William Byron hopes to ‘work out the bugs’ of rookie season in off week

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MARTINSVILLE, Virginia — More than 10 minutes after the end of Monday’s STP 500, Martinsville Speedway’s pit road was almost vacant of cars and crews.

One of the last drivers remaining was William Byron, deep in conversation with crew chief Darian Grubb and a few members of the No. 24 team debriefing his 20th-place finish.

Have all the post-race debriefs of his rookie season lasted this long?

“No, not normally,” Byron told NBC Sports. “Just trying to figure everything out.”

What’s to figure out?

Through six races in his rookie season with Hendrick Motorsports, the 20-year-old driver has truly looked like a rookie for the first time in his national NASCAR career.

He’s the only Hendrick driver without a top-10 finish after Alex Bowman claimed his first Monday with a seventh-place finish.

While all four HMS cars have struggled, combining for one top five, Byron has finished better than 15th once. That was a 12th-place finish at Phoenix, where he also led the first 15 laps of his Cup career.

Phoenix was also the only time the defending Xfinity Series champion has finished on the lead lap. At Martinsville, Byron ended the day where he started, in 20th, but three laps off the lead.

“I feel like ultimately just got a little bit of work to do to kind of figure out what we need a little better,” Byron said. “I think that if we can hone in on that, especially in the off week and kind of work out the bugs, it’ll be good once we get to Texas hopefully. Just need a little bit to kind of improve. I feel like we’ll be able to get to the shop and be able to work on it a little bit.”

Monday was his first start at Martinsville since two races there in the Camping World Truck Seres in 2016. He finished in the top 10 of both races.

But unlike those races of 255 and 200 laps, Byron had to survive 500 circuits around the half-mile track.

“Your brakes matter more,” Byron said. “The runs are longer, so you’re handling is that much more important. Really doesn’t compare that much to a Truck race other than the same race track. I feel like (in Truck races) you’re always kind of (on) short runs. With 30-lap runs, you don’t really have much of a chance to even see where your car goes after that. This is a lot different. Your handling plays a much bigger role. That’s just part of being in a Cup car as well.”

Through six races, Byron has finished better than where he started three times. The opposite occurred twice.

But he’s faring better than fellow rookie Darrell Wallace Jr, who finished 34th after multiple pit stops and a visit to the garage to repair damage. Wallace is 23rd in points, Byron is 20th.

“We haven’t really been able to show our potential just because we’ve got to have better handling and things like that,” Byron said. “I feel like once we’re able to show our potential, I think we’re right there. We’re just trying to fight through everything right now. That’s the biggest thing.”

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Jordan Anderson in fiery crash in Talladega Truck race

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NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Jordan Anderson was airlifted to an area hospital after being involved in a fiery crash during Saturday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Anderson’s car caught fire in the middle of a pack of drafting trucks. Flames burst from three areas around the truck as Anderson tried to slow the vehicle and move onto the track apron. The truck hit the inside wall. Anderson climbed from the vehicle in a cloud of smoke as it came to a stop.

Anderson, 31 and a resident of Forest Acres, S.C., was transported to the infield medical center before being airlifted. NASCAR confirmed Anderson’s trip to the hospital.

Fox Sports reported that a team member said Anderson had burns.

Anderson is a part-time driver in the Truck Series. He has a top finish of 14th this season.

Starting lineup for Talladega Cup race: Christopher Bell wins pole

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Six playoff drivers will start in the top 10 for Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Christopher Bell won the pole for the race Saturday with a speed of 180.591 miles per hour. He was followed by Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola and Chase Briscoe.

MORE: Talladega Cup starting lineup

MORE: Talladega Cup qualifying results

Playoff drivers starting in the top 10 are Bell, Larson, Hamlin, Briscoe, Ross Chastain (sixth) and William Byron (ninth).

Noah Gragson, who qualified seventh, is replacing Alex Bowman, who is sitting out the race with concussion-like symptoms.

Ryan Blaney, starting 19th, is the lowest playoff driver on the starting grid.

 

Christopher Bell wins Cup Series pole at Talladega Superspeedway

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Playoff driver Christopher Bell won the pole position Saturday for Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Bell, 11th in the playoff standings and below the cutline entering Sunday’s race, ran 180.591 mph to edge second-place Kyle Larson at 180.516.

Playoff drivers took six of the top-10 starting spots.

MORE: Talladega Cup qualifying results

The race is the second in the second round of the playoffs. Any playoff driver who wins the race will automatically advance to the next round.

Joey Logano leads the playoff standings.

Noah Gragson, replacing Alex Bowman, who is sitting out the race with concussion-like symptoms, qualified seventh.

The race (2 p.m., ET) will be broadcast by NBC.

 

 

Sunday Talladega Cup race: Start time, TV info, weather

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Sunday will mark a difficult crossroads for NASCAR. As several of its top drivers express serious concerns about safety, the Cup Series is at Talladega Superspeedway, the circuit’s biggest track and site of many massive wrecks over its 53 years of existence.

Adding to the tension is the fact that Sunday’s 188-lap, 500-mile race is the middle event in the second round of the playoffs. With a win automatically advancing any of the 12 playoff drivers to the next round, the final laps are likely to be frantic.

Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET, NBC) will begin with Joey Logano atop the playoff point standings. Following him in the top eight are Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez, Chase Elliott and Chase Briscoe.

Below the cutline are Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman. Byron fell below the line this week when NASCAR penalized him for bumping Hamlin under caution during last Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. Hendrick Motorsports has appealed the penalty.

Bowman will miss Sunday’s race because of concussion-like symptoms he has experienced after a crash at Texas. Noah Gragson will replace him.

Bell won the pole Saturday with a speed of 180.591 mph.

Details for Sunday’s race:

START: The command to start engines will be given by Jimmy Rane, president of Great Southern Wood Preserving, at 1:52 p.m. (ET). … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 2:04 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 11 a.m. … Driver introductions are at 1:15 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Barbara Embry, chaplin of Citizens Baptist Medical Center, at 1:43 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by the 313th U.S. Army Band at 1:45 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 188 laps (500 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 60. Stage 2 ends at Lap 120.

STARTING LINEUP: Talladega Cup starting lineup

TV/RADIO: NBC will broadcast the race at 2 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 1 p.m. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 1 p.m. … SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. High of 78. 5% chance of rain.

LAST TIME: Bubba Wallace won last October’s race, which was shortened to 117 laps by rain. Brad Keselowski was second.

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