By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
William Byron entered Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race 18 points below the cutoff line to make the Round of 12. 500 wild and grueling laps later, Byron advanced into next round with a third-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway.
With Kurt Busch struggling all night and Aric Almirola fading towards the end, Byron made most out of their pitfalls by being up front. That’s thanks in large part of an all around team effort from the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports crew to put him in that position.
In the closing laps, Byron caught leader Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick as the two, along with the lapped car of Chase Elliott, battled hard for the win. While it wasn’t a second win of the year for Byron, it felt like a win as he was two points ahead of Tyler Reddick for the 12th and final spot.
“Honestly, I don’t think I breathe for (the last) 100 laps,” said Byron after the race.
“I was trying as hard as I could. I had the best seat in the house for the leaders. I was trying to make as much speed as I could. That’s what our car had. We just tried holding off (Ryan Blaney) and drive as hard as I can.
“That’s a pretty awesome moment that we can pull through. The 18 points out coming into this race and finish third to advance is amazing.”
Entering next Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas, Byron is the eighth seed with 3014 points to his name. That very spot is where he needs to be after the Charlotte ROVAL in three weeks time to continue his quest for the NASCAR Cup Series title.
A confident Byron explained why the next round should bode well for him after surviving the Round of 16. Highlighted with tire woes at Darlington which set him back two weeks ago. That moment is now a distant memory for the 23-year-old.
“We’re going to some really good tracks,” said Byron. “We won at 1.5-mile track earlier this year. The ROVAL we’ve been really fast. I’ve had a number of poles on road courses. I feel like we just had to get through this round. We had an unfortunate start to it, but made up for it tonight.”