CONCORD, N.C. -- Rudy Fugle is more than ready for his first NASCAR Cup Series playoff race.
The No. 24 crew chief has made a big impression during his rookie season in the highest level on stock car racing, posting one win, nine top-five finishes and 16 top-10s with driver William Byron. Those strong performances easily guaranteed Byron a spot in the playoffs, where he currently holds the eighth-place ranking.
With the posteason starting at Darlington Raceway this Sunday, Fugle will take on the 1.366-mile track for the second time in his Cup career. Byron and the No. 24 team placed fourth in the May event at the South Carolina venue but winning the first playoff event of the year is high on Fugle’s bucket list.
“It’s a historic racetrack and William has a really good history there,” Fugle said. “I think it is a place that if we get just a little bit of something, we might be able to go knock it out of the park. Super excited about going there.”
Byron’s solid record at the track “Too Tough to Tame” includes two top-five finishes in the last two races. In fact, on tracks less than 1.5 miles in length this season (seven), Byron and Fugle have posted four-top five finishes and seven top-10s. It’s added to Fugle’s fuel as he prepares for a race he’s had circled on his calendar all year long.
“The Southern 500 is a crown jewel,” Fugle said. “Every crew chief, driver and team wants to win those races. It’s the one I am most excited about, and I can’t wait to go do it.”
Byron had nothing but high praise for Fugle in his first season in the Cup Series. The duo already had a relationship from Byron’s 2016 season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series when Fugle was Charlotte, North Carolina, native’s crew chief. They have picked up where they left off and Byron stated that their relationship has “evolved” into something better.
“He’s done a great job,” Byron said of Fugle. “I think he has elevated our team and that was obvious early in the year with the first win and coming so early in the year, third race. I think he has elevated us and taken us to another level, and I think that will continue as we go into the playoffs and get into the really important races.”
Fugle and Byron will try to get their second win of the year and first crown jewel victory this weekend at Darlington Raceway. The first 2021 Cup playoff event will be Sunday at 6 p.m. ET and air on NBCSN.