CONCORD, N.C. – At 20 years and 5 months old, William Byron became the youngest NASCAR Cup Series driver to lead double-digit laps at a restrictor-plate track when he made his first career Cup Series start at Talladega Superspeedway in April.
Though he led 14 laps and spent 47 percent of the laps he raced inside the top 10, the driver was collected in a multiple-car incident with fewer than 25 laps to go, ending his day.
In Sunday’s race at Talladega, the rookie led laps once again, and this time around, Byron avoided the “big one” at the Alabama track and was able to finish the race.
“I thought my goal was really to survive,” Byron said. “We were fortunate to lead some laps when we got the track position, which was good.”
After starting the day in eighth, Byron initially slipped outside of the top 10 early in Sunday’s race and finished Stage 1 in 17th.
When a caution flag waved with fewer than 10 laps to go in Stage 2, Byron pitted on Lap 105 for tires and fuel. He finished the middle segment in 14th, but with fresh tires and fuel, the No. 24 team elected to have Byron stay on the track during the caution between stages.
The decision allowed Byron to jump up 12 positions and take the final segment restart in second. By Lap 122, he gained the lead and led the field for five laps before settling into second.
Though he raced inside the top five for several laps, Byron was shuffled outside the top 10 by Lap 136 and down to 24th by Lap 142.
“Just couldn’t get enough guys to work with me,” the driver said. “Hopefully, next year will be different with the rookie stripes off. It should make a difference, but other than that I thought our day was good.”
In the final laps, Byron to continued to battle, and after spinning during a multiple-car incident late in the race, he recovered and fought his way to the checkered flag to finish the race in 20th.
From leading laps to finishing the race – a challenging task at Talladega Superspeedway – Byron was proud of the No. 24 team’s effort and performance.
“Got the car better handling-wise – handling was pretty important – and then from there we just were kind of trying to fight for track position,” the driver said. “I was able to bring it home, which was good.”