Rick Hendrick thought William Byron did a “hell of a job” at Martinsville Speedway in picking up a second-place finish in the First Data 500.
“I’m really proud of him,” said the Hall of Fame team owner.
Byron couldn’t chase down Martin Truex Jr. over the final 24 laps, but kept the pressure on the series former champion. The finish was Byron’s second career runner-up effort (tying what he previously set at Daytona in July) and the fifth top-five finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.
“We were saying, I just want to finish in the top 10, but to push like he did and have a chance to win the race against the 19 is pretty awesome,” Hendrick said. “I’m super excited about him for the future.”
A solid top 10 contender throughout the day, Byron challenged inside the top five for much of the race’s final stage. When a rash of cautions occurred in the last 50 laps, Byron was given multiple opportunities to challenge the dominant car of Truex, even hanging on his outside after a restart with 29 laps to go.
In the final stretch, Byron kept within a car length of Truex. Ultimately, though, he faded over the final few laps and didn’t know what more he would have needed to make a run at Truex.
“He was really strong,” Byron said. “I could work my brake bias a little bit in the car and gain a little bit, and then I’d get to him, and I’d heat them (the tires) up a lot and kind of fall back. So, I don’t really know. He was super strong. Our car bounced a little bit on the short run, which was tough to kind of get around, but overall it was a really good day.
“This isn’t a place that I’ve loved coming to, and it just clicked this weekend. The things we did with the car going into qualifying and then obviously our race. So, I’m super excited, but second is not super fun either. So, we’ll try to get one spot better next time.”
Even with Truex racing for a championship and Byron having been eliminated in the last round, Byron said he would have done “whatever it takes” to get the win if he had been closer.
“I wouldn’t race him dirty, but I’m really hungry for my first win, so whatever it takes,” he said. “But he ran such a good race, I think he would have been able to drag the brake and do all he could to keep me behind him anyway. So, it was close.”