CREW CHIEF: David Elenz
TEAM: JR Motorsports
POINTS: 2017 Xfinity Series Champion
WINS: 4 (Iowa, Daytona 2, Indianapolis, Phoenix 2)
LAPS LED: 262
TOP 5s: 12
TOP 10s: 22
POLES: 2 (Phoenix 1, Dover 2)
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Byron continued to establish himself as one of the most promising young stars in NASCAR racing. He had stiff competition, but still managed to hold off his top challengers to win the Xfinity championship. His inherent talent and success – he’s earned a combined 11 wins between the Xfinity Series and Truck Series in 2016 and 2017 – led to him being promoted to the NASCAR Cup series in 2018, replacing Kasey Kahne.
WHAT WENT WRONG: It’s hard to pick much of anything wrong for Byron, who won both the Xfinity championship and also Rookie of the Year. However, there were a couple of glitches during the season. First, he crashed out in back-to-back races in the spring at Richmond (30th) and Talladega (36th). His only other 30th or worst finish was due to a faulty transmission at Chicago.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2018: After strong performances in 2016 in a Truck and 2017 in an Xfinity car, the 20-year-old Byron is now in NASCAR’s highest echelon in 2018. Even with his immense talent, don’t be surprised to see him have rookie struggles at time in a Cup car, particularly early in the season as he starts to get his sea legs under himself, so to speak. Then again, some observers predict Byron has the ability and chops to surprise a lot and potentially far exceed initial expectations by many. Does that mean he could reach the Championship 4 round his first time out? We wouldn’t be surprised at all if that happens.
Cup cars are only on the track for qualifying today at Sonoma Raceway, and Camping Work Truck teams will qualify and race at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Johnny Sauter has won three of the last five Truck races. Brett Moffitt won last weekend’s Truck race at Iowa.
Here’s today’s schedule at both tracks:
(ALL TIMES ARE EASTERN)
At SONOMA RACEWAY
10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. — Cup garage open
2:45 p.m. — Cup qualifying; multi-vehicle/two rounds (FS1, Performance Racing Network)
4:30 p.m. — K&N Pro Series West race; 64 laps, 127.36 miles (airs at 6 p.m. ET June 28 on NBCSN)
At GATEWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK
11 a.m. — Truck garage opens
Noon – 1 p.m. — Final Truck practice (No TV)
5:45 p.m. — Truck qualifying; multi-vehicle/three rounds (airs from 7-8 p.m. on FS1)
7 p.m. — Driver/crew chief meeting
8 p.m. — Driver introductions
8:30 p.m. — Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200; 160 laps/200 miles (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Kurt Busch posted the fastest single lap in the final practice for the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway with a speed of 94.061 mph.
He beat second-place Denny Hamlin (94.012 mph) by .040 seconds.
Martin Truex Jr. (93.718) had the third fastest lap, but the team will have some work to do before Saturday’s qualification. With nine minutes remaining on the clock, he ran into the back of Bubba Wallace in the esses and did significant damage to his nose. Wallace landed 34th on the chart with a speed of 91.641 mph.
Jamie McMurray (93.549) and Kevin Harvick (93.441) rounded out the top five.
Harvick (91.468) had the quickest 10-lap average – leading a sweep of the top three by Stewart Haas Racing. Busch was second quickest at 91.452 mph with Clint Bowyer third quick at 91.443 mph.
William Byron broke an axle seal in final practice, but the team was able to get him back on track with 24 minutes remaining in the session. His speed of 92.279 mph was 25th fastest.
Click here for the full report from final practice.
Last week’s winner, Brett Moffitt topped the speed chart in Friday evening’s practice session for the Eaton 200 with a speed of 137.191 mph.
He beat second-place Myatt Snider (136.658 mph) by .128 seconds.
Johnny Sauter (136.608), Riley Herbst (136.355), and Ben Rhodes (136.219) round out the top five.
Herbst is making his Truck Series debut this week.
Also making his Truck debut is Zane Smith, who posted a lap of 136.120 mph to land sixth on the chart.
Christian Eckes (135.906) failed to back up his series-leading speed from the first practice session and was only ninth fastest, but he had the quickest 10-lap average of 135.039 mph.
Click here for complete results from practice 2.
Rain canceled the practice session at Gateway that was scheduled to run from 3:35 – 4:25 p.m. Eastern time.
When they finally got on track, Eckes posted the fastest single lap in the first practice session with a speed of 134.360 mph. He is making his Truck series debut this week.
Eckes’ speed was .009 seconds faster than Noah Gragon (134.324), who landed second on the speed chart.
Rhodes (134.120), Moffitt (133.817) and Matt Crafton (133.706) rounded out the top five.
Rhodes had the quickest 10-lap average of 133.466 mph.
With the first practice canceled at Gateway, NASCAR added a final practice session scheduled for Noon – 1 p.m.
Click here for complete results from practice one.
Denny Hamlin, who has been fined by NASCAR for comments on Twitter, and was vocal toward critics after this year’s Daytona 500, says he’s found peace on how to deal with those on social media who don’t agree with him.
“I’ve been very good this year about not replying to mean people, and you all should do the same,’’ Hamlin said Friday at Sonoma Raceway.
“I’m making a (request) right now to every driver, every team owner, every NASCAR executive and every media member, stop replying to people who make nonsense comments. They have 16 followers. Don’t give them your 100,000. Do not give them your 100,000 as their stage. No one will ever see their comment, just brush it by, talk about the positives and I’m not a positive person.”
Asked how does one ignore such divisive comments, Hamlin said: “You just scroll by it. Forget it. That person doesn’t exit. They’re an admirer that has lost their way.’’
Hamlin has been better at doing so since the Daytona 500. He faced negative reaction on social media to the contact he and Bubba Wallace had at the end of the Daytona 500.
They engaged in a brief shouting match in the garage area after Hamlin learned that Wallace had taken a dig at him on national TV about a recent comment about drivers using Adderall.
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