William Byron bounced back from last weekend’s razor-thin loss at the finish line to Denny Hamlin at Michigan to earn his first career Xfinity Series victory Saturday night under the lights at Iowa Speedway.
Byron, who won seven Truck races last season, roared to the front late in the race after a final restart and held on to become the youngest race winner (19 years old) at the .875-mile track in Newton, Iowa.
One week after missing out on a win by .012 of a second, William Byron broke through for his first career Xfinity victory, capturing Saturday night’s American Ethanol e15 250 at Iowa Speedway.
The 19-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina native’s previous best Xfinity finish was second, when he lost out to Denny Hamlin at the start-finish line in last weekend’s race at Michigan, but Byron would not be denied Saturday night under the lights, becoming the youngest Xfinity winner on the .875-mile track in Newton, Iowa.
In earning his first win in his 14th career Xfinity start, Byron took the lead late in the race and kept a number of drivers at bay in the closing laps. He also qualified for the Xfinity Series playoffs. He also became the first first-time winner in the Xfinity Series this season.
“It feels awesome,” Byron told Fox Sports 1. “I think we had a first- or second-place car, got a little bit loose on one run and then we got back on cycle there at the end and were able to take off. It’s really cool.”
HOW BYRON WON: In much the same way he won several of his seven Truck Series races last season, Byron quietly stalked the leaders through much of the race. Then, following a wreck that involved Christopher Bell, Ryan Reed and Brennan Poole with 32 laps to go, Byron worked his way to the front as the final laps ticked off and won.
WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Interestingly, all of the top-four finishers earned their career-best Xfinity showings: Byron (1st), Sieg (2nd), Reddick (3rd) and Chastain (4th), while Armstrong tied his career-best finish (5th).
WHO HAD A BAD RACE:Sam Hornish Jr. came in as the defending winner and kicked off a multi-race deal with Team Penske with this race. He was running in the top-5 when Christopher Bell got into Hornish on Lap 80, sending him into the wall and ending his night. … Seymour, Wisconsin’s Ty Majeski had a good night going in his Xfinity Series debut until he was involved in a solo wreck on Lap 145 that also ended his night.
NOTABLE: Polesitter Christopher Bell won Stage 1, while Brendan Gaughan won Stage 2, his first stage win of the season. … Elliott Sadler made his 800th career NASCAR start across all three major series (Cup, Xfinity and Trucks).
QUOTE OF THE RACE: “We had four fresh tires and I just feel like we should have had a victory. I thought the odds were in our favor. … I feel like we gave one away here. It’s going to be a tough one to swallow.” – Third-place finisher Tyler Reddick.
WHAT’S NEXT: Firecracker 250, June 30, 7:30 p.m. ET, Daytona International Speedway.
Here are the particulars for tonight’s Xfinity race:
(All times are Eastern)
START: Emily Skor, CEO Growth Energy, will give the command to start engines at 8:37 p.m. Green flag is set for 8:44 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 250 laps (218.75 miles) around the 7/8-mile oval.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 60. Stage 2 ends on Lap 120.
PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Xfinity garage opens at 2:30 p.m. The driver/crew chief meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 8:10 p.m.
NATIONAL ANTHEM: Specialist Michelle Monroe, Iowa National Guard 34th Army Band, will perform the Anthem at 8:31 p.m.
TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race. Its coverage begins at 8 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s broadcast on radio and at mrn.com begins at 8 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.
FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts 70 degrees at race time with a 1 percent chance of rain at the start of the race.
LAST TIME: Sam Hornish Jr. led 183 of 250 laps to win this event a year ago. Ty Dillon was second. Brad Keselowski was third. Erik Jones won the most recent Iowa race last July, leading 154 of 250 laps. Ty Dillon was second. Elliott Sadler placed third.
Crew chief Chris Gabehart was suspended two races and fined $25,000, and the team was docked 25 points because the No. 20 Toyota’s splitter didn’t meet a minimum thickness in its shape after Hamlin’s last-lap victory over William Byron at Michigan International Speedway. NASCAR ruled the win as encumbered, meaning it can’t count toward earning playoff points for the owner’s championship in Xfinity.
JGR senior vice president of racing operations Jimmy Makar said on SiriusXM Satellite Radio’s The Morning Drive that the splitter wasn’t manipulated during the race weekend at Michigan.
“The rules on the Xfinity side say your splitter has to be perfectly flat,” Makar said. “There was some shape on the splitter that didn’t quite meet the rules the way it was supposed to be. It was an unfortunate thing that happened. We were a little off what we were supposed to be. We have to look back at that and how it happened and why and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Makar confirmed the team won’t appeal the penalty.
“The rules are pretty clear,” he said. “It’s something where we were wrong with what we had there. We’ll take our penalty and move forward.”
“We are shy on technical expertise in Xfinity and the burden is on the Cup side, so this was an opportunity to put Dave in as the technical director position on the Xfinity side,” Makar said. “It helps bring the Cup side and Xfinity side closer together.
“The way the cars are built and getting that in the Xfinity cars and also teaching younger guys the things they need to know and directions they need to be going. As we develop younger engineers and crew chiefs, this helps them to be more prepared if and when they make their step up on the Cup side.”
NASCAR America: William Byron reflects on narrow loss in Michigan Xfinity race
Xfinity Series rookie William Byron missed out on his first career win last weekend in the closest series finish at Michigan International Speedway since the advent of electronic scoring.
Three days later, the 19-year-old driver for JR Motorsports called into NASCAR America to talk about the win and the season to date.
“Knowing it was that close is good for us,” Byron said. “We’ll try and keep the confidence and momentum going.”
It was the best finish for Byron in his rookie season and Hamlin’s first Xfinity win of the year.
“Just knowing how Denny manipulated the side-draft and everything to work best for him, I think it was really good by him to do that and it shows why he’s a Cup veteran and really a star in the sport,” Byron said.
Byron has only been racing for a little more than five years, but he won a rookie record seven races in the Camping World Truck Series last year before advancing to the Xfinity Series. Byron got his start on the simulator platform iRacing.
“I think I was really lucky that it translated to a real car,” Byron said. “Really, I just wanted to be a fan and watch the sport as a kid. It was fortunate for me that it translated.”