Byron left fuming after valiant effort for playoffs falls short

William Byron was mad when he spun from third place in Turn 6 in the final few laps Sunday afternoon at the Charlotte Roval.

Facing playoff elimination, Byron knew he wasn’t going to win the race, as he needed to do, and his tires were shot as he drove hard to chase down Tyler Reddick and Kyle Larson. Byron admitted he made a mistake that took him off track, spinning through the grass and into the tire barriers. He did so with a car he felt was capable of winning, and that led a race-high 30 laps.

Byron finished 11th, however, and did not advance into the Round of 8.

“At the end, I was just at a full rage, so I didn’t really care about finishing third because that wasn’t going to do anything for me in the playoffs,” Byron said. “It sucks now that we didn’t finish third, but overall, we were in position to win. We were leading on the long run, the caution comes out, we pass all the guys on new tires, and we were the first guy on new tires. That’s all you can do.”

Byron ran through the highs and lows all afternoon of trying to stay in championship contention. He entered his home race knowing the situation was simple in that he and the No. 24 team had to win to advance. Crew chief Rudy Fugle kept that in mind to work a different pit strategy to put Byron in a position to lead during the final stage.

Leading when the caution came out with 25 laps to go, Byron was again brought down pit road for fresh tires and restarted sixth. On his charge back toward the front, Reddick tagged Byron into the backstretch chicane to get him out of shape and force Byron to serve a stop-and-go penalty.

After the race, Byron walked down to Reddick to hear from the Richard Childress Racing driver about what happened. Reddick took responsibility and said he made a mistake when getting into Byron.

“I know it was a mistake, but it doesn’t make any difference,” said Byron. “The awareness there in that situation where a guy is there in the playoffs and the first guy on new tires is probably going to win the race. And there was just a lack of awareness there. I feel like if the roles were reversed, I would be aware.”

Knocked back to 11th, another caution and restart with less than 15 laps to go bunched the field up to give Byron another shot at a charge. The final restart came with eight laps to go, and while Byron got to third, he had nothing left to challenge and overtake Reddick and get to Larson. All hope ended when Byron spun off course with two laps left.

“It was great,” Byron said of the overall performance. “We had a really good car in two of the three races in this round, and today we had an amazing car, probably capable of winning. But just didn’t have things go our way there.”