William Byron turns a tough day into a strong result at Pocono

LONG POND, PENNSYLVANIA - JULY 28: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 MoneyLion Ford, leads William Byron, driver of the #24 Liberty University Chevrolet, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Gander RV 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 28, 2019 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

You’d never know from William Byron’s demeanor or his language that the 21-year-old driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet had just finished fourth in Sunday’s Gander RV 400 at Pocono Raceway.

“It was a struggle,” said Byron, who restarted sixth in overtime and passed both Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick to post his second top five of the season. “I felt like the guys did a good job with strategy, and being able to maximize on restarts. We got fortunate on a couple of things. We go on from it and move on to Watkins Glen.”

With five races left in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season, Byron remains 12th in the standings, but he increased his margin over Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson—the first driver currently out of a Playoff-eligible position—to 62 points.

Nevertheless, after the strong run at Pocono, Byron seemed more focused on the difficulty he faced at the Tricky Triangle, where he started 31st after his car failed post-qualifying inspection. After pitting for the last time on Lap 115, Byron saved just enough fuel to make it to the end of the race, which went three laps beyond its posted distance.

“It was a tough day,” Byron said. “We didn’t really have a lot going our way. In the first stage, and even the second stage, we were just kind of hanging on.

“We just found a way to kind of make it work. We had good strategy and just found a way to kind of settle in there in a decent spot and save the right amount of fuel. We ran out of fuel coming across the (finish) line, so that was great. We saved the right amount of fuel, and that was about it.”

Greg Engle