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William Byron named Truck Series Rookie of the Year after historic season

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When William Byron began his rookie season in the Camping World Truck Series, he was “just hoping for one win.”

It took him four races to get that.

It took 23 races to reach seven wins, a series record for a rookie.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Byron said after winning the season finale Ford EcoBoost 200 and being named the Sunoco Rookie of the Year.

It’s the second season in a row that a Kyle Busch Motorsports driver has earned the honor. Erik Jones did so in 2015, but that was in a season where he won just three races.

Byron had his third win by the eighth race of the season. Jones’ third came in race No. 21.

“I started out, I was like, ‘man, this is going to be really hard,'” said Byron. “Backing up what Erik did last year in this truck with this team, I knew I wanted (crew chief Ryan) “Rudy” (Fugle).”

The two first sat down to get to know each other at a Buffalo Wild Wings.

“We knew right away that we wanted to work together, and he started coaching me the first ‑‑ probably the week after that,” Byron said. “I went to the Snowball Derby and he was telling me things, and I just knew right away we had that trust level.”

That trust level got the team to within 12 laps of transferring to the championship race last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Then while leading, the engine on the No. 9 gave out, giving Byron a DNF and ensuring the season’s winningest team wouldn’t be among the final four.

“We were all pretty down for the ride back to the airplane (after Phoenix),” Fugle said.

A team member then showed the crew chief the owner’s championship standings, which Kyle Busch Motorsports still had a shot at.

“We all started saying things that I can’t say here because we were all pretty bummed about what was going on, but we were all pretty happy we had something to go race for,” Fugle said.

Byron, who had never raced anything before four years ago, gave KBM its fifth owners title and its fourth straight.

“It’s kind of scary to be teaching him all the things that I’m teaching him, but I was done about three weeks ago telling him any more,” Busch joked. “I enjoy coaching up some of these younger guys, although I do tell them an awful lot, but it helps them through the Truck Series, and it’s fun to see their success level be as good as it is in our stuff and to carry us on to championships as well as having the opportunity for William to race for a championship this year, Erik last year, Bubba Wallace a couple years ago.”

Shortly after his fifth win of the year, it was announced that Byron had signed with Hendrick Motorsports. In 2017, he will drive for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series.

But two wins later, Byron isn’t the Truck champion. That honor went to Johnny Sauter, who claimed his first NASCAR title after breaking into the sport in 2001, when Byron was 3 years old.

“It’s really bittersweet,” said Fugle. “The bitter part is this kid is the champion, and he’s not going to get the big trophy. Sauter is out there; congrats to him. He won the way he was supposed to win it, but (Byron) deserves it. This was his shot at it, and he’s going to progress. He’s going to progress all the way to Cup shortly and he deserves everything he gets.”

NASCAR America: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. talks Phoenix finish, racing roots

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. joins NASCAR America to go over his fourth-place finish at Phoenix Raceway.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver also shares his racing origins in Mississippi and the hobbies he and girlfriend Danica Patrick share with each other.

Stenhouse is in his fifth full-time year competing in the NASCAR Cup Series with Roush Fenway Racing.

NASCAR America: 50 States in 50 Shows: Alaska

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NASCAR America continues its journey through the United States with the second chapter in “50 States in 50 Shows.”

Following South Alabama Speedway, the show features Capitol Speedway and Alaska Raceway Park in Alaska.

Owned by Nancy and Wes Wallace, Capitol Speedway is a 3/8th-mile oval and features sprint car racing and demolition derbies.

 

Kevin Harvick crew chief fined, suspended one race for encumbered finish

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Kevin Harvick‘s crew chief, Rodney Childers, has been suspended for one NASCAR Cup Series race and fined $25,000 for an unapproved track bar slider assembly last weekend at Phoenix Raceway.

The penalty, a L1 infraction, results in an encumbered finish. Harvick placed sixth in the Camping World 500.

The No. 4 team has also been docked 10 driver and owner points. Harvick was seventh in the standings after four races. He trailed leader Kyle Larson by 61 points. The loss of points drops Harvick one spot to eighth behind Jamie McMurray.

Harvick has not won a race yet, which would qualify him for the playoffs.

MORE: Brad Keselowski closes crew chief for three races, team docked 35 driver points

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NASCAR docks Brad Keselowski, Team Penske 35 points; suspends crew chief Paul Wolfe

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NASCAR docked Brad Keselowski 35 points, suspended crew chief Paul Wolfe three races and fined Wolfe $65,000 because Keselowski’s car failed inspection after finishing fifth in last weekend’s race at Phoenix Raceway.

NASCAR also docked the team 35 owner points for the L1 infraction. NASCAR stated that Keselowski’s result is an encumbered finish.

NASCAR cited Keselowski’s car for failing weights and measurements on the laser platform. NASCAR stated in Wednesday’s penalty report that the team failed the rear wheel steer on the Laser Inspection Station. 

MORE: NASCAR suspends crew chief Rodney Childers one race

Team Penske issued a statement Wednesday:

“We have acknowledged the penalties levied against the No. 2 team following last weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.  The race cars returned to the race shop today and we are in the process of evaluating the area in question. In the meantime, we have decided Brian Wilson will serve as Brad Keselowski’s crew chief at Auto Club Speedway while we evaluate our approach relative to today’s penalties.”

The penalty drops Keselowski from second in the standings to fourth heading into this weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway.

The more significant issue is how this could impact Keselowski, who already has a win, in the playoffs.

The top 10 in points before the playoffs begin earn additional points. The points leader earns 15 playoff points. The driver second in the standings earns 10 playoff points, the driver third in the standings earns eight playoff points, the driver fourth in the standings earns seven playoff points. It goes down to the driver 10th in the standings earning one playoff point.

Those playoff points carry through the first three rounds, which is different from last year. Falling behind in the regular season – or losing points because of a penalty – could have ramifications in the playoffs. 

“I think it’s real important to explain why points matter this year,” Keselowski said on Fox Sports 1’s “Race Hub” on Wednesday night. “Last year, you got a win and you locked in and you got to the next round. This year with points, you still lock in with wins. The difference is there’s a huge points bonus for having the most points at the end of the season that carries all the way through the playoffs, and you only get that bonus if you’re one of the best cars and leading up front at the end of the regular season, which requires having a lot of points. Thirty-five points is a pretty big deal, and so is 10 points for Kevin (Harvick) and his team.”

 

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