Starting Saturday night’s race at Daytona International Speedway from the second position due to the qualifying metric, William Byron jumped out to lead the first lap in the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. Byron continued to dice it up at the front of the field, regaining the lead multiple times as the field battled two-wide. Getting close to the competition caution on Lap 20, intensity picked up throughout the field, dropping Byron back to seventh by the time the yellow was displayed. Making a strategy call, crew chief Rudy Fugle called his driver down pit road under the yellow for fuel and a chassis adjustment to help aid in a loose Chevy. Restarting in 10th, Byron continued to run within the top 10 but opted to drop to the back of the pack when the aggression level rose, finishing Stage One in the 19th position. Still fighting a loose No. 24, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native came down pit road under the stage break for four tires and fuel.
Opting to top off on fuel before the field went back green, Byron came back down pit road before restarting from the 18th position for Stage Two. Despite wanting to gain track position, Byron maintained his position once within the top 15, waiting for the right time to make his move through traffic. However, once the caution came out on Lap 78, Fugle made the call to bring the No. 24 Liberty University Chevy down pit road for four tires and fuel. Lining up in 19th after his pit stop, Byron went back to work methodically working his way through the field. With under five laps to go in Stage Two, Byron began his final surge, reaching the third position in the closing laps by the time the green-checkered flag was displayed. Liking the handling of his Chevy, Byron came down pit road under the stage break for two right tires and fuel only to win the battle off pit road.
Electing to take the high lane for the start of the final stage, Byron battled for the lead but was ultimately shuffled back to second with 55 laps to go. Still biding his time, the 23-year-old driver continued to run within the top-15 running order as laps wound down and some cars elected to make green-flag pit stops. Byron continued to run on track until the caution came out on Lap 141. Coming down pit road under the yellow, Byron came to the attention of his Liberty University team for four tires and fuel. Lining up in 23rd with 16 laps to go, Byron began making his through traffic to the front of the field. However, while racing in the high lane on Lap 146, Byron was collected in an on-track incident that ultimately ended his night early in the 37th position.
QUOTING WILLIAM BYRON
TOUGH NIGHT TONIGHT. TOUGH END TO THE REGULAR SEASON, BUT STILL IN THE PLAYOFFS. WHAT’S THE OUTLOOK GOING INTO DARLINGTON?
“Just reset. Tonight was going OK. I thought we were kind of biding our time to the end and tried to put ourselves in a good position. We had pretty good momentum on the top to make something happen and just got cleaned out. That’s part of it; part of racing. We’ll go onto Darlington and reset for the Playoffs.”
WHAT DID YOU SEE IN ALL THAT?
“It looks like I was just one row short of getting through it. I was basically with the No. 9 (Chase Elliott) and the No. 19 (Martin Truex) came up the track all of a sudden…yeah, just got off-center and got loose; the No. 19 did. We were the meat in the sandwich there. That’s just how it goes sometimes.”
“I thought we were having an OK night. We were third in Stage 2 and got some Stage points. And then, just trying to get back to the front and just nowhere to go. We’ll go onto Darlington and get ready for the Playoffs.”
THE RACING WAS DIFFERENT TONIGHT. WHAT WAS THE FEELING BEHIND THE WHEEL AND IN THE PACK?
“The lanes were really tight so there wasn’t a lot of room to make a gap. You just kind of basically got pushed into the next guy in front of you. So, it was kind of like bumper cars out there. And just bumper car your way to the front and hope you can kind of control the lane. We were able to control the lane early, and then we never really got the right position to do so again. So, it was just kind of like bumper cars out there.”
MORE SO THAN USUAL?
“Yeah, I think so. More so than usual just because, I don’t know exactly why. I don’t know if it was the less horsepower or the wicker off the back. But it seemed like you could never kind of get separation and get pushed out, so you were just kind of always being pushed back to the guy behind you. I think there was a half a lap I pushed the No. 3 car (Austin Dillon) and so, it was just all strategy to try to put yourself in the right spot.”
WITH THIS IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR, ARE YOU READY FOR THE PLAYOFFS?
“Absolutely. We’re excited. We finished fourth at Darlington in the Spring, and I feel like we’ll have a good car there. So, I’m excited for the first round.”
THE NEXT RACE
TRACK: DARLINGTON RACEWAY
DATE: SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2021
TIME: 6 P.M. ET
TUNE-IN: NBCSN, SIRIUSXM, MRN