Byron Eliminated From Nascar Playoff Contention
An 11th-place finish in the Bank of American ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway eliminated William Byron from the NASCAR playoffs despite leading a race-high 30 laps.
With Byron essentially in a must-win situation, Crew Chief Rudy Fugle elected to go for a strategy that neglected stage points and focused solely on putting Byron in a position to win the race by pitting him just before stages one and two ended. The strategy vaulted Byron to the lead when the final stage started on lap 54.
Byron pulled away from the field by as many as three seconds but was given a fight by the No. 8 car driven by Tyler Reddick. Byron still held on to about a one second lead, but everything around him began to unravel.
His teammate, the No. 9 car driven by Chase Elliot, raced around the track with his rear bumper hanging off the car from a crash he was involved in on lap 56. NASCAR elected not to black flag him and force him down pit road, and the bumper flew off the car causing a debris caution with 23 laps to go.
Fugle elected to bring Byron down pit road for fresh tires, but Byron came out sixth behind those who had not pitted. Byron used his fresh tires to his advantage by bullying his way through the field into third place behind Reddick. With 19 laps to go, Byron passed Reddick down the backstretch, but Reddick bumped Byron heading into the backstretch chicane. The contact sent Byron sideways, and he was forced to stop briefly after missing the turn.
However, Byron refused to give in, using two late race cautions in the final 17 laps to work his way back into third place. In a must-win situation, Byron gave everything he had, but he overshot a turn in the infield portion of the course, which sent him into the wall. Byron would get his car back going and would limp home in 11th place.
In heartbreaking fashion, Byron’s championship dreams had come to an end after the round of 12. He can still finish as high as fifth in the point standings, and he has a realistic shot of having a career-high points finish (current high is 11th in 2019).
Byron will compete next in the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Oct. 16 at 2 p.m. on NBC. Byron has a career high finish of sixth there in the spring of 2019, and he finished seventh in the All-Star Race there in June.
Texas Motor Speedway was built in 1997 and has hosted the Cup Series at least once a year since then. It underwent a controversial reconfiguration in 2017 by lowering the banking from 24 degrees to 20 degrees in turns one and two, widening the track.
Lipowski is a sports reporter. Follow him on Twitter at @jlipowski18.