Sunday's Quaker State 400 did not disappoint in terms of excitement and good racing. From crazy saves by drivers to intense racing because of the threat of rain, the race at Atlanta had plenty of drama.
One driver who had a great story play out was behind the wheel of the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. William Byron's league-leading number of wins increased to four after the race was called due to rain with 75 laps remaining.
Though he got his eighth career win, Byron didn't have an easy time getting there. But even with issues on the pit road and an early spin, the Charlotte, North Carolina native showed grit and determination.
William Byron blamed himself for the wreck with Corey LaJoie that damaged the car but obviously was pleased that it eventually set up the strategy to stay out there late and then hold on for the victory in the rain-shortened Atlanta race. pic.twitter.com/HOK0gI7zhz
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) July 10, 2023
Byron's day got off to a good start, as he was able to climb from an 18th-place starting spot to pick up some important stage points at the end of the first stage. His first bump in the road came during his pit stop. As Byron's car was being serviced, one of his pit crew members fell over the wall trying to retrieve a loose tire, which sent the No. 24 to the rear for the next restart.
Things only got tougher from there. As he was fighting his way back through the field, even bigger issues arose for the Hendrick Motorsports driver when he was tagged by Corey Lajoie's No. 7 Chevy and sent spinning. Fortunately, he was able to limp back to the pit lane with only one flat tire, although he lost a lap in the process.
William Byron SPINS!
Byron and Corey LaJoie tangled. #NASCAR
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) July 10, 2023
Losing a lap at Atlanta is tough, and even much more since the track was reconfigured before the 2022 season.
Byron's confidence during all the issues never wavered, though. Fortunately for him, things worked out, as a caution midway through Stage 2 got him right back in the hunt. In a post-race interview with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio's Claire Lang, Byron talked about the team effort it took to get back in the fight.
"Yeah, It was awesome, total team effort," Byron said. "The spin was what it was. We got tagged in the left rear, and we were able to fix the car after that and make it good enough."
?? "I never give up on the race."
— SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90) (@SiriusXMNASCAR) July 10, 2023
Lang also asked what Byron was most proud of, with how strong of a racer he has become.
"Just kind of staying mentally locked in, I think is the biggest thing, as a young driver I was really easily influenced," Byron said. "I think now I can lock in, understand a situation, and I never give up on the race. I feel like we have a great team, and we just try to stay locked into the race. That's what I'm proud of, the ability to overcome adversity."
Byron certainly did that, and to come back from being a lap down — even with the race getting called 75 laps early due to rain — Byron showed plenty of guts. It was much like what Jeff Gordon, his boss, used to do in that No. 24 car.
Now with four victories on the season, Byron has certainly put himself in a position to be one of the favorites for the playoffs, with only seven races left in the regular season. The grit and fortitude he showed at Atlanta might be just what he needs for a championship run.
Fox Sports' Bob Pockrass asked Byron about what it means for him to have four wins before the toughest part of the summer schedule. Byron didn't hold back about how he has famously struggled once the playoffs begin.
"Everything we've done to this point is great, but if we suck from here on out, it's not going to be fun," Byron said. "So hopefully, we just keep on going."
Next is New Hampshire, where Byron has never finished inside the top 10 in five starts at the Concrete Mile. Can he carry some momentum from his win in Atlanta? Only time will tell.
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