By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky as Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie William Byron found out at Texas Motor Speedway. Byron had a rough start to the weekend before scoring his first career top-10 finish.
In the final run to the finish, Byron was one of several that restarted on older tires. He fought with fellow Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Darrell Wallace, Jr. for position for several laps. Wallace closed the door on Byron, cutting his momentum, and taking the position. When the checkered flag waved, he found himself in 10th-place.
Byron caught several lucky breaks throughout the course of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. He narrowly avoided a multi-car melee in his No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that wiped out his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson among others. After the melee, Byron ran just inside the top-10 for the remainder of the race.
“It was really good for us to get a top 10,” Byron explained. “We had a good car. Once the sun came out we weren’t quite as good, I don’t think, but starting in the back this was definitely a good day for us. We had a lot of adversity and kept having to go to the back. So, it’s good to come back from that and get a top 10. It feels awesome. It feels great to get a top 10. It obviously takes a lot of things to happen.”
“We didn’t quite have the speed we wanted to,” Byron continued. “We were really good in practice, but I think some of our weaknesses showed up when the rubber laid down on the track a little bit on the bottom groove. Overall it was a pretty good day and we can definitely build on this. Repaves are really treacherous and the restarts were so sketchy. I learned a couple of things with adjustments in the car to help for that and overall, I thought that green flag entries were good. Green flag stops, the guys did a good job. Overall, I thought it was pretty good. So, it was a pretty solid day. We had a ton of things happen, but I thought that we ended-up about where we should have.”
The race weekend got off to a rocky start as Byron’s team was forced to change engines after practice. As a result, he opted to use qualifying as an opportunity to practice, getting valuable seat time prior to the race.
The 10th-place finish is the first for Byron and moves him up from 20th to 18th in the Championship Standings. He is 181-points behind Championship Points leader Kyle Busch and just 11-points behind the cutoff for the Playoffs, held by Paul Menard.
Now Byron and his Hendrick Motorsports team will prepare for the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 15.