Byron, 21, Looked Like 24 In Martinsville Race

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 29 2019
William Byron showed major maturity during Sunday’s Cup race at Martinsville Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Martin Truex Jr. seemed untouchable in Sunday’s First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway until the race’s latter stages when young William Byron drove into the picture. 

Truex held on for the narrow victory, but he was aware that Byron was stalking him. 

“I was just trying to get good restarts and make sure I could get a little bit of a gap,” said Truex, who finished 0.373 second ahead of Byron. “I knew he’s never won before, so I knew he was probably willing to do just about anything to get a win. I just tried my best to try to get a little bit of a gap because I honestly didn’t want him anywhere near me with two or three laps to go.”

After Truex claimed his seventh victory this season and 26th of his career, he said he initially thought, “Did they put Jeff Gordon back in that car?” Gordon won nine Martinsville races and Truex wondered if he was giving Byron tips about negotiating the tough short track. 

“Jeff was amazing here.” Truex said. “To see the 24 running that good was pretty cool, first off, and he did an amazing job.  He’s really good on restarts, and I felt like every time, even midway through the race when he got to second, there were a lot of times we were in tons of traffic and I kept looking back there and he was just hanging around. He did a really good job of hanging around all day long,”The 21-year-old Byron said he didn’t know what else he could have done to close the gap between himself and Truex in the waning laps. 

“I could work my brake bias a little bit in the car and gain a little bit and then I’d get to him and I’d heat them up a lot and kind of fall back,” Byron said. “Our car bounced a little bit on the short run, which was tough to kind of get around, but overall it was a really good day. This isn’t a place that I’ve loved coming to and it just clicked this weekend.”

Even though Byron is no longer in the playoffs, he says he would still have done whatever it took to the title contender to obtain the victory. 

“I wouldn’t race him dirty, but I’m really hungry for my first win, so whatever it takes,” Byron said. “I think he would have been able to drag the brake and do all he could to keep me behind him anyway.” 

Team owner Rick Hendrick said he was extremely proud of his young driver’s performance.

“To push like he did, to have a chance to win the race against the (No.) 19 (Truex) is pretty awesome,” Hendrick said. “I’m super excited about him for the future.

“He’s very quiet in the car, but if you start pushing him, he will push back. He did a hell of a job today.” 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 29 2019
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