FONTANA, Calif. — William Byron made contact with the outside wall of Auto Club Speedway a few times with his No. 9 Chevrolet, but still posted a fifth-place result — the best among NASCAR XFINITY Series regulars.
The JR Motorsports rookie has scored four top 10s in the first five races of 2017. After an engine failure at Phoenix International Raceway dashed his Camping World Truck Series title hopes last November, the 19-year-old driver has shot out of the gate without any sign of slowing down.
He won the pole at Phoenix last week and earned his first career XFINITY top five at the desert oval (finished fourth). In Saturday’s Service King 300, he made his Auto Club debut and said it was “a blast” to race on the 20-year racing surface.
“I’ve never been here. It’s pretty cool. You have a lot of options … you can run the apron in [Turns] 3 and 4, and there are three or four grooves in 1 and 2 as well,” Byron said. “It makes it a lot of fun for drivers and makes the hard work pay off in the race.”
As a Truck Series rookie, Byron set a record by winning seven races with Kyle Busch Motorsports. This year, he’s facing tougher competition with Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars racing in the XFINITY Series, but like many other series regulars, he embraces the challenge.
“It helps a lot because you can’t just make mistakes you could if you were just facing the regulars,” Byron said. “It’s not that we wouldn’t all be racing really hard, it’s just that Cup guys are on it every lap.
“It’s about getting good restarts and making sure you do all things right and don’t make any mistakes.”
The next track on the schedule is the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway, which was where Byron notched his second truck win last year. In the two previous 1.5-mile XFINITY races (Atlanta and Las Vegas), he finished seventh and 14th, respectively.
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