CONCORD, N.C. -- William Byron and the No. 24 team’s tenacity and hard work paid off last Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway when they finished third in the cutoff race of the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup Series, punching their ticket to the next round.
It was a tall order for Byron, who was 15th in the standings and 18 points behind 12th place entering the race. However, at 10th-place finish in stage one and a fourth-place result in stage two set Byron up to earn a top-three finish at the half-mile track and move on to the Round of 12. Even though Byron isn’t on the cusp of elimination heading to Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend, he said he plans on bringing the same intensity to the Nevada track that he felt at Bristol.
“We’ve already kind of been through that pressure moment. A lot of guys we’re racing against haven’t been through that,” Byron said. “I feel like we learned a lot about how we can come through under pressure and how we can bring a good race car and how we can execute the race really well. …
"There’s always adversity in a race, but I feel like we handled the adversity that we did have really well and brought it home in third place. So, with that being said, Las Vegas is a lot different than a short track, but I do feel like the way we did perform is going to carry over.”
Byron is having his best Cup Series season to date in 2021. Aside from making it to the Round of 12 for the second time in his Cup career, the 23-year-old driver has one win, 10 top-five finishes at 17 top-10s so far this season. One of those top-10 placements came in the spring at Las Vegas, where he finished eighth.
“I think the aggression level is going to be really high on the restarts and that’s kind of your chance to make up ground for a lot of guys at 1.5-mile tracks with the 550 horsepower,” Byron explained. “I think those are going to be crazy. My spotter and I have been working really hard on trying to be really good on those restarts. … I’m pretty excited for Las Vegas based on our past history and the way we’ve been running on those tracks.”
No. 24 crew chief Rudy Fugle also is ready to start fresh after the team posted the third-place finish at Bristol. Byron finished 34th at Darlington Raceway and 19th at Richmond Raceway in the first two races of the playoffs from on-track incidences, which meant the team needed to be nearly flawless at Bristol to move on to the Round of 12.
“I feel like Vegas is really good for us, and this whole round has tracks where we are fast and perform well,” Fugle said. “I’m really excited about getting a reset, getting a good start at Vegas, competing for a win and maybe not having to worry about the next two (races), so that would be great.”
Not only did the Bristol result restore hope for the 24 team to continue its championship run, but it bolstered the mood surrounding the entire crew. Fugle stated that Byron feeling confident and at ease is crucial to the team and it motivates them to have each other’s backs throughout the race.
“Stoking that confidence is huge for William,” Fugle said. “We saw a huge uptick in confidence earlier in the year. We rolled off all those top-10s but then we had some bad runs that weren’t really his fault, but it affects your confidence and you get down a little bit. We’re back to knowing we can hit a high level and that we can go out there and do that. He’s the number one catalyst of that, so we have to keep him up there. Then he drives all of us to perform at that high level, too.”
Byron, Fugle and the No. 24 team will return to Las Vegas Motor Speedway this Sunday and take on the intermediate track starting at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.