CONCORD, N.C. -- William Byron has a tall order to complete if he wants to move on to the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. The driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE has found himself in a tough situation after he suffered a flat tire at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and was collected in an accident at Talladega Superspeedway.
Neither finish matched the speed and talent Byron displayed at both tracks, and now the 23-year-old driver is almost in a must-win situation when he heads to the Charlotte ROVAL this weekend for the Round of 12 cutoff race. He’s counting on his talent and his team’s guidance to have a fast and clean day at his hometown road course.
“With this track, we’ve continued to work on it,” Byron said. “We’ve continued to get better and better. I’ve had a pole there in the past. I’ve led a bunch of laps there over the last two years. So, it’s not a track that I feel like we can’t win. We just have to continue to make those gains that we’ve been making on the road courses. So, I think we’re really capable this weekend of doing it.”
Byron has two sixth-place finishes in three visits to the Charlotte road course and he has led a total of 50 laps at his hometown road course – the third-most in the Cup Series field behind Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson. Since the track is still newer in the Cup Series, Byron will be studying all the Hendrick Motorsports teammates’ notes on how to maximize his efforts while competing.
“It’s just a really narrow track, so getting through traffic is tough,” Byron said. I feel like Chase obviously does a great job through traffic and just does a really great job of getting through guys and not burning up his tires. That’s my biggest goal. Hopefully, we don’t have to go through a lot of traffic in this race and maybe the start of the race might be the furthest back, hopefully, that we are. … But I feel like we’ll have the speed. We’ve just got to execute a good race.”
Byron plans to do just that. He currently sits 11th in the playoff standings and is 44 points below the cutoff heading into Sunday’s race. He doesn’t necessarily need to win to move on to the Round of 8, but he would have to have a nearly flawless performance and rely on other playoff drivers to do poorly for him to move on.
“We’re not going to make it on points,” Byron stated. “We’ve got to go win. We know what we have to do to do that. The last round, I think, would have been really disappointing if we didn’t make it through to the next round. There was a lot on the line for that. And we’d still be really disappointed if we didn’t make it through this round. But it hasn’t been a good round for us as far as luck goes, I guess. … But I think we can make up for all of that on Sunday and we’re very capable of that.
“We just go into it with nothing to lose. We either win or get out of the playoffs.”
Sunday’s playoff elimination race at the Charlotte ROVAL will start at 2 p.m. ET and air on NBC.