CONCORD, N.C. – The drivers are back from the West Coast and their focus is set on Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway.
William Byron is set to tackle his third start at the track in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Last weekend in Fontana, California, Byron and the No. 24 team finished inside the top 15, but he still characterized his day at Auto Club Speedway as "disappointing."
“Unfortunately, we didn’t really have the handling in our car that we wanted to,” the driver told SiriusXM NASCAR radio. “But I thought we were able to execute a solid race and move forward to Martinsville where we will get some improvement hopefully there."
Building on that effort, Martinsville is on deck, and the 0.526-mile track is the shortest in the 2019 campaign with 500 laps of strategic racing. The new aero package was something the teams needed to consider when coming up with a strategy to attack the challenging race.
“I’ve been learning on the fly with the new package, I feel like it’s close to what I had in the Truck Series and that may be good from my past experience,” Byron said. “But as far as our team goes, were trying to obviously learn the new aero package, as everybody is. I think as the season goes on the cars and the way you’re going to want your car to be is going to change a lot. There’s a lot of smart engineers that work on these cars and they are going to find ways to make them go faster and also handle better."
The driver believes the key to mastering the aero package is being adaptable to how the car needs to change throughout the race.
“With this package it is very, very critical towards your success to have the car as balanced as possible,” Byron said. “Ultimately you can only do so much in the car sometimes. You've just got to be in the throttle, you’ve got to be able to hold more throttle better than the guys around you in order to pass them. And that just comes down to making sure you can do that whether its tighter, looser, or whatever, making sure your car is keeping the momentum up. The feedback I think is becoming more and more crucial and hopefully that separates the good from the great people.”
On top of the aero package, there are many aspects to Martinsville that make it stand out in the Cup Series. Byron described the race as exhausting for the drivers, with so much focus and work required of them on the track.
“It’s a tough race,” he said. “You’re doing a lot of work in your car, you’re very close to guys on the racetrack, you’re never really by yourself. It’s a very taxing race. I think Martinsville and Bristol are up there with the best of them. It’s a long race. You've got to pace yourself and keep the brakes and tires on the car to kind of have a shot at the end.”
The Axalta driver, who has improved his race result every week but one this season, is prepared for the challenge and ready to exceed expectations.
“This weekend we want to have a solid race," Byron said. "(No. 24 team crew chief) Chad (Knaus) obviously has had a lot of good times and good races at Martinsville, so I can lean on some of that knowledge. Just really pick off laps with the opportunity to finish in the top five or top 10. I think we’re very capable of doing that.”
Byron and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates are ready for the tough race this weekend, with the green flag scheduled for 2 p.m. ET this Sunday on FOX Sports 1.