FROM SPEED51 - Matt Kentfield
William Byron may not win every race he runs, but when he does win, he does so convincingly.
For the second time in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East rookie season, Byron had the dominant car on his way to victory. Two months after a flag-to-flag victory in the K&N East race at Greenville Pickens Speedway in South Carolina, Byron led 174 of the 175 laps Saturday night in the Visit Hampton, Virginia 175 at Langley Speedway.
Paired with a divisional win in the East/West combination race at Iowa last month, Byron has proven to know his way to victory lane in his rookie season.
“I don’t think we unloaded any faster than anybody else, but (my crew) worked hard and I worked hard in the car to give them the right feedback and it was just the right feedback here,” said Byron.
Byron started on the outside pole alongside his HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks teammate Rico Abreu, who earned his first career K&N East pole award earlier in the day. From the drop of the green flag, Byron’s Liberty University No. 9 Chevrolet was in command.
Behind him, another HScott driver, Dalton Sargeant, was working his way to perhaps challenge, but Byron scooted away every time Sargeant got close. NASCAR officials credited Sargeant with the lead – by inches – on a lap 33 restart, but Byron was quickly back in front and led the rest of the way.
“It was tough,” added Byron. “We worked really hard in practice to get the car the way we needed it in the race to run 175 laps. I was a little bit worried there the first 50 laps because Dalton was really strong and he’s a great race car driver too. It was a tough race and I just gave it all I had all race.
A 91-lap green-flag run in the middle stages of the 175-lap event saw Byron have to make several evasive moves to get around slower traffic.
“Lapped traffic was really tough. I really had to think about what I was doing there. A couple times I got into the third groove just trying to pass three wide because there’s nowhere to go. I did about as good as I could’ve, but I’ll look back on the tape and try to work on a couple things.”
Even as fellow rookie Kyle Benjamin wrestled second away from Sargeant late in the race, Byron was long gone up front. He cruised beneath the checkered flag for his third win, which extended his series point lead.
The win was especially refreshing after a disappointing finish in the series’ most recent race at Bowman Gray (NC).
“We really had to turn around after Bowman Gray,” said Byron. “We were running for fourth and got into a little bit of contact and finished 15th. That was a huge bummer for me, but we bounced back tonight.”
Benjamin finished second with Sargeant third. Gray Gaulding qualified fifth, but had to start at the rear of the field after pitting on the pace laps to fix radio issues. Gaulding carved his way through the field to finish fourth at the checkered flag. Jay Beasley finished fifth.
The next NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race comes on July 4 at Ohio’s Columbus Motor Speedway.
Speed51.com will have more video coverage from tonight’s race with the launch of the 51 Network this Wednesday, June 24.