William Byron joins Ryan Blaney as the rookies in the championship round.
Christopher Bell was a Championship 4 qualifier last year.
Kyle Larson won the title in 2021.
When William Byron walked into Martinsville Speedway’s infield media center after qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Xfinity 500, he knew things weren’t good for his Hendrick Motorsports team.
The car just didn’t feel right. Its balance was wrong.
Byron’s gut feeling proved true. Sunday’s Cup race to determine the Championship 4 field was a struggle for the Chevrolet team. Even though Byron entered the race 30 points above the cutline, he and Denny Hamlin traded places, in-and-out of the title round throughout the event, depending on whether Hamlin was leading.
With 180 laps remaining in the 500-lap race, Byron was 13th, the best he had run all day. He finished in that position and squeaked into the title round by eight points.
“My crew chief Rudy (Fugle) knew what button to push to keep me in the game,” an exhausted Byron said as he sat on the track’s pit wall. “It was kind of hell in a bottle. I’ve never been so mad in a race car. I’ve never wanted to get out so much. I’ve never been so frustrated at the car. I just had no grip. We trusted our sim a lot and it didn’t work.”
Byron admitted that he was “falling out physically” during the race. He said in the closing laps his vision was blurry.
“I just couldn’t get fresh air in my helmet,” Byron says. “It’s just one of those deals that we’ve had both races here.”
Byron joins Ryan Blaney as the rookies in the championship round. Christopher Bell was a Championship 4 qualifier last year, and Kyle Larson won the title in 2021.