Byron says tire strategies limited him to third

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Byron says tire strategies limited him to third

NASCAR

Byron says tire strategies limited him to third

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William Byron felt he and the No. 24 team did everything they could late Sunday at Richmond Raceway, given their strategy.

Byron faded to a third-place finish over the final five laps as fresher tires on Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick prevailed. In the final stage, Byron was on the one-stop pit strategy from crew chief Rudy Fugle and was trying to manage his tires and gap to Martin Truex Jr., Harvick and Hamlin.

Another variable Byron faced was lapped traffic and how much it affected him when they passed the No. 24 Chevrolet. Byron said it would get him out of shape, especially on corner exit.

“I had to manage throttle so much,” Byron said. “I was only quarter throttle, so as soon as I would slip (the tires) or heat them up, it was game over. So I just trying to keep that pace. I thought we did probably the best job we could, and it didn’t quite work out.

“I thought there at the end when they told me that I was just racing the 19 [Truex], I was like, ‘OK, I got him.’ But the 4 [Harvick] and the 11 [Hamlin] were on totally different planets. It’s just part of it with different tire strategies.”

Hamlin came from fourth place and over eight seconds behind to win the race. Harvick followed him through to finish second, pushing Byron back to third.

“There was nothing I could do about them, so it was probably four or five to go,” Byron said of when he was told about Hamlin and Harvick being in contention. “Brandon [Lines, spotter] was just coaching me on keeping the tires underneath it and having good exits and entries, and especially making those guys go around me on the top was definitely better.

“The times guys would get underneath me, it was really, really hard to get back connected and get a good lap put together because the tires were hot anywhere off the paint. I really need the paint to make it work and felt we made it work OK but came up a few laps short.”

In the last stint with where Byron ran and the gap to the field, Fugle said “our recommendations were flashing” between staying out or pitting as most others did.

“It was all about the pace you were able to run. It’s just elapsed time over the entire run, so we needed a second and a half over 90 laps. It sounds like a lot until you take like a 100th a lap for 90 laps. We just got tied up with some guys when they were passing us on tires that slowed us down a little more than we projected. Our car wasn’t great at passing other cars, so we thought that if we could keep clean air for as long as we could that would be our best thought. We just missed it by about a second and a half over 90 laps.”

It was not a call made on a whim or because the team already has a win this season. Fugle said everything changes by cautions and how the race is playing out.

“It just develops as you go,” said Fugle. “And then as it cools down … our pace through 60 laps was really good, and I thought there’s no way the 11 was going to be able to do that, and then we’ve never gone to 90 (laps). So that last 30 (laps) we just dropped faster than we needed to, unfortunately.”

Byron led 122 laps in the Toyota Owners 400, which was the first time he’s led at Richmond. It’s been a track the team had circled for a long time to see better results, and it paid off with its best finish.

“It’s nice to have a run like we did today,” Byron said. “It sucks though when you’re three laps away and you feel like you can taste it, so that stinks.”

MX-5 CUP | ROUND 9 – ROAD AMERICA

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