William Byron repeatedly used the word “fun” to describe his Saturday night at Richmond Raceway en route to a 12th-place finish.
The Hendrick Motorsports rookie ran well inside the top 10 for much of the evening with a car he said was good enough to be top five. But a speeding penalty on Lap 204 made the night much harder.
“I felt I was plenty good on my lights, but I just didn’t slow down quick enough for the straightaway,” said Byron. “You’ve got two corners on pit road that you can run faster RPM, and I just screwed up.
“It sucks. But I’ll learn from that. It was a good day. It was fun coming all the way from dead last, and I think under green up to 12th, and that was a lot of fun.”
A ninth-place starting spot was a career best for Byron in just nine starts, and it appeared he was going to recover for a career-best finish. Restarting at the rear of the field after the penalty, a caution on Lap 355 brought the No. 24 back within striking distance of the top 10.
Gaining positions on pit road and three additional cautions helped Byron get back in the top 10. The restarts from those cautions, however, led to tight racing and a shuffling of the leaderboard as Byron ultimately slid back outside the top 10.
“Overall, a really good night,” Byron said. “We got stage points, I think we finished fifth in both stages [fourth in stage one; fifth in stage two] but overall learned a lot and can just really build on this. I love racing at short tracks, it’s a blast and definitely learned a lot from this.”
Now with nine Cup Series races under his belt, Byron continues to get comfortable with his team and being at the top level.
“Oh yeah, definitely starting to get really comfortable with what is going on,” he said. “I’m starting to really figure out what I need to be faster and I think this weekend was a good example of that. Just love coming to short tracks, they’re a lot of fun.
“I don’t love the late-race restarts because I felt like we had a good long run car and I really liked to use some of the tools I was doing on the long runs to beat some guys, but overall a pretty good day.”