CONCORD, N.C. — After William Byron finished 12th last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, he didn’t really know where he was in points.
Officially, Byron sat 12 points below the cutline. But, hoped that would change.
Byron spun Denny Hamlin under caution late in the Round of 12 opener at Texas Motor Speedway. Subsequently, NASCAR issued a 25-point penalty and a $50,000 fine to Byron following the race.
Hendrick Motorsports appealed the penalty on Byron’s behalf, and after a hearing on Thursday, the National Motorsports Appeals Panel made an amendment. Byron would pay a $100,000 fine to NASCAR, but he kept his points.
Suddenly, Byron entered the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway 13 points above the cutline with a fresh outlook. That said, all he needed was a solid day to advance in the Playoffs.
After qualifying second, Byron kept his No. 24 Valvoline Chevrolet there the entire first stage, scoring nine much-needed stage points. He barely missed out on points in Stage 2, finishing 11th and keeping himself in contention.
Byron took four tires during the caution and restarted all the way back in 31st. He quickly improved to 20th and made it up to 16th with five laps to go, when NASCAR threw a caution for a sign on the track.
Byron pitted, and on the ensuing restart, he spun and suffered minor damage. The caution eventually came out for a car stopped on the track and Byron again pitted. After NASCAR Overtime, he improved five spots from 21st to 16th to advance to the Round of 8 for the first time in his career.
“Give enough room, try to not barrel it into the chicane and get hooked in the left or right rear,” Byron said about the final restarts. “Certainly, just not how you want to race there at the end, but it was just crazy racing with the green-white-checkered and the way that guys are able to get into each other, make contact, guys spin out and the track gets blocked. It just gets wild there at the end.
“We did what we needed to do, which was to get some stage points and finish the race.”
Byron heads into the Round of 8 sixth in points, three points below the cutline.
But, at one point this year, it looked like Byron could have trouble even making it out of the first round. After winning at Atlanta and Martinsville in the spring, Byron finished outside the top 10 in 17 of the next 18 races to finish the regular season on a sour note.
He quickly turned his misfortunes around at Darlington, recording finishes of eighth or better in each of the first three Playoff races to glide into the Round of 12.
And after some controversy with Hamlin, two finishes of 12th or better and key stage points at the ROVAL, Byron is now just one step away from the Championship 4 at Phoenix.
The NASCAR Cup Series kicks off the Round of 8 with the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 16 at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.