HAMPTON, Ga. — William Byron has won the last two races. But he doesn’t have much to show for it.
After practice last Friday at Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR confiscated louvers from each of the four Hendrick Motorsports cars. Despite that, Byron still won and all four HMS cars finished in the top 10.
On Wednesday, NASCAR levied historic L2 penalties to HMS. Each crew chief was suspended for four races and fined $100,000. The Nos. 5, 24 and 48 were docked 100 0wner’s points and driver’s points and 10 Playoff points. Because Josh Berry, who is replacing the injured Chase Elliot, isn’t eligible for driver’s points, the No. 9 was docked 100 owner’s points and 10 Playoff points.
Byron dropped from fourth to 29th in points and fell to just three Playoff points. He is, however, still locked into the Playoffs with the wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix.
“Certainly the points is something that we just adjust to,” Byron told the media on Saturday. “It’s early in the season. The cars are extremely fast. We obviously had the pace last week to win regardless, so I think that’s going to continue. I think with that pace, we’re just going to use that to our advantage to make up points.
“We didn’t intend on really relaxing after a win anyways this year. So I think going into the next however many weeks that we’ve got until the playoffs, we’re going to push really hard. I think we’re just going to give it everything, every week. We had a good week of preparation; lots of time in the sim, lots of time at the shop. Just excited for all of that to continue.”
Brian Campe, the technical director at Hendrick Motorsports, will replace Rudy Fugle through the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt weekend. Byron expects the transition will go smoothly.
“I work with him a lot in the shop through our competition meetings and spend a lot of time with him, so excited to have him on top of the pit box,” Byron said. “My engineer, Brandon McSwain, we’ve worked together since the JRM days in 2017. He was my engineer at JRM when we won the championship and he’ll be a bigger factor, bigger role, throughout the weekend. I’m excited for that because we know each other really well. We probably exchange texts about 10 times a week on the car, so excited to have him in a bigger role.”
Byron returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend as the defending winner. He won the race last spring in a 500-miler before crashing and finishing 30th in the summer 400-mile race.
It’s the second season racing at Atlanta in its new superspeedway-style configuration, but the first time the spring race is 400 miles.
“The groove is wide here because it’s drafting and you’re not at the edge of grip throughout the whole corner,” Byron said. “There are certain parts of the corner that you can be on edge of grip and have to lift, which I think is what we all like about it. It does have some element of having to drive because you are out of the gas. So I think that’s what’s cool about the new Atlanta.”
Byron will start Sunday’s Ambetter Health 400 from the 11th position. He said he isn’t letting the penalties affect his race-weekend approach.
“We have more to prove and we have more to go out there and accomplish,” Byron said. “I think that’s a dangerous thing, right? We’re going out there with a goal in mind; a specific goal to win every week. We’re going to keep pushing for that every single week.
“I really get excited about coming to the race track right now. I was just excited in the off-season with the group I know we have. So yeah if anything, it just shows that we’re not there yet.”