By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
After finishing the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season strong with seven wins and the Rookie of the Year title, William Byron was looking to continue that success in 2017. Byron moved up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series in the No. 9 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro for JR Motorsports.
Byron qualified a disappointing 17th, but behind teammate Justin Allgaier. The start of the PowerShares QQQ 300 at Daytona International Speedway seemed tame in comparison to the Truck race the night before.
After a couple of early cautions for spins and fluid, Byron elected to hit pit road with others. When Byron pulled into his pit stall, he stopped against the wall, forcing him to maneuver his car to allow his pit crew room to work on the left side of his car. The costly mistake put Byron deep in the field.
Shortly after the restart, an off-center bump by Scott Lagasse Jr. sent Tyler Reddick up into Spencer Gallagher. That contact caused the first ‘big one’ of the day on lap 22 as 18 cars piled into the wreck.
Byron nearly snuck through the wreck unscathed until he was hit in the passenger side door by a spinning car. Byron immediately went to pit road where he was placed on the five-minute repair clock, along with 15 other teams. Byron’s team completed their repair work before the race was red flagged due to the extensive cleanup.
After the race went back green, Byron once again was deep in the field. For the second restart in a row, a ‘big one’ wiped out six cars ahead of Byron, including Allgaier. This time, he was easily able to take evasive action to avoid the melee. The race was red flagged once again due to the cleanup efforts.
After the race finally began to get into a rhythm, Byron began to work his way forward. As Byron finally broke into the Top 10, he fell off the pace. He radioed to his crew, “We’re blowing up.” After diagnosing the problem as a bad battery, Byron brought his car to his crew, and the battery was changed. In the process, he lost two laps.
As the race continued, Byron regained one lap from receiving the free pass under a caution. He regained the other after staying out while the leaders pitted.
As Byron finally began to climb back up through the field, another ‘big one’ broke out as teammate Elliott Sadler broke loose in front of the field. Byron was forced to drive through the grass entering turn three to avoid the carnage. After making his way back to the racing surface, his car began to steam. Grass on the grille was causing Byron’s car to overheat. Once again Byron ducked onto pit road for service, losing track position in the process.
On the restart, Byron worked with teammate Michael Annett as they both tried to move up through the field. Both were still deep in the field. As drivers jockeyed for position, Ray Black Jr. attempted to move in front of Annett. Black turned into the wall, and then spun back down the track in front of Byron. Byron swerved onto the skid pad to avoid Black’s spinning car. As Byron tried to rejoin the race at speed, he spun into the grass in turn three.
Yet again, Byron found himself deep in the field. For the third time, he worked his way forward, but time ran out. Byron crossed the line in ninth as Ryan Reed took the victory.
Byron now sits 10th in points, 19 Championship points behind Reed.
Byron and his JR Motorsports team will now head to Atlanta Motor Speedway, where he hopes to continue his successful run.