Steady at the wheel: William Byron notches ninth place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway
The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs moved to Bristol, Tennessee Sept. 16 for the final race of the Round of 16. William Byron, former Liberty University Online student and driver of the number 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet came into the weekend 41 points above the cutline after finishing fourth two weeks prior at Darlington Raceway and 15th at Kansas Speedway the previous week.
Despite forecasts of heavy rain threatening to postpone the race or end it early, Byron’s team came prepared for all 500 laps around the half-mile track, bringing a highly competitive race car to Bristol. Byron had a strong run in the Bass Pro Shops Night Race, with the success starting on Friday when he finished eighth fastest overall in practice and qualified third.
This momentum carried over into Saturday night, where he consistently ran inside the top five and top 10, rarely dropping below 10th position. He was able to gather important points in the first two stages, gathering seven stage points in stage one and three stage points in stage two, further increasing his advantage over the drivers on the cut line.
At the end of the day, Byron finished in the ninth position, gained 38 points total and comfortably advanced to the Round of 12.
“I’m really happy with a good 500 laps here. I felt like we could have had a little bit more today, but I’m happy with it,” Byron said after the race. “I think our Relay Payments Chevy was good tonight.”
Byron has had quite the season to this point, tallying five race wins, 10 top five positions, 15 top 10 positions and eight stage wins.
“We have a really good team from the crew chief and driver all the way down to us guys who pit the race car, road crew mechanics, guys at the shop, all the ladies and gentlemen who get the cars ready,” Jeff Cordero, front tire changer for the No. 24 team, said. “It’s been a great year for us.”
Throughout the year, Byron has also been widely regarded as one of the top championship favorites, despite finishing second in points to Martin Truex Jr. in the regular season. With the bottom four drivers of the Round of 16 being eliminated (Kevin Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Michael McDowell and defending champion Joey Logano), Byron is at the top of the points leaderboard and turns his attention to the Round of 12.
“I think we’ve got a good points position,” Byron said. “We need to try to keep getting bonus points but we just need to keep trying to run better (and) do a little bit better job of executing and we should be in good shape.”
Byron enters the Round of 12 with 3,036 points, tied with the No. 19 of Martin Truex Jr. and 25 points above the No. 1 car of Ross Chastain, who is currently the first driver below the cut line. The No. 24 team will now turn its focus to Texas Motor Speedway Sept. 23, and after that, Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte ROVAL road course — the three races that make up the Round of 12.
Porter Gibson is a sports reporter for the Liberty Champion