William Byron wrote a page of NASCAR history Saturday afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The 19-year-old held off a last lap challenge from former Brickyard 400 winner Paul Menard to score the NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in the Lilly Diabetes 250.
It marks his third career series victory of his rookie season. It also makes him the youngest NASCAR winner in the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Byron said the winning at Indianapolis was “Really cool.”
“It’s so cool. This is an incredible time just to be here and able to kiss the bricks.”
With a bad vibration from a tire over the closing laps, the youngster from Charlotte, North Carolina drove around the venerable Brickyard like a veteran over the final 16 laps to take the win – despite having never driven a race at the speedway prior to Saturday.
“I don’t know man, we had vibrations for probably the last 20 laps or so, and it kind of leveled off,” Byron said. “I’m not a tire expert, so I was just trying to think about what it would do. I don’t know, it hung on and I’m just thankful for that. That’s what ultimately won us the race, I think, we were able to stay out there. We had a super fast car and was able to pass pretty much anyone, so it’s a good day for us.
It also gave Dale Earnhardt, Jr. a win at Indy as a car owner.
“Just real proud of him,” Earnhardt, Jr. said. “He’s done an awesome job. Excited for his future and the rest of his season for him.”
Menard put a challenge on for his second opportunity to kiss the famed bricks at the start/finish line at Indianapolis, but in the end, had to settle for second.
“He was beating me in turn one,” said Menard. “I was better in two, three and four. Turn one is the slowest corner. Actually had to come quite a bit out of the throttle, and he was able to carry a little more speed through there. Our car was too loose on the short run. Definitely a good long run car.”
While Byron celebrated in victory lane, Kyle Busch was left wondering about what might have been. After starting the race from the 11th position, the all-time series win leader charged forward, moving into the top five by lap 10. Following a competition caution on lap 16, Busch moved to the lead for the first time on the restart.
Busch, who was looking for his third straight Indy Xfinity Series win, would lead the chase for most of the day, holding off advances from Byron, Joey Logano and others on restarts.
In all, Busch would lead 6 times for 44 laps, more than any other driver.
Busch and his teammate, Eric Jones, were running first and second as the race reached 18 laps to go. But a call from Busch’s crew chief, fearing bad tire wear on the No. 18 Toyota, brought the defending winner to pit road on the next lap, with Jones in tow.
It would prove to be the team’s undoing, as Busch came back out deep in the field while the rest of the leaders stayed on the track. Without the aid of a caution, Busch could only pull himself back up to 12th by the end. Meanwhile, Jones was hit with a pit road penalty when the crew let a tire roll out of his pit box. He would finish 23rd after a drive through penalty.
The race garnered a lot of attention due to the new aero package the series was trying out at Indianapolis in a bid to improve racing. The package seemed to work, as the leader could never really escape the pack, while two and three-wide passing was seen through the field all day.
In all, there were 16 lead changes among 8 drivers, almost twice as many as in any other running of the event.
Byron won the first segment of the race, while points leader Elliott Sadler won the second.
Logano finished in second, followed by Sadler in fourth and Cole Custer in fifth.
Ryan Reed, Brennan Poole, Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones and Ty Dillon rounded out the top ten.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Speedway, IN
Lilly Diabetes 250 – July 22, 2017
1. (3) William Byron #, Chevrolet, 100.
2. (15) Paul Menard(i), Chevrolet, 100.
3. (12) Joey Logano(i), Ford, 100.
4. (1) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 100.
5. (6) Cole Custer #, Ford, 100.
6. (10) Ryan Reed, Ford, 100.
7. (17) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 100.
8. (13) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 100.
9. (14) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 100.
10. (19) Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 100.
11. (7) Matt Tifft #, Toyota, 100.
12. (11) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 100.
13. (16) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 100.
14. (8) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 100.
15. (21) J.J. Yeley, Toyota, 100.
16. (23) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 100.
17. (22) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 100.
18. (9) Ben Kennedy #, Chevrolet, 100.
19. (25) Jeb Burton, Toyota, 100.
20. (24) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 99.
21. (33) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 99.
22. (29) Harrison Rhodes, Chevrolet, 99.
23. (2) Erik Jones(i), Toyota, 99.
24. (30) Ray Black II, Chevrolet, 99.
25. (5) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 99.
26. (31) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, 99.
27. (26) Mario Gosselin, Chevrolet, 99.
28. (20) Spencer Gallagher #, Chevrolet, 99.
29. (35) David Starr, Chevrolet, 99.
30. (37) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 98.
31. (32) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 98.
32. (39) Chad Finchum, Dodge, 98.
33. (34) B.J. McLeod, Chevrolet, 93.
34. (40) Mike Harmon, Dodge, Transmission, 90.
35. (4) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 86.
36. (36) Timmy Hill, Toyota, Clutch, 40.
37. (18) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, Accident, 38.
38. (27) Reed Sorenson(i), Chevrolet, Vibration, 23.
39. (38) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Engine, 22.
40. (28) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, Vibration, 9.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 126.227 mph.
Time of Race: 01 Hrs, 58 Mins, 50 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.108 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 22 laps.
Lead Changes: 16 among 8 drivers.
Lap Leaders: E. Sadler 1-16; K. Busch(i) 17; M. Shepherd 18; D. Hemric # 19; K. Busch(i) 20-22; W. Byron # 23-31; H. Rhodes 32; K. Busch(i) 33-52; J. Allgaier 53-56; K. Busch(i) 57; E. Sadler 58-60; G. Smithley 61; K. Busch(i) 62-69; W. Byron # 70; K. Busch(i) 71-81; E. Sadler 82-84; W. Byron # 85-100.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Busch(i) 6 times for 44 laps; W. Byron # 3 times for 26 laps; E. Sadler 3 times for 22 laps; J. Allgaier 1 time for 4 laps; M. Shepherd 1 time for 1 lap; D. Hemric # 1 time for 1 lap; G. Smithley 1 time for 1 lap; H. Rhodes 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 9,18,22,00,48,3,42,2,1,19
Stage #2 Top Ten: 1,48,21,62,33,4,96,14,39,51
Top 10 in Points: 1. Elliott Sadler – 665; 2. William Byron # – 625 (3 Wins); 3. Justin Allgaier – 532 (1 Win); 4. Brennan Poole – 473; 5. Daniel Hemric # – 458; 6. Cole Custer # – 435; 7. Matt Tifft # – 414; 8. Ryan Reed – 408 (1 Win); 9. Dakoda Armstrong – 368; 10. Michael Annett – 367.