DARLINGTON REWIND: Heading into the first race of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs last Sunday, William Byron qualified third at Darlington Raceway. Showing speed early on, Byron eventually took over the lead in stage one and went on to pace the field for 50 laps while taking the stage win. Continuing to run within the top five, Byron was caught a lap down when the caution came out before green-flag pit stops fully cycled through on lap 277. Taking the wave around to get back on the lead lap, Byron used the remainder of the race to make up track position, reaching eighth by the time of the checkered flag – scoring the most points of any playoff driver in the race.
PLAYOFF CONTENDER: With one race complete and two to go in the Round of 16, Byron gained 25 points on the cutoff line in Darlington. That moves him up to second in the standings and now 32 points above the final transfer spot heading into Kansas Speedway.
UP FRONT: Byron continues to hold the statistic of leading the second-most laps so far this season with 662 behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott, who has led 719. Those 662 laps led by Byron are not only his most in a single Cup Series season but have come across 14 races.
1.5-MILE MOMENTUM: Byron is no stranger to success on mile-and-a-half tracks during his Cup Series career. Since the start of the 2021 season, Byron has two wins, one runner-up finish, five top-five finishes, and nine top-10s on 1.5-mile tracks. His nine top-10 finishes on that track configuration are tied with teammate Elliott for the fourth-most in the same time span. In fact, Byron is currently on an eight-race streak of races led on 1.5-milers that started back at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last fall. In 2022, the 24-year-old driver has collected 148 points on this style of track – the seventh-most in the field.
HOT START AT KANSAS: Right out of the gate, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native found success at Kansas in just his first two NASCAR national series starts at the 1.5-mile track. With one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start in 2016 and one NASCAR Xfinity Series start in 2017, Byron finished no worse than fourth in both events. In fact, in his debut at the intermediate oval in 2016 - just his fifth Truck Series start - Byron started from the top spot, led 34 laps and collected his first win in the series. That victory kickstarted the most successful season by a rookie in the history of the series.
MIDWEST MOJO: Aside from those first two starts, Byron has nine Cup Series starts at Kansas. While the driver of the No. 24 faced bad luck in his first three races, which included a mechanical failure, a late-race on-track incident and a pit road penalty, he has since turned that luck around. In his last six starts at the 1.5-mile track, Byron has collected one top-five finish and five top-10s. His five top-10 finishes within the last six races are tied for the second-most during that same stretch. The Kansas track is also where he has the most top-10 finishes in his Cup Series career (five) - tied with Martinsville Speedway and Pocono Raceway. Since the start of 2021, he has led 82 laps – third-most behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch.
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE KANSAS: Looking to make his fourth start as a Cup Series crew chief at Kansas, Rudy Fugle’s three races in the sport's top series at the Midwest track have resulted in two top-10 finishes and 82 laps led with the No. 24 team. Aside from those three Cup Series starts, the Livonia, New York, native has 12 previous starts at the 1.5-mile oval. In 10 Truck Series events, Fugle’s drivers have started from the top spot four times, led 391 laps, and collected two wins (2016 & 2018), five top-five finishes and six top-10s. His 2016 win came with Byron, who captured his first Truck Series win in just their fourth start together that season.
LIBERTY U IS BACK: For Sunday’s race at Kansas, Byron will climb behind the wheel of the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Featuring a white base with navy flames and red accents, the Liberty University No. 24 will be sure to stand out on track. Liberty University has a long history with Byron starting back in 2014 in the late model ranks. Liberty University has been Training Champions for Christ since it was founded in 1971. Located in the mountains of Central Virginia, Liberty is a liberal arts institution with 17 colleges and schools that offers more than 600 degree programs from the certificate to the doctoral level, on campus and online. Working on an undergraduate degree in strategic communication, Byron is now in his junior year at Liberty University through its online program.
William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on what he expects during Sunday's race at Kansas: "Honestly, Kansas (Speedway) might be the one track in the playoffs that I’m the most worried about. I feel like we know what to expect at place like Talladega (Superspeedway) or the (Charlotte Motor Speedway) ROVAL and other tracks we have already raced at this year so we have notes. We raced at Kansas in May and had speed, led laps early and then had a flat tire that damaged the underneath of the car. We kept going but the car never handled the same. That means we don’t have our own notes on how we expect the Next Gen car to handle throughout the run, etc. The good thing is we can lean on our teammates some and use our past mile-and-a-half notes as well. The good news is I like racing at Kansas, and it’s a place that both Rudy (Fugle) and I seem to have taken to really well. Hopefully, we can do what we did at Darlington (Raceway) last week, put together a solid points day and be there at the end to possibly lock ourselves into the next round."
Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on wanting to improve their mile-and-a-half track package: "We’re excited for the chance to continue to get better at mile-and-a -half tracks early on in the playoffs. We have Texas (Motor Speedway), Las Vegas (Motor Speedway) and Homestead (Miami Speedway) coming up even though Homestead is kind of it’s own animal. Having a solid race, stay in it all day long and try to get another building block to be competing for a win this weekend. And if we’re not, then to get to a point that we’re competing for the win at Texas. William (Byron) is great at Kansas (Speedway). We ran well there at the first race, led laps and had a flat left-rear tire land damaged the car. We should have won that race last year but we had a loose wheel late in the race. We came back to finish six after leading a bunch of laps. I love Kansas and I’m excited to get back there."
Fugle, on why he thinks Byron is good at tracks like Kansas: “Any time you have a lot of throttle time, William is really good at those tracks. Places like Texas (Motor Speedway), Michigan (International Speedway), Kansas (Speedway), places like that. He’s really good at keeping momentum up, using the throttle and running high speed. I think he’s a very underrated guy who runs against the wall. People don’t really think about him with that, but I think he does an amazing job at it. That’s what we’ll be doing for a lot of the run in Kansas. He’s also good at just driving underneath the tire. Kansas is a track that still has a lot of grip, but in the right condition if you overheat the tires, you go from a lot of grip to not a lot of grip really quick. That’s why you see the races spread out there in my opinion."