Eyes On Byron: Byron Takes First Place At Martinsville Speedway
William Byron led 212 laps at Martinsville Speedway April 9 en route to his fourth career Cup Series win, a win dedicated to his mother.
Byron started in fifth place, and but quickly vaulted his way into second place by the end of stage one. Byron elected to play the waiting game, hanging in second behind teammate Chase Elliot for all of stage two.
When stage two ended, Byron’s chance to take the lead came in the pits. A stellar pit stop by Byron’s crew gave Byron the lead, and he drove away from the field leading 201 of the next 207 laps.
With a win seemingly guaranteed, a caution came out with seven laps to go for Todd Gilliland getting into the wall. Under the caution, Crew Chief Rudy Fugle elected to have Byron stay out on old tires. Luckily, so did most of the drivers behind him.
“I thought everyone behind us would pit,” Byron said after the race to Fox Sports’ Regan Smith. “Luckily we stayed out, and we were aggressive.”
The race went into a two lap NASCAR overtime, and Byron had Joey Logano hot on his heels. Byron was able to get a good restart, however, and hold off Logano for the victory.
“You got one of the most aggressive guys behind you in Logano,” Byron said. “I chattered the tires in three and four (with two laps to go) and left the bottom open, but I was able to block my exits and get a good drive off.”
Byron was quick to dedicate his victory to his mother after the race. He mentioned to Smith during the post-race interview that his mother suffered a mini-stroke a year ago, and she was later diagnosed with brain cancer. One year later, she was on the pit box with Byron’s father Bill cheering Byron to a victory.
“I felt like she was riding with me,” Byron said. “It’s been a crazy year, but she’s doing great.”
With the win, Byron became the first driver this season to win multiple races. With the two victories, plus two stage wins, Byron holds a series high 12 playoff points, which will be applied prior to the first playoff race at Darlington in September.
Byron will race next in the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee, April 17 at 7 p.m. on FOX. Despite little experience on dirt, Byron finished sixth in this race last season. This is the second running of the Dirt Race and the first time it has been held at night.
Lipowski is a sports reporter. Follow him on Twitter