For the first 470 laps Sunday at Richmond Raceway, the day played out as well as William Byron could have hoped.
Byron won the first stage and led the most laps (117). The Hendrick Motorsports driver was trying to fend off a challenge from Martin Truex Jr. when the first bad break of his day occurred with 29 laps to go.
As Byron and Truex were side-by-side for the race lead, the caution flew for a Tyler Reddick spin. With another chance at fresh tires, the field came to pit road, where the next bad break occurred as Bryon fell from the lead to third place.
On the ensuing restart with 21 laps to go, the No. 24 made it to the entry of Turn 1 when the straw finally broke the camel’s back. Byron was tagged in the left rear by Christopher Bell, sending the Hendrick Chevrolet spinning into the outside wall.
Byron finished 24th in the Toyota Owners 400.
“It just looked like the No. 20 (Bell) got in there and overcooked the corner,” Byron said of the incident. “He was put three-wide and he just blew the corner and I was the victim.”
Bell initially said Ross Chastain forced the issue, resulting in him getting into Byron. However, Bell later took full responsibility through a tweet when he saw the replay.
It was the second consecutive spring race Byron left Richmond without a win that he and his team were capable of. He led 122 laps in the same race a year ago but finished third when the field split on strategy in the final stage.
“I don’t know about dominating the race, but we definitely were a top-three car, which is good for this place,” Byron said. “You just want to be in contention and have a shot. It was good to have another great car, but it sucks to finish in the 20s and hit the wall that hard. That’s never fun, but it is what it is.
“We had a great car. We did almost everything we could do to put ourselves in position to win; it was us and (Truex), and unfortunately, it just didn’t work out that way. So that’s the way it goes.”
Through the first seven races, Byron has been one of the best in the series. He scored back-to-back wins in early March, has five stage wins, and has led nearly 400 laps.
“We’re doing a really good job, so we just have to keep it up,” Byron said. “It’s a long season, so got to keep it up.”