LOUDON, N.H. — William Byron aced the inaugural Chase race in NASCAR’s Trucks Series.
The Liberty University freshman dominated Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and won for a whopping sixth time this season.
This win came with extra credit: the 18-year-old Byron became the first driver to advance to the second round of the Chase.
“It’s a great run for our team,” he said. “We needed this to get back into Chase form.”
NASCAR expanded its Chase format this season to include the feeder Xfinity and Truck Series, its champions now crowned in a four-driver shootout at the season finale. The format mostly mirrors the playoff setup used to determine the Sprint Cup champion the last two years.
Trucks will use a seven-race Chase to decide a champ. In Trucks, the format is eight drivers cut down to six and then a final four at Homestead.
Byron led 161 of 175 laps and was never seriously challenged the No. 9 Toyota in yet another flawless win. His Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Christopher Bell was second. Matt Crafton, non-Chase driver Tyler Reddick and Timothy Peters completed the top five.
Busch had advice for Byron before he took the wheel: “Go fast and turn left.”
It was that simple.
Byron, who will race next season for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, won from the pole. Byron lives in a dorm at his Virginia college and seems to have found a home in victory lane. Busch said his only expectations this season were for Byron to win “a race or two.”
At this rate, one or two more, even the championship, seem like a good bet for Byron. With a break in the schedule, Byron gets his next shot Oct. 3 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“It’s not anything new to these guys and this team to be able to go to victory lane,” Busch said. “It kind of relaxes these guys a little bit.”
Byron doesn’t turn 19 until after the championship finale.
“We’ve got to make it to Homestead,” Byron said. “That’s our ultimate goal.”
The rest of the field realized in a hurry that the road to Homestead has to through Byron.
“The most frustrating part was the 9 driving away like he does and he did it effortlessly,” Bell said. “He’s in. That’s good for Kyle Busch Motorports and the company. We’ve got to be better than the 9 the next time out.”