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NASCAR Cup Series

William Byron Seeks Spring Richmond Victory, Starts 13th

William Byron

William Byron enters Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond as the most recent Cup series winner. (Photo: Daniel Rankin | The Podium Finish)

RICHMOND, Va. — Following a masterclass victory last Sunday at Circuit of the Americas, it is safe to say that William Byron is a man on a mission ahead of Sunday night’s race at Richmond Raceway.

The 26-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina native, prepares for 12th start at the 0.75-mile short track. However, it is safe to say it has not been his strongest venue int he NASCAR Cup Series.

With one top-five and two top 10 results, Byron’s average finish at Richmond is 15.9. Last April, he was in position to capture a victory at “The Action Track” before late race contact with Christopher Bell in Turn 1 relegated him to a 24th place finish.

Then, in the summer race, like the Hendrick Motorsports organization, Byron struggled mightily with pace and handling, placing 21st and a lap down to winner Chris Buescher.

In concert with the recently debuted short track and road course package, aimed to promote more passing opportunities, Byron acknowledged some of the challenges he and crew chief Rudy Fugle faced earlier this month at Phoenix.

“I don’t really know… like no, we don’t really focus on the package that much, in terms of how it changes our preparation,” Byron stated. “I think we maybe overestimated the difference there at first, so honestly we’re just trying to do the same things and just adapt to whatever the handling issues are.”

Regardless of the complexities with NASCAR’s latest measures to bring the racing back into the drivers’ hands on the short tracks, Byron was blunt with his thoughts.

William Byron

In the words of “The Rock,” for William Byron and short track packages used at Richmond, it does not matter. (Photo: Daniel Rankin | The Podium Finish)

“A lot of people have asked me – is it easier to pass? Is it harder? I don’t really care,” he admitted. “I just want my race car to go fast. So that’s all I care about. I just want us to be faster than everybody else. The fast guys can usually pass people.”

In other words, Byron is not too worried about his No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1’s potential on Sunday night. While he starts 13th for the 400-lap race, the seventh round of the Cup season, he knows it will be about being proactive with making the right chassis changes as the track evolves from dusk to nightfall.

“Yeah, I mean we really don’t know what it’s going to be like,” he said. “We have a notebook from 2018 and 2019, to just look back on what the track did. But it’s really hard to know with this car. It has very different traits. I feel like it’s going to be a learning curve throughout the race.

“The race is going to start at 7 p.m., so you’re going to be in some daylight for the beginning stage and then it’ll kind of transition. So it’s just going to be about trying to keep up with the track. But I’m excited it’s a night race. I think short-tracks belong under the lights. It’s exciting to see the rotors glow. If there’s contact and things, it’s a little more exciting, I think.”

All in all, the season is off to an ideal start for Byron with two wins, two top fives and three top 10s, good enough to rank sixth in the championship standings. Sure, Byron and Fugle have work to do to improve upon their short and long run pace.

William Byron

Once a football player in fifth grade, William Byron has the ideal game face and approach for Sunday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond. (Photo: Daniel Rankin | The Podium Finish)

Then again, it would be foolish to think both are satisfied with the 19th fastest time overall and 17th quickest effort in a 10-lap consecutive average.

Beyond Sunday night’s race, there is some motivation awaiting next weekend at Martinsville Speedway. Mainly, the paperclip shaped track hosts the organization’s 40th anniversary weekend in which Geoff Bodine won the team’s first Cup race.

“The 40th anniversary – I’m really excited for it,” Byron said. “I’m excited for our Martinsville scheme that we have. I think it looks amazing. I saw it in the shop this week and feel really excited for that race, in general. We’ll have a lot of Hendrick Motorsports employees and family members out there, so I know it’ll be a huge deal.”

Editor’s Notes

Jasmine Sharpe contributed to this article onsite at Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Virginia.

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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