MARTINSVILLE, Va. – For the first time in his NASCAR Cup Series career, William Byron has reached the Championship 4.
There were times throughout Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway where the points standings got extremely close, but in the end, Byron was able to do enough to advance to the title round. He advanced by eight points over Denny Hamlin. Byron will join teammate Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney and Christopher Bell in competing for the Cup Series championship on Sunday, Nov. 5, at Phoenix Raceway.
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"All that matters is the result," Byron said. "My crew chief (Rudy Fugle) knew what buttons to push. Our car was so hot from, honestly, around lap 30. I've never been that hot.
"We dug deep. I’m just proud of my whole team. They stuck behind me and they gave me adjustments that I needed and I’m just really proud of them. I wanted to make the Championship 4 for them. Just drove the hell out of it for the last 30 laps. We were sliding all around, but that’s what it took."
The 25-year-old driver entered Martinsville with a 30-point advantage on the cutline, but when he didn’t earn any stage points that made the points picture very tight. Byron was able to pick off enough spots on the final green-flag run of 168 laps to give himself a little buffer on the points side to advance with a 13th-place finish.
"My team was keeping me pretty aware," Byron said. "I wish I had information every lap because I needed some kind of carrot to keep me motivated."
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Now, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native can turn his attention to the title race at Phoenix. One of Byron’s series-best six wins on the season came in the spring race at the 1-mile track. A two-tire call by crew chief Rudy Fugle set his driver up to restart next to their teammate Larson for an overtime finish. In that instance, Byron was able to get the better of the driver of the No. 5.
Byron’s calling card in the 2023 postseason has been consistency. In the nine playoff races, he has the most top-10 finishes (seven), best average finish (6.33) and most points earned (343). He also has the most top-five results (five) of any of the remaining playoff drivers in those races.
"We've worked so hard all season. I'm just really proud of them," Byron said of his team.
Fugle told NASCAR.com that not advancing past the Round of 8 last year motivated the group all season long.
"It's what we’ve been working for," Fugle said. "We were really close last year, too, so we’ve had that mindset since this moment last year where we didn’t make it. We’ve got that bad taste in our mouth, so we know how hard it is to make it. That should drive us to give everything we got. If we got enough, we got enough. If not, at least we laid everything on the line."
Tune in to watch Byron go after his first Cup Series championship on Sunday, Nov. 5, at Phoenix. Coverage will begin at 3 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.