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      ‘A win is a win, and that’s what we’re here to do still’: William Byron remains focused for Texas

      © 2021 Nigel Kinrade / NKP

      Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500
      Texas Motor Speedway
      Sunday, Oct. 17 | 2 p.m. ET

      OH SO CLOSE: Basically in a must-win situation to advance on to the Round of 8 of the playoffs last Sunday, William Byron and the No. 24 team came up just shy of getting the job done at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL. Running up front all race long, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native led 30 laps – the most laps of any driver – before a late-race caution erased his lead. After contact from a competitor relinquished him to just outside the top-10 running order, Byron powered his way back through the field and reached the third position with seven laps to go. However, in the final laps, Byron got off track trying to catch the leaders on old tires, eventually crossing the stripe in 11th and ending his playoff run.

      BEST YEAR YET: With only four races left in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, Byron is continuing to have a career-best season at the highest level of competition in the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. So far, Byron has collected one win (Homestead-Miami Speedway), two pole awards (Road America and Indy road course – most by a driver this season), 10 top-five finishes and 17 top 10s all while leading 313 laps and collecting three stage wins. In his Cup career, these are the most top-five finishes, top 10s, laps led, and stage wins the 23-year-old driver has collected in a single season.

      1.5-MILE MOMENTUM: With the Cup Series racing at seven mile-and-a-half tracks so far this year, Byron has finished inside the top 10 in five of those events. Going back as far as the last 11 races on 1.5-milers, Byron has secured seven top-10 finishes on that configuration of track.

      TRUCKIN’ IT IN TEXAS: Byron’s success at Texas Motor Speedway began almost five years ago in his first start at the 1.5-mile oval with crew chief Rudy Fugle on the pit box. Starting from the sixth position, the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie led six laps before capturing the checkered flag becoming the youngest to ever win a Truck Series race at Texas.

      TEXAS TOUGH: Texas Motor Speedway is a track where Byron has ran well at throughout his entire NASCAR career, even if the statistics don’t always reflect that. In six points-paying Cup Series starts at the Lone Star State track, Byron has two top-10 results, including a track-best finish of sixth in March 2019. In his 1,924 laps run at Texas across his six starts, he has spent 678 laps running inside the top 10 (35.2%). Byron also has four other starts at the 1.5-mile oval with an average finish of 3.5 in two Truck Series starts and 8.0 in two NASCAR Xfinity Series races. Byron also competed at Texas earlier this season for the All-Star Race, where he led the most laps (30) and was in contention to win before finishing the exhibition race in seventh.

      FUGLE HAS ‘NO LIMITS’: While the Cup Series raced at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this year for the All-Star Race, this Sunday’s event will mark Fugle’s first points-paying event as a Cup Series crew chief at the 1.5-mile oval. However, Fugle is no stranger to success at Texas. With 15 starts at the 1.5-mile oval, all coming in the Truck Series, Fugle has visited victory lane at the “No Limits” track five times – the most for him at any track on the circuit – most recently in 2019 when he swept both races with Kyle Busch in March and with Greg Biffle in June. Of those five wins, one includes a victory with Byron in June 2016. In his 15 previous starts, Fugle’s drivers have also racked up seven top-five finishes and 11 top 10s with 493 laps led.

      © 2021 Rusty Jarrett / NKP

      BYRON ON MENTALITY FOR REST OF SEASON: “I have learned pretty quickly to put the past behind you and move forward. We have four more chances to win coming up before the season ends and we’re going to take every opportunity that we get. If we look at the last round, we probably had the best car in two of those races. We just had bad luck, and even then we almost overcame it all. Moving forward, these next tracks are strong for us, especially our mile-and-a-half program. I think we’re going to do good things in these last races. It sucks that we won’t be in the playoffs, but a win is a win, and that’s what we’re here to do still.”

      FUGLE ON CLOSING OUT 2021 STRONG: “I couldn’t be more proud of what William and the guys of the No. 24 team have done this season, especially in the playoffs. We controlled as much as we could have. And when things happened that we couldn’t control, we still worked as a group to overcome them as best as we could. Would we have loved to make it to the next round? Of course we would. That doesn’t mean our season is over, though, at this point. We’re going to go out there and try get as many wins as we can to close out the season and keep them still talking about us. We know what we’re capable of as a team, and we will continue to have the same goals – show up to the racetrack and execute the best race we can. First stop is winning a cowboy hat in Texas Sunday.”

      © 2021 Gavin Baker / NKP


      SEVENTH HEAVEN: Following Kyle Larson’s performance Sunday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, Hendrick Motorsports has accumulated 49 all-time wins during the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs – 16 more than next-best Joe Gibbs Racing (33) and more than double third-place Penske Racing (24). In six playoff events this year, the team has won twice – both coming courtesy of Larson. Hendrick Motorsports has gone to victory lane in the seventh race of the playoffs a record seven times.

      OOPS … WE DID IT AGAIN: Hendrick Motorsports has now won five consecutive Cup Series playoff elimination races dating back to last season. In 2020, Chase Elliott won the final three cutoff events – held at the ROVAL, Martinsville Speedway and Phoenix Raceway – en route to winning the Cup Series championship. This year, Larson won at Bristol Motor Speedway, which hosted the first elimination race of the 2021 playoffs, and Sunday’s event at the ROVAL.

      FOLLOW THE LEADER: Sunday’s showdown at Texas Motor Speedway will mark the eighth NASCAR Cup Series race held at a 1.5-mile venue in 2021. This season, Hendrick Motorsports has led 1,153 laps on intermediate tracks – the most ever by a team in the first seven events.

      BATTING .500: In the last 20 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series races, Hendrick Motorsports has recorded 10 victories. No other organization has more than four in that span.

      EVERYTHING’S BIGGER: Entering Sunday’s playoff race at Texas, Hendrick Motorsports owns or shares the track records for points-paying wins (nine; tie), pole positions (seven; tie), top-five finishes (40) and top 10s (72). The organization is second in laps led there – just 13 behind leader Roush Fenway Racing.

      Via Hendrick Motorsports