Byron Stuns Stacked Hickory Fieldby Jason Beck May 10, 2015 0 comments
Two years ago, William Byron had never driven a racecar. Last night, he defeated a NASCAR Champion. Byron held off a hard-charging Chase Elliott, leading the final 103-laps of the CARS Super Late Model Tour race at Hickory Motor Speedway. Byron, a member of the NASCAR Next class and a development driver for Jr. Motorsports, stormed from his second-place qualifying spot and never looked back. It was the first win for LFR Chassis, a new team in late model racing.
Byron relies on a laid-back personality, even after defeating last year’s Xfinity Series champion head-to-head.
“The people who keep it simple usually turn out good, so I just kept it simple and had a blast out there,” Byron said. “I can’t thank (sponsor) Liberty University enough. Two years ago, I just started racing, and I wasn’t going to make it past Legends Cars.”
In that two-year timeframe Byron met Dale Earnhardt Jr., started winning races in his late model and captured his first K&N Series victory at Greenville Pickens Speedway. It’s a whirlwind that would leave most taken aback.
“It beats sitting at home watching racing … to be out here with some of the best guys,” he said. “This (ranks) probably No. 2 behind the K&N race. The K&N race was pretty awesome, to come here with a brand new team and brand new race car is pretty cool.”
Elliott, tabbed to be NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon’s replacement in 2016, qualified 11th and stormed through the field, but was unable to hunt down Byron during the race’s long green-flag run to the finish. It was Elliott’s first ever CARS Tour start after months away from late model racing.
“When you are away from anything, to come back is a challenge,” he said. “But I feel like being able to race all the time (in NASCAR) has helped me.
“It was a really good group of cars, a tough field,” he said. “There were a lot of good drivers, and they put on a good show.”
Why does a NASCAR champion with one of the most desired Sprint Cup rides waiting for him show up at a rough-and-tumble short track like Hickory on his week off? To stay sharp.
“It’s fun, but I think there are characteristics to short track racing that don’t need to be forgotten, and the best way not to forget is to do it more,” Elliott said. “I kind of feel like there is something to be learned from it. There is always something you can be doing better.”
The race was slowed by only four cautions, the most dramatic a lap-three tangle between Quinn Houff, Lucas Ransome, Matthew Wragg and Grant Galloway that prompted a race stoppage for cleanup. Stephen Leicht, another Xfinity Series winner, collected the pole award for his fast qualifying lap, but faded early in the race before retiring with engine issues.
Kyle Grissom rounded out the podium finishers for his third race in a row. Points leader Cole Timm, the CARS winner at Southern National Motorsports Park, maintained his lead with a fourth-place finish. Preston Peltier, a multi-time super late model winner at Hickory rounded out the top five in the 31-car field.
Featured Photo Credit: Jason Beck