Byron ready for the next big step

Image by Harrelson/LAT

Byron ready for the next big step

NASCAR

Byron ready for the next big step

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Although William Byron was eliminated from the playoffs, he still had reason to be satisfied leaving Kansas Speedway.

Byron not only made the playoffs this year but advanced to the second round. As such, he is likely to pick up a career-best finish in the point standings. Plus, there is still one more accomplishment Byron and the No. 24 team can knock off the checklist before the end of the season.

“I think we can still further our position in points, which is awesome,” said Byron. “Really, for us to make that next step, we have to compete for wins. We’re getting close — we’re running in the top five, and that’s great; we just have to make that next step, and I think we’re really close.”

A win in Kansas would have advanced Byron (he was in a 27 point hole coming in), but he finished fifth, which was his fourth top-five of the year and 12th finish in the top 10. It was a solid and consistent day for Byron and the team, moving up from the 25th starting position.

“It’s a bummer, but we had a great run today, and we can take pride in that for sure,” he said. “We had a great car — one of the best cars we’ve had on a 1.5-mile track. It was fun, but we needed to win, and we couldn’t do that. But it is what it is.

“It was a great day for us overall; we’ll move onto the next couple of weeks and keep fighting. If we can go out and win, that’s all that really matters.”

Also helping Byron’s satisfaction is the improvement shown since being crowned the 2018 Rookie of the Year. Last season he struggled to find his footing in the Cup Series with just four top 10s and a 23rd-place finish in the point standing. This year, Byron has a new crew chief (Chad Knaus), some new team members, and has five poles and 225 laps led to go with his bump in the top-five and top-10 categories.

“Last year was no fun, but this year (we’ve) come a long way,” said Byron. “It’s been a lot of fun. Last year, I blew up (55) laps in (at Kansas). This year, finishing fifth is great. We came close, and I think we could have finished second or third. But overall, it was a great day.”

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