WILLIAM BYRON TAKES LATE LEAD, WINS TICKET GALAXY 200
Phoenix Raceway has not been kind to William Byron, driver of the No. 9 Liberty University Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, but he conquered the one-mile oval by winning Saturday’s Ticket Galaxy 200, despite having a substitute pit crew.
“Yeah, I don’t know how we did it (held off the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford of Ryan Blaney for the win),” said Byron. “The two tires took off pretty good. I was so used to long runs, and had my car set up for that. I took off pretty free there, but it held on really good. I’m just proud of this whole team to make that call. It was a gutsy call, and all these guys that subbed in today from Hendrick Motorsports did a great job. We’re building fast race cars at JR Motorsports, and our individual team is starting to really figure out what we need to do to get better. We’ve got one more week to clean that up and hopefully get a championship.”
Byron finished fourth in his other NASCAR XFINITY Series start at Phoenix, but has experienced heartbreak here in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. In his first start, he exited the race after a wreck on lap 7. In last year’s Lucas Oil 150, Byron had the dominant truck, leading 112 of 150 laps, but a blown engine with eight laps to go took him out of contention for the win and the championship. Saturday’s race is his first career NASCAR win in the desert.
Byron and his JR Motosports teammates, No. 7 Justin Allgaier and No. 1 Elliott Sadler, maintained a comfortable points cushion over fifth place to advance to the Championship 4 at Homestead, despite all three pit crews not making it to Phoenix in time for the race, due to a flight delay.
The closest battle all race was between Daniel Hemric’s No. 21 Smokey Mountain Snuff Chevrolet and the No. 00 Ford of Cole Custer for the final Championship 4 spot. There were only five points separating the two coming into Phoenix. They ran near each other for most of the race, and it came to a head in the closing laps when they battled side-by-side and made contact. Hemric prevailed, taking fifth place, while Custer finished seventh, missing the Championship 4 by four points.
“Our pit crew kept us in the game all day,” said Hemric. “With the lack of speed we had taking off, gaining spots on pit road all day gave us an opportunity to restart, move back up, not lose too much and be able to move back up towards the end of a run. Just so proud of all these guys. Thanks to everybody for the effort. Smokey Mountain will be on the car for the last race with us this year. It’s been fun working with those guys. Just happy to be able to go to Homestead and race for a championship.”
At the beginning of Saturday’s race, the No. 48 Chevrolet of Brennan Poole was in the Championship 4 with a five-point lead. But his title hopes were dashed on lap 22, when contact with the lapped car of Caesar Bacarella cut a right front tire sending Poole into the outside wall. The DC Solar Chevrolet team tried to repair the damage, but was unable to continue. Poole finished 38th.
Blaney had the dominant car, leading a race-high 147 laps, but a caution on lap 180 led to a round of pit stops, and Blaney came out in fourth when the top three cars took two tires. Blaney battled back to second, but was unable to catch Byron. Erik Jones finished third, followed by Christopher Bell and Hemric.
Tomorrow’s event, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Can-Am 500, will begin at 12:30 p.m., local time.