Byron beats heat and ill-handling car to advance to championship round

William Byron had a challenging race at Martinsville Speedway, enduring extreme heat that affected his vision. Despite this, he pushed through and finished 13th, which he considered his worst race of the season. However, his performance was enough to secure his spot in the championship race, earning him eight points.

“This means a lot,” Byron expressed. “I’m going to reflect on it when I go home. I’m happy for Ryan, he deserved the win. They were really fast today. I’m extremely grateful for my team, and I can’t emphasize that enough.

“During the last 50 to 60 laps, it was so blurry inside the car, and I just wanted to give in and pull over. But I knew that wasn’t an option. I was determined to avoid failure or making any mistakes. I’m incredibly proud of my team for giving me this opportunity. Racing cars is my dream, even though I didn’t grow up doing it. They believe in me, and I love what I do.”

In addition to the unseasonably high temperatures at Martinsville, Byron faced another obstacle when his helmet fan malfunctioned. This issue has troubled him in the past at this track, and upon exiting his car, he quickly removed his helmet in search of relief.

“It was a tough battle,” Byron admitted. “I’m immensely thankful for my team. My crew chief, Rudy, knew exactly how to motivate me and keep me focused. We’ve been through many challenges together. When he took over the 24 car, he believed in me and provided me with all the resources to succeed. I’m incredibly grateful for him and the entire team. Every team member believes in me, and we gave it our all. They deserved this.”

Byron didn’t earn any stage points after qualifying in 16th place. Throughout the race, his car struggled to perform, and he found himself outside of the top 15 for most of the afternoon. Finishing 13th was the best he could manage under green flag conditions.

“It was like being trapped in a frustrating situation,” Byron described. “I’ve never been so angry in a race car. I’ve never wanted to quit so badly. The car felt loose, tight in certain spots, and lacked grip. It was challenging. However, many drivers showed me respect, and I appreciate that. We race with respect, and others reciprocate that. Many people took care of me, and I’m truly grateful.

“We truly deserve this opportunity. It’s rewarding to see our hard work pay off by advancing to Phoenix.”

Heading into the weekend, Byron had a comfortable 30-point lead above the cutline. However, after a disappointing qualifying session, his confidence wavered.

“It was pretty awful,” Byron confessed about the weekend. “During practice, I had some optimism because our car was okay on average. It wasn’t exactly what we wanted, as it felt loose and tight in the center. But I hoped the track conditions would work in our favor. When we qualified poorly, I felt a sense of dread. I was so nervous last night that I didn’t even speak a word to Erin, my girlfriend, during the car ride here. I had a pit in my stomach.

“It’s not a reflection of the effort we put in, but I didn’t have the right feeling in the car. I knew it would be an uphill battle. When you find yourself battling like that, you underestimate the true difficulties. It’s not fun being at the back of the pack, running in 21st or worse. It was an incredibly tough race.”

This is Byron’s fifth appearance in the postseason, and the second time he has advanced to the Round of 8. With six victories and 20 top-10 finishes, Byron leads the series and entered the postseason as the number one seed.

“When I saw him, I noticed how drained he looked compared to other drivers,” commented Jeff Gordon. “Today really took a toll on him with those long green-flag runs. Plus, his car wasn’t handling well, so he had to fight not only the heat but also the steering wheel. There’s also the stress of trying to make it to Phoenix. I’m really proud of him.

“I’m proud of everything they’ve accomplished this year. They can now enjoy what this upcoming week has to offer. Whether they win the championship or not, being part of the experience is incredible. I genuinely believe they have a great chance at winning it all.”


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