A long tradition of racing in July at Daytona International Speedway comes to an end Saturday night after the Coke Zero Sugar 400.
Last year, we saw Erik Jones capture his first career victory in NASCAR’s top division of racing. It was an emotional celebration for Jones, but this season may mean much more to the winner of this famed race.
The weekend got off to a hot start as drama in final practice on Thursday between William Byron and Brad Keselowski has been the buzz of the weekend. Byron blocked Keselowski and nearly was turned, but he was able to grab control and save his race car.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 4, 2019
Although Byron is heading to a backup car, he has shown experience and aggression at the superspeedways. Coming off a top-10 finish at Chicagoland Speedway, he and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates come to Daytona with a bit of momentum.
Last weekend, Alex Bowman grabbed his first career win at Chicago. Not only that, all of the Hendrick Motorsports machines finished in the top-11, something we rarely saw the season before.
The speed for Byron is not a surprise at Daytona. The second year driver grabbed the Daytona 500 pole in February, but wrecked out of the “Great American Race.” After the practice incident with Keselowski, Byron felt some displeasure from the former champion.
“It’s practice,” said Byron. “I don’t think that was really necessary to turn us there…I didn’t really expect that, but that’s all right. It wasn’t like I changed four lanes down the backstretch and blocked him. I was just kind of holding my lane, and he just used his run to drive into my left rear.”
Keselowski obviously had another take on the incident as it seemed like he was trying to teach the 21-year-old a superspeedway lesson.
“Just had a big run,” Keselowski said after the incident. “He put me in a position where I had to lift, and I keep telling these guys I’m not lifting. Just trying to send a message. I’m not lifting. I’m tired of getting wrecked at these (superspeedway) tracks. They’re all watching. They know.”
Keselowski clearly sent him a message after Byron had to go to a back up car. But his actions and words after the practice session did not intimidate the Charlotte, North Carolina native. In fact, Byron still feels confident and knows he has a strong team behind his back.
“It doesn’t bother me because I’m driving the car at the end of the day and I still have an opportunity to do that,” Byron said. “My team backs me. And, the confidence that comes from my team to know that they support me is all that I need. So, I think I’ve said this other times. I don’t care to have him as a friend or anything, so I don’t really need other people’s approval. So, I can still have a clean race car to go race on Saturday and hopefully go win the race.”
The Hendrick boys look continue their run as we inch towards the playoffs. They are the only Chevrolet team in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series to win a race this year and hope to have all their drivers in the post-season. As for Saturday night’s thriller under the lights, they plan on working together to put one of them in victory lane.
“We’re going to work really well together,” Byron said. “All the Chevrolet guys worked well together at Talladega. Unfortunately I wasn’t in on the good side of that. I got wrecked late in the race. But, I feel like this weekend will be a great chance for us to work together and hopefully with where we are in points, we can hopefully go for a win and try to get as many points as possible. But really, we want to win this race.”
Surviving Daytona on Saturday is one of the keys to success at the historic track and after a rocky start to the weekend, Byron plans to end it with his first win and a ticket to the playoffs.
“I honestly feel like we should be contending for the win at the end.”
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