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May 5, 2024

William Byron eyes charge to front at Kansas after wall contact in qualifying

William Byron drives near the Kansas wall in NASCAR Cup Series practice.
Alejandro Alvarez

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — William Byron posted the fastest 10-lap and 20-lap averages in Saturday’s Cup Series practice session, but wall contact in qualifying derailed the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports’ driver’s starting position.

Byron will be credited with a 36th-place starting spot in Sunday’s AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) as the team made repairs to the right side of Byron’s green, black and white Chevrolet.

MORE: Starting lineup at Kansas | Full Kansas preview

In time trials, Byron carried significant speed into Turn 1 and, like most competitors, pinned his No. 24 car next to the outside retaining wall. But that speed proved too strong, forcing his car to push upward and into the wall, scraping against the SAFER barrier through Turn 2 and ruining the lap.

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“I just was a little tight coming up to the green there and then just overcommitted a little bit,” Byron explained Saturday. “There’s definitely a lot of throttle to get out there to have a fast lap, and I’ve got to look back but probably a combination of my angle and a little too much throttle and a little tight balance. So just all those things and hit the wall. I hate it, but our car’s really good, so we’ll just have to work a little bit harder.”

Byron, already a three-time winner in 2024, was not concerned with the damage to his vehicle as the body simply scraped against the wall without a hard impact.

“It’s just the right side,” Byron said. “You know, the right sides are really tough in these things, but we obviously want to get the toe and everything, you know, fixed as good as we possibly can and and all the components. Looked like the fenders were a little bit caved, so we’ll probably have a little work to do, which I hate, but our car is really good. So we just gotta, like I said, I have to pass a lot of cars.”

With 13 career wins — 11 of which have come since the introduction of the Next Gen car in 2022 — Byron appeared in a light mood despite the Saturday setback. That stems from a deep-rooted confidence that permeates the No. 24 team, led by crew chief Rudy Fugle. But there was a tinge of reflection upon last week’s race at Dover Motor Speedway, where a mistake on pit road mired Byron back in traffic before he was eventually collected in a crash, leading him and the team to an earlier qualifying position than usual.

“I mean, I’m frustrated. Like, I’m really frustrated,” Byron said. “But it’s just like, typically qualifying is really good for us. Our metric from last week hurt us a little bit, going a little bit sooner. So probably just took less grip in the race track and overestimated all those conditions and hurt us. So, typically, qualifying is pretty solid for us. It’s part of it.”

Sunday will feature a charge from the rear of the field if Byron wants to contend for his first career victory at Kansas, the 1.5-mile oval where he scored a personal-best third-place finish last spring.

“I think the only thing that’s different is just that it’s cool out so it’ll probably be a little tougher to pass,” Byron said. “But you know, try to get a chunk of them at the beginning and have our balance close and have a good cycle. Probably miss out a little bit on Stage 1 points which stinks, but (we’re) just really after the end of the race, so should be good.”

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The points chase is no small item on the team’s to-do list in search of the 2024 regular-season championship. Byron enters Sunday’s contest sixth in points, 62 markers back of points leader and Hendrick teammate Kyle Larson.

“We’re really down on stage points,” Byron said. “We have 59 stage points. I think Kyle has like (126). I just looked at that before coming out here. So this isn’t gonna help that. But I mean, we’ve just got to keep working on that, getting points throughout the race. Even when we run really well, it seems like we’re not getting a ton.”

But if the No. 24 team exudes the same speed Sunday that it displayed Saturday, Byron could be celebrating a big payday by evening’s end in the Midwest.