AVONDALE, Ariz. — They came to offer condolences, a driver, crew chief and competing car owner.
Despite a broken heart, he managed brief smiles in return.
William Byron is 18 years old, has had success throughout his short driving career and entered Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race having won a series-high six races.
He’s never had a night at the track like this.
On the way to a dominating victory that would make him the favorite to win the series title, Byron saw it go away when his engine blew. After leading 112 of 150 laps, Byron left the track with a 27th-place finish.
Now, he won’t race for a championship next weekend in Miami.
Such is the whim of the Chase format where there’s no guarantee that the winningest driver will compete for a crown in the series finale.
“It just stinks that we can’t go on to Homestead and at least have a shot,’’ Byron said of a title.
“I’m trying to smile it off. The only satisfaction is that we had the best truck.’’
While Christopher Bell, Matt Crafton and Timothy Peters advanced to the title race — giving Toyota three of the four drivers eligible for the championship— David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, could not enjoy the night after seeing Byron’s engine fail.
“All you can say is I’m sorry,’’ Wilson said he told Byron. “What I really wanted to tell him was how proud of him I was and how proud of how he handled tonight.
“William is a young man with a lot of success in front of him. For him to go to Miami, six wins under his belt — should have been seven — and not be able to transfer to the championship is very hard to comprehend. For this young kid to handle it with grace and maturity is impressive.’’
Byron, who turns 19 on Nov. 29, will seek to win next week’s season finale and then focus on the Xfinity Series. Signed by Rick Hendrick, Byron will drive for JR Motorsports next season.
But Friday night his focus was on handling the biggest disappointment of his racing career.
“Just unforuntate but some things you can’t control,’’ he said.