Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron is about to take on the playoffs for the fourth time in his Cup Series career. He has never reached the Round of Eight, but he will have an opportunity to take care of some unfinished business starting at Darlington Raceway.
The site of the opening playoff race is a track where Byron was en route to an important win during Throwback Weekend. However, Joey Logano sent him into the wall with a late push and captured the win for Team Penske. Now Byron will return to the South Carolina track ready to complete the deal while facing raised stakes.
“I mean, we would definitely learn from our past experience and try to build on it,” Byron told Heavy. “So Darlington’s been a good track for us in the past, but we’ve got to show up there this time. And have a good car as well. So I’m excited to kind of see how it plays out this year.”
Byron will have an important figure atop the pit box as he pursues this goal — Rudy Fugle. The championship-winning crew chief joined Hendrick Motorsports after the 2020 season and took over for Chad Knaus. He has since guided Byron to three wins over two seasons and a career-high 20 top-10 finishes in 2021.
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“We’re definitely really comfortable with each other,” Byron explained. “We talk about the car and what we need out of the car each week. So we’re definitely really comfortable at this point. We’ve worked together for this would be… this is our third year total working together. So yeah, we know what we need to do, and we’re pretty good at communicating.”
Byron Has Some Key Races Circled
Byron has not won a race during the playoffs. Though he has come close multiple times with a runner-up at Texas Motor Speedway in 2021, a third-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2021, and a fourth-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway in 2020.
The 2022 playoffs could provide him with the opportunity to snap this trend. Byron has won at two tracks that will appear during the all-important Round of Eight. He first won at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2021 before becoming the first person to win at Martinsville Speedway in the Next Gen era. Now he will return with more on the line.
“I think that third round, all the tracks in that round are really good for us,” Byron said. “So Vegas, we finished fifth there in the spring. Homestead, the last time we were there, we won and Martinsville, we won there the last time we were there. So those are all three really good tracks. So just a matter of kind of getting to that point in the season.”
Some Wild Cards Stand in Byron’s Way
Of course, Byron will first have to survive two other rounds before hitting these tracks where he has strong performances. This will not be a simple task considering that he will have to contend with Talladega Superspeedway, a track where wrecks regularly occur.
He will also have to take on the Charlotte Roval, the track where contact from Tyler Reddick essentially knocked him out of the playoffs in 2021. The No. 8 hit the No. 24 in the braking zone, which made it miss the chicane. Byron had to come to a complete stop while Reddick took over second place.
Will Byron perform better at these two tracks during the Round of 12? He doesn’t know, but they — along with Texas Motor Speedway — represent an opportunity for him to overcome obstacles, take care of some unfinished business, and capture as many points as possible.
“I mean, it’s tough to get through all that stretch. It’s definitely gonna be a challenge. This year’s playoffs, it’s gonna be different than any other year with how close the points are between the 16 drivers. We’re gonna have to do our best every week.”