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William Byron Vies for Championship 4 Spot

William Byron starts 16th for Sunday’s Xfinity 500 at Martinsville while pursuing a Championship 4 spot. (Photo: Nathan Solomon | The Podium Finish)

RIDGEWAY, Va. — After a less than ideal qualifying session on Saturday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway, William Byron is focused forward on capturing a Championship 4 spot.

Although the usually composed 25-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina native was a bit short with words after qualifying, he had reasons to be frustrated. For starters, it has been a warmer than usual weekend at the 0.526-mile short track in Southwest Virginia.

Then, there is the pressure to make the Championship 4 with Sunday’s Xfinity 500. The six-time 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season winner has his work cut out for him with his 16th starting position.

From jump street, Byron cut to the chase as to his Saturday struggles at the paperclip shaped track.

“I hate to be blunt, but it’s not me,” Byron said. “The tires are chattering. One time it was front. One time it was rear. I’m not missing corners. So it’s just we haven’t had the balance.”

To Byron’s point, as difficult as Saturday’s on track session was for him and his No. 24 PODS Chevrolet Camaro ZL 1 team, he realizes most of the task at hand will be in the driver’s seat and his steering wheel for at least 500 laps on Sunday afternoon.

“I just got to do my job, and we did a pretty good job,” he said. “We had a decent practice and we just can’t qualify at this specific track. Lately, we’ve been right there on the edge of the bubble.

“I mean we just got to look at at what our race balance was (and) what we need in our car. I thought we were a solid, solid car in race trim. And we just got to look at that and see what we need to improve.”

Perhaps the one luxury Byron will not have on race day will be the temperatures. Although it will be mostly sunny skies for the Xfinity 500, the Hendrick Motorsports racer is finding that summertime has not quite left in the middle of an autumn weekend.

After a frustrating Saturday, William Byron intends to be at his best game face mode for his No. 24 PODS Chevrolet Camaro ZL team. (Photo: Nathan Solomon | The Podium Finish)

“Yeah, it’ll be warm for sure. I mean, I’m sweating, so it’ll be warm. It was like 83 today. I think it’ll be 80 tomorrow. So hopefully tire wear is a factor and hopefully there’s comers and goers and we can move around the track and and pass people.”

Above all else, the 2022 Martinsville spring race winner knows he cannot hold back, a kind of approach that has served him well more times than not this year.

“I mean, just try to drive as hard as I can every lap and see where that puts us,” he said. “I mean, I can’t do much more than I’ve already done all year. You know, we’ve we’ve won a lot of races and we’ve had the best average finish. So we do a good job throughout the races. So I’m not worried about our execution of of driving.”

Naturally, drivers and crew chiefs do not want to consider the potentials that have yet to be realized much like a pitcher in the midst of a perfect game. Nevertheless, he is hip to the possibility of making some history for his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.

“I haven’t thought about that, but it’d be cool,” he said. “It’s different that I’m from Charlotte. Everyone else moves here basically, or lives in Mooresville. So it’s cool that I’m kind of a native to Charlotte.”

Race Date Event Name Start Pos Finish Pos
Apr. 16, 2023 NOCO 500 8 23
Oct. 30, 2022 Xfinity 500 25 7
Apr. 9, 2022 Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 5 1
Oct, 31, 2021 Xfinity 500 11 5
Apr. 10, 2021 Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 3 4
Averages 10.4 8

Discipline has been part of Byron’s modus operandi over the years. Even if some of his frustration carried over once he got out of his No. 24 car, he pointed out that he was in game face mode.

“It’s kind of always been my MO. I feel like I definitely get fired up, but it’s in short spurts and I kind of let it go quickly after,” Byron said. “So for me, I’ve always felt like that’s the best way I can perform and not let emotion get get in the way of the execution piece.

“I think once you kind of get in those moments, I feel like for me, just the just the feel of the race car and staying kind of in the moment is the biggest thing,” he said. “So for me, it’s just try to try to stay focused on what I’m what I’m doing and the task, and that keeps me pretty locked in and kind of allows me to perform the best.”

Likewise, he and crew chief Rudy Fugle realize they cannot fester over the possibilities they did not execute on for qualifying. That kind of pondering did not get them this far to be in a position to make the Round of 8, much less, to challenge for a Championship 4 spot.

Before William Byron can consider making history for his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, he must advance to the Championship 4. (Photo: Jared Bokanoski | The Podium Finish)

“I think, eventually, you’ve got to get over qualifying,” he said. “I just came off the track so it. Eventually you have to think about the task and what the race is going to be like. And we’re going to have some work to do. I mean, we were sixth in our group, but that could be 15th, 16th or worse. So we’ll have some work to do for sure.”

Once the green flag is unfurled by the official for Sunday’s race at Martinsville, it will be about taking as much stage points as possible and being confident for a 500-lap battle for the penultimate race of the season.

“It’s not difficult,” Byron said. “We work all year for for this. So it’s not difficult. They’ll have to be yeah. Yeah, for sure.”

Editor’s Notes

Nathan Solomon contributed to this article on site from Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia.

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson 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 is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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