 300th NASCAR Cup Series victory on the eve of the company’s 40th anniversary at Texas Motor Speedway.

Byron is only the latest in a long line of names that contributed to that achievement. The legacy of the No. 24 is proof of that alone, making his breakout season all the more noteworthy. His achievement sits atop an almost endless inventory of accomplishments.

Read all of Frontstretch‘s content looking back on 2023 here

This is a huge milestone considering the effect that Hendrick has had on the industry as a whole. It is no secret it is the most successful team in the 75-year history of the sport, now with 301 wins at the end of the 2023 season, following Kyle Larson‘s Las Vegas Motor Speedway victory.

To be the first to 300 wins means it will sit above the threshold alone for a sizable period because its closest active competitor, Joe Gibbs Racing, sits at 208 wins entering 2024.

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“Once we got to 269, then everybody started talking about 300,” team owner Rick Hendrick told journalists, including Frontstretch, after the 300th win. “We had a heck of a year in 2021, we won a lot of races, and we won 10 this year with the $1 million race. But it’s hard, and I’m not thinking about 350, I can tell you that. I’m going to enjoy 300.”

Many of the biggest names in NASCAR have built onto that number over time — including, but not limited to, Darrell Waltrip, Mark Martin, Kyle Busch, Terry Labonte and of course Geoff Bodine with his fateful first victory for the team in 1984 at Martinsville Speedway.

There have also been a number of extremely successful crew chiefs who have been a part of Hendrick. Chad Knaus has taken the top spot with 82 victories, making him the most successful in the modern era.

Then there are the drivers who have contributed to the bulk of the organization’s gargantuan win total and reached past milestones. Gordon grabbed the team’s 50th and 100th victories in 1996 and 2001, respectively, while Jimmie Johnson had taken over the mantle by 2007 when he won the 150th race for Hendrick en route to his second of five titles.

In 2012, the 200th victory was also won by Johnson. They contributed to a total of 176, making up over half of Hendrick’s win count alone.

The next driver to reach a milestone for the team, the 250th win, was Chase Elliott in 2018 with his maiden win at Watkins Glen International.

Fast forward to 2023. Historically, Byron had not been a frequent contributor to the win total, with Elliott and Kyle Larson making up the brunt of the output in recent years, Alex Bowman contributing as well. Byron had often been the fourth leg of the chair, and his leg was the one missing the felt pad. Once a perennial buzzkill with a top-five-lacking, 22.1-average-finish rookie season, he rose to one-win seasons in 2020 and 2021, followed by two victories in 2022. Better, but still not the flagship.

But in 2023, the narrative was flipped

He started the year off winning three of the first 15 events. This included two in a row, the first in an overtime victory at Las Vegas and then a key win at the championship venue, Phoenix Raceway.

It was not only Byron who was holding down the fort, though. At Richmond Raceway, Larson managed his first victory of the year, followed by Byron’s third of the season at Darlington’s throwback race. The Darlington win was also the 100th victory for the No. 24 in the Cup Series.

There was a fourth victory for Byron as well at a rain-shortened race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which kept the Hendrick summer slump at bay. Meanwhile, Larson kept momentum high with his Martinsville win, adding to the already impressive total at Hendrick’s winningest venue along with an exhibition victory in the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Though there was a small regression in performance, Byron kept the team’s season alive with a landslide win at Watkins Glen over Denny Hamlin, his strongest rival for the championship for most of the season. With this win, Byron had now won on every track type on which NASCAR currently races.

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They would carry that momentum into the postseason, when Larson secured his Southern 500 win.

Coming to the end of the Round of 12 at Texas, it looked like Larson would secure the 300th win for the team, until he got loose running on the outside of Bubba Wallace into turn 1. 

After a final restart that saw Wallace get loose himself out of turn 4 and Ross Chastain make a hard charge for the win, Byron instead ran away with the lead to win his sixth race of the season. As a result, he snagged the coveted 300th win for Hendrick.

In 2023, the No. 24 car has returned to the history books and at one of the team’s best tracks historically. To reach a number like 300 completely validates all of the struggles and tribulations the team has been through over the years as well as the hard work put in by the thousands that have contributed during the team’s tenure.

Larson went on to punch his ticket to the Championship 4, but in the end, neither Larson nor Byron managed to win the title in this historic season for the team. They finished second and third behind Ryan Blaney in the standings, coming up just short despite a set of excellent final pit stops.

Still, Byron managed to put up his career best in all statistics. He ended the season with 15 top fives, 21 top 10s and and an average finish of 11th alongside his six wins.

He has not quite lived up to the greatness that was Gordon in the infancy of his career, but it is at least hard to argue now that Byron has not lived up to the legacy and potential of the No. 24.

So what happens now?

Bowman can bounce back in 2024, and going forward Larson and Elliott will continue to rival each other for Hendrick’s top dog, continuously pushing each other to be better than the other.

As for Byron, he can move on with no remaining pressure on his shoulders, though it is never that simple for any driver — because the desire to win a championship will always be prevalent.

But it won’t be easy. There is intense competition from other teams, and Chevrolet is the last manufacturer to not have an updated Next Gen body as of this writing, so it is still up in the air. There will be heavy opposition from smaller teams such as Trackhouse Racing, Front Row Motorsports and 23XI Racing, all of which are rising fast and competing for wins more frequently. It’s only a matter of time before a juggernaut like Hendrick had a piece of their pie stolen.

For now, though, the team can rest easy during the offseason with the knowledge that it’s finally garnered that 300th win as a team — while its young star Byron has finally blossomed into the winner many thought he would be.

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