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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: Kyle Busch questions Xfinity rules package at Indy

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Kyle Busch isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and he certainly did so after Saturday’s  Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

NASCAR implemented a number of changes to make the racing closer, tighter and more exciting — including restrictor plates, a larger rear spoiler, aero ducts, and a smaller splitter — and achieved all that on many fronts.

But not for the younger Busch brother, who wasn’t pleased with the rules package. Was it actually designed to specifically slow him down rather than to even out things for the entire field?

Or was he just simply upset because he didn’t win a third Xfinity race in a row at IMS?

Check out how our NASCAR America analysts gauged the Xfinity changes in the above video.

 

TriStar Motorsports team owner Mark Smith passes away

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Mark Smith, owner of TriStar Motorsports, died Saturday at his home, after a long battle with cancer, the team announced Monday. He was 63.

He began his racing career building engines for his brother Jack’s drag car in the 1970s. He moved his family from the West Coast in the early 1990s to pursue a career in NASCAR. He was the owner of TriStar Motorsports and Pro Motor Engines.

TriStar Motorsports fields the No. 14 in the Xfinty Series with JJ Yeley and the No. 72 in the Cup Series with Cole Whitt. The team stated the team will continue operations under the management of Bryan Smith, son of Mark Smith.

“It was dad’s dream to own and operate a NASCAR team,” Bryan Smith said. “He devoted his life to that dream and his family plans to honor his wishes by continuing our efforts in his memory.”

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Victory Junction Gang victoryjunction.org or NOVA (National Organization for Vehicle Access, part of the BraunAbility) novafunding.org.

The family will receive friends from 5-8 p.m. ET, Aug. 1 at Cavin-Cook Funeral Home, Mooresville, North Carolina. They have created a Facebook page where you are encouraged to leave a story for the family to enjoy. (facebook.com/Remembering-Mark-Smith-301261653675224)

NASCAR America: Analysts break down Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. wreck (video)

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Given how wild the Brickyard 400 played out, the big wreck between race leaders Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. wasn’t exactly surprising.

Rather, with the way the race transpired from the opening lap, was the Busch/Truex wreck almost inevitable?

Truex got loose and washed up into the left rear of Busch’s car, sending both drivers and their respective cars into the outside retaining walls, hitting hard and ending their respective days.

Check out what our NASCAR America analysts had to say about the wreck from Monday’s show in the above video.

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Jr. recaps wild Brickyard 400 (video)

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, Dale Earnhardt Jr. — who will become part of our NBC Sports Group in 2018 — looked back on a wild and intense Brickyard 400.

Earnhardt was one of several drivers whose day came to an early ending — in Junior’s case when he ran into the back of Trevor Bayne‘s car, destroying his radiator in the process.

All the mayhem and mishaps could be linked to over-aggressive driving, Earnhardt said, saying that every driver was in “attack mode,” especially on restarts.

Check out Junior in the video above.