NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie candidate William Byron rode an emotional roller coaster this weekend, seeing his overtime lead fade away then reopen suddenly, clearing the way to his first NASCAR victory in Friday night’s Toyota Tundra 250 at Kansas Speedway.
In only his fifth Truck event driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, the 18-year old Byron grabbed the lead with 32 laps to go after starting third on the restart. A charging Ben Rhodes sailed too hot into turn three tapping then leader Timothy Peters to cause him to become squirrelly sending strong runner, Matt Crafton up high opening the door for Byron to advance to the lead. He continued his dominating pace building up a near five-second lead only to see it all dwindle away with four laps to go after Tyler Reddick spun in turn two.
This set up another overtime finish with Byron being joined by his KBR Toyota teammate, Erik Jones, on the front row. It looked like the Kansas land rush when the green flag came out in the two lap Green-White-Checkered sprint sending Johnny Sauter to the front followed by Ben Rhodes. It appeared that Byron had lost all hope of a victory when going into turn three on the white flag lap, Rhodes again went into turn three traveling right into the rear of Sauter pushing them both high leaving Byron with a wide open track with a checkered flag waiting on him.
“It was crazy the last couple of restarts, and I had the lead there on the green-flag run (before the caution that forced overtime), and I was really just praying for no cautions, but you have to earn it,” said Byron becoming the ninth NASCAR Next driver to win a national series event.
“And my crew chief, Rudy Fugle, really told me about that on all the restarts. He’s like, ‘This is how you earn it’. This is a dream come true. I was six years old watching Truck races. Didn’t start racing until I was 14, and just to be in a Toyota Tundra like this is amazing.”
Johnny Sauter looking powerful in the G-W-C period was none too happy about his consequences that were totally out of his control as the leader going into turn three before his mishap.
“I just got ran over by a bozo; I guess he’s just brain dead,” an irate Sauter said after the incident with Rhodes. “It’s just unfortunate that sometimes you can’t race the way you want.”
Byron joins Sauter and John Hunter Nemechek as the first of three entries into the Truck Championship Chase of 8 that will start in the fall.
After the winner Byron, finishing second was Matt Crafton, third, Daniel Hemric followed by Christopher Bell and Clint Bowyer rounding out the top five.
The average speed of the Toyota Tundra 250 was 108.511 mph resulting in 11 caution flags for 47 laps in the action packed event.
The NASCAR Trucks now head to Dover International Speedway next weekend on Friday, May 13 for the running of the Dover 200 airing on FOX Sports 1 at 5:30 p.m. EDT.