William Byron added his name to a list of NASCAR Cup Series Playoff drivers with issues in the postseason opener as he dropped out of contention after a Stage 2 crash Sunday at Darlington Raceway.
Byron’s No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet sustained minor damage in a Lap 14 scrape with teammate Alex Bowman, but he had rallied to compete among the top 10 in Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500. His night ended in the 200th lap of a scheduled 367 with a far heavier impact into the Turn 1 retaining wall.
Goodyear officials indicated that the left-front tire’s valve stem had been knocked off, causing Byron to lose control. Byron finished 34th in the 37-car field.
“That was a big hit,” Byron said after being cleared at the infield care center. “It looked like on that pit stop, it looked like we dropped the jack and the left-front was still finishing up. I took off and everything felt OK. I went to pass the No. 00 (Quin Houff) or somebody down the frontstretch, and was just about to turn into (Turn) 1 and the left-front went down. There was nothing we could do. The guys did an awesome job to fix it. We were running like top 12, I think, even with all the (earlier) right-rear damage and it’s just terrible. I don’t know, man. That sucks.”
Byron ranks 15th in the 16-driver playoff standings, nine points below the provisional elimination line. Two races remain in the opening Round of 16 before four drivers are trimmed from the postseason field.
Two other playoff drivers were sidelined in earlier crashes — Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell and two-time Cup champ Kyle Busch. Byron’s teammate Chase Elliott also went behind the wall with damage from a crash 40 laps from the end.