KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Recap by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — NASCAR photo —
In a span of three miles, 18-year-old rookie William Byron went from the top of the heap … to the bottom of the barrel … and finally back to the pinnacle of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, scoring his first-career series victory in just his fifth start during Friday night’s Toyota Tundra 250 at Kansas Speedway.
Byron took the lead following a lap 134 restart that saw race-long dominator and then-leader Matt Crafton shuffled back to 10th in a frantic four-wide scramble, opening up a four second lead over teammate Christopher Bell in the closing stages, but a caution with three laps to go in regulation — when Tyler Reddick went spinning off the exit of turn two — set up a NASCAR Overtime finish that sent the front-runners into a realm of unmitigated chaos on the final green flag of the night.
On the race-deciding restart, third-running Johnny Sauter charged to the inside of both Byron and Bell, nearly utilizing the apron of the track to assume command off turn two. He pulled away as Byron fell back to the tail of the top five, but had a hard-charging Ben Rhodes on his back decklid as the white flag waved over the 1.5-mile oval.
Rhodes closed to Sauter’s bumper going down the backstretch and charged to the white line entering turn three, hoping to squeeze underneath Sauter and claim his first-career Truck victory in the process, but got into Sauter’s left-rear quarter panel entering turn three and spun both of them out on the final lap.
Byron, who had worked his way back into third by that point, was able to sneak underneath the melee and come back to the checkered flag for his first NASCAR national series victory in the most thrilling of fashions.
“My gosh, it was crazy [on] the last couple restarts,” Byron admitted in Gatorade Victory Lane. “I had the lead there on the long green-flag run (with 34 to go) and I was just praying for no cautions because we had that huge lead and I knew we could hold it, but you have to earn it and my crew chief Rudy Fugle really told me about that on all the restarts we had tonight.”
And yet, it was the final one that nearly cost the talented teenager the victory before handing it back to him in the most incredible of fashions.
“Honestly, when the restart happened … I saw Christopher pulling me and I was banging through the gears as best as I could and just didn’t have the run or the push (from behind). I saw everyone stacking up on the bottom, and I just got frustrated. I was squeezing everyone as much as I could to try and get a side-draft … and finally had to fall in line. When we got to the final corner, I knew I wasn’t gonna give up. I started to see (Rhodes) go for that move, and I thought ‘I don’t know if Sauter’s gonna be able to save it,’ so I just made the plan to try and miss him and thankfully it all worked out in the end.”
“This is a dream come true. I was six years old watching Truck races and I didn’t start racing until I was 14 … just to be in a Toyota Tundra (this good) and to get my first win tonight is amazing.”
Matt Crafton, who led the most laps on the night at 57, somehow found his way back to second after being shuffled out of the lead during the second-to-last restart on the night where Byron first assumed the top spot.
The two-time Truck Series champion spoke afterwards on the “chaos” of the restart that sent him backwards, as well as the race in general, which saw the leaders running as many as four-abreast all night long.
“We were racing three-wide and Timothy got into my left-rear,” Crafton said of the lap 134 incident. “I respect him more than any other race car driver (out on track) and I know he just made a mistake there. We all do it.”
“This Menards Toyota Tundra was good, very good when it was out front. I felt we had the best truck, me or Byron. If I know I would’ve been ahead of him, I think we could’ve drove away from him at the end, but that’s just racing. You have to win these races and you have to take the gloves off and do whatever you have to do. I just hate to see how everybody keeps running into everybody and tearing up a bunch of great equipment, but we got back to second and I’ll take that tonight.”
Daniel Hemric, Bell and Kansas native Clint Bowyer rounded out the top five finishers, while Sauter fell all the way to 16th in the final rundown and had some harsh words for Rhodes after climbing from his battered race truck.
“I just got ran over by a bozo, I guess,” the Daytona winner said, visibly frustrated with the final outcome. “I don’t know if he’s brain dead or he can’t see or what. Our truck was unbelievable. We had to start in the back, obviously, drove to the front and had to come from the back again because of how pit sequence worked out. Just proud of everyone at GMS Racing, the fabrication team and all the guys at the shop. They build awesome trucks. This thing was fun to drive tonight and it’s just unfortunate that sometimes you can’t race like you want to.”
Friday’s race featured 11 cautions and a track-record 19 lead changes, but saw the early stages dominated by polesitter John Wes Townley and Brad Keselowski Racing’s Tyler Reddick, who combined to pace the opening 49 laps before Townley, John Hunter Nemechek and Parker Kligerman were all eliminated in the first major accident of the night — after the Caution Clock triggered an early restart that saw the front-runners go four-wide for position at the front of the field.
From there, a flurry of different incidents shuffled the players before Crafton took control through the middle stint of the event, but a second chaotic moment would drop on a lap 120 yellow (again for the expiration of the Caution Clock) as numerous drivers were running on fumes and in need of gas to continue onwards.
As trucks limped around on the apron in an attempt to stay under power, Ryan Truex, Cameron Hayley, Bobby Pierce and Cole Custer all ran dry before NASCAR finally opened the pit lane four laps later to allow the leaders down for service.
Following the resumption, a spin by Spencer Gallagher on the 129th round would set up the run that gave Byron his first taste of the lead all night, paving the way for the race-ending madness that followed.
Byron’s Truck owner, Kyle Busch, also had some kind words — and a jab — for his young superstar following a hard-earned victory.
“To see him win like this, so early in his career, it’s a huge testament to him and the job he and this team at Kyle Busch Motorsports are doing right now and I’m obviously extremely proud of him for accomplishing what he did tonight.”
“This is win number one for him, though, and I think I’m at 160 now (laughter) so he’s got a long ways ahead of him, but he’s fun to watch. It’s fun to see all the younger guys that have had success in our Truck program go out there and win races, and I’m definitely looking forward to many more days like this (as a team owner).
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to action on May 13 with the Dover 200 from Dover International Speedway.
RESULTS: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series; Toyota Tundra 250; Kansas Speedway; May 6, 2016
- William Byron
- Matt Crafton
- Daniel Hemric
- Christopher Bell
- Clint Bowyer
- Ryan Truex
- Cole Custer
- Timothy Peters
- Ben Kennedy
- Spencer Gallagher
- Tyler Young
- Brandon Brown
- Tyler Reddick
- Matt Tifft
- B.J. McLeod
- Johnny Sauter
- Mike Bliss
- Ben Rhodes
- Cameron Hayley
- Travis Kvapil
- Timmy Hill
- Rico Abreu
- Bobby Pierce
- Jennifer Jo Cobb
- Austin Wayne Self
- John Wes Townley
- Cody Coughlin
- John Hunter Nemechek
- Jordan Anderson
- Ryan Ellis
- Parker Kligerman
- Tommy Joe Martins
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 22-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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