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NASCAR Cup Series

William Byron Vies for First Talladega Win, Starts 13th

William Byron

William Byron looks forward to battling for his first Talladega win in Sunday’s GEICO 500. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

LINCOLN, Ala. — The good times keep on rolling for William Byron ahead of Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

For starters, Byron won the 66th DAYTONA 500, the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at COTA and Cook Out 400 at Martinsville. Ranked fifth in points and on the heels of four consecutive top 10 results, Byron hopes to add to his winning ways in 2024.

Before taking on the 2.66-mile superspeedway for the 10th round of the NASCAR Cup Series season, Byron considered how to race the final laps at Talladega.

“I don’t think you can really think about when a wreck is going to happen,” Byron said in a team press release. “If Branden (Lines, spotter) says there’s a wreck about to happen or happening, then obviously the urgency goes up to get an inch more or two. It’s really about listening to what he says. He has such a great vision for what is happening and then seeing what the field is doing out the corner of his eye.

“I try not to think too much about it otherwise and rely on him to tell me. I just race like we’re coming all the way back to the checkered flag. If the caution comes out before that, it’s really just subjective and you deal with whatever happens. If you make a move too early, though, banking on a caution, you could finish somewhere like 10th because you lost momentum.”

Last year, Byron did not lose much momentum in his No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Talladega, finishing seventh after starting 18th last spring and placing runner-up to Ryan Blaney in last fall’s YellaWood 500. Notably, Byron has become something of a superspeedway specialist with five top 10 finishes in the past six superspeedway style races since last year’s GEICO 500.

Despite Byron’s steady success at NASCAR’s behemoth tracks, prior to this season, he sought for the comfort and confidence behind the wheel. As he observed late last year, his win at Atlanta last July may have been a turning point.

William Byron

William Byron qualified midfield in 13th for Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega. (Photo: Ricky Martinez | The Podium Finish)

“I haven’t personally felt that good at the superspeedways, but we’ve got the Atlanta win,” Byron said in a “Hot Seat” feature. “So, that was good. That’s kind of like a superspeedway. Talladega and Daytona are kind of its own beast.

“I feel like personally we’re maybe a little bit better at Talladega than we are Daytona. They’re tough, so we’ve got to show up prepared and hopefully do a good job.”

As Byron and any driver will tell fans and press, taking on drafting-style tracks is not solely on the drivers. It takes a village to succeed, from the crew chief and team preparing a good car at the shop, considering pit strategies to maximize track position and to extend fuel mileage in the late going.

Byron’s crew chief, Rudy Fugle, considered the fuel mileage aspect of superspeedway racing. During the 66th DAYTONA 500, particularly in Stage 1, the field decreased their pace dramatically to save fuel ahead of the finish for a scrappy, free for all for stage points.

“We probably have two or three plans that we try to work off of based on what happens,” Fugle said. “If you have caution-free stages, you’re trying to position yourself for that green-flag pit stop and where you are in the field at that point.

“No one wants to have fuel saving in a superspeedway race but that’s part of it though sometimes. Depending on how you’re starting a stage, whether you’re in the front or the back, it’s part of it.”

From Lines atop the spotters’ stand to Fugle crunching the numbers with his driver and team. all the preparation can be thrown out the window with an ill timed caution.

“If you get a caution at the wrong time, fuel savings may not matter but you may not have track position and are stuck in the back,” he said. “So many things play into it. It’s about give and take. You have to play out all the scenarios and give the driver as many tactics and strategies to put ourselves in the best position to manage the stages and win the race.”

Starting 13th, Byron, who has four drafting style victories in his resume, may be Sunday’s sneaky contender to quietly but confidently nab the GEICO 500 win at Talladega for Hendrick Motorsports.

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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