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Tracking the Trucks: William Byron Wins Wild Kansas Race

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In a Nutshell: In what turned out to be a wild and crazy Toyota Tundra 250, William Byron emerged victorious in overtime ahead of defending winner Matt Crafon at Kansas Speedway. The driver of the No. 9 squeezed through a wrecking Ben Rhodes and Johnny Sauter to score his first career victory. Daniel Hemric, Christopher Bell and Clint Bowyer.

Who Should Have Won: With the way the final restart went, you could throw about five drivers’ names into a hat and pick one. But at the end of the day, it was Byron, who led twice for 34 laps that won, and it was definitely deserved. During a long green-flag run in the latter stages of the race, he had pulled out to a more than four second lead. That lead evaporated when Tyler Reddick spun with just two laps remaining, and he lost the top spot on the following restart, before snagging it back once again when it really mattered.

Race Rundown

Tough Departure for Michael Shelton

Friday night’s Toyota Tundra 250 marked Michael Shelton’s final race as crew chief with John Wes Townley at Athenian Motorsports, according to a report from Catchfence. Leaving to pursue other interests outside of racing, the veteran crew chief sat atop the pit box for James Buescher during his 2012 championship season and was also with Townley during his lone victory last season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The Kansas weekend started off well for the No. 05 team as they led the final practice session on Thursday after running inside the top 5 in the first two. Townley back up the strong numbers posted in practice by leading both rounds of qualifying on Friday afternoon to start on the pole.

Townley didn’t even get the opportunity to lead a lap before being surpassed by third-place starter Tyler Reddick. And to make matters worse, aggressive racing early on led to three- and four-wide racing that ultimately saw John Hunter Nemechek slide up into Townley, sending him spinning into Parker Kligerman and heavily damaging the No. 05 truck. After spending several laps in the garage for repairs, Townley ended up finishing 27th, 18 laps down.

Rico Abreu’s Rough Weekend

In just his third intermediate race weekend, Rico Abreu showed some speed in practice, though he never cracked the top 10 in any of the three sessions held on Thursday. Fast forward to Friday’s qualifying session, and it got worse when the cowl cover wasn’t removed from his truck before making his run. The resulting lack of speed was 20 mph off the pace and ultimately a 31st-place starting position, ahead of only Spencer Gallagher, who wrecked on his qualifying lap.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the driver of the No. 98 Toyota ran into trouble shortly after the green flag flew over the Toyota Tundra 250, when contact with the wall damaged the back end to bring out the first caution on lap 3. Though the team was able to make repairs, Abreu ended up finishing 22nd, three laps down.

“We just got really tight there at the start of the race. The front end lost grip, and it snapped the rear end around and I got into the wall. I hate it for my guys and everyone at Safelite AutoGlass. They had about 60 of their employees and customers out here tonight, cheering me on, and I hate I let them down. We will recover from this. The good thing is, we are racing the next two weeks. Consistent seat time is key for me, so I’m looking forward to Dover next weekend.”

 

Quick Hits:

  • Just a few weeks after announcing his departure from Red Horse Racing, Ben Kennedy landed at GMS Racing and promptly scored his best finish of the season at Kansas Friday night. The weekend started off pretty quiet for the No. 33 team, which ran inside the top 16 in all three practices on Thursday. Kennedy nearly dropped outside of the top 20 during the middle stages of the race, but when the checkered flag flew, he emerged ninth, his first top-10 result of the year.
  • Johnny Sauter and Ben Rhodes tangled at the finish, wrecking both drivers, who were racing side-by-side at the white flag. The pair ended up 16th and 18th, respectively, and Sauter had a few choice words about Rhodes, calling him a “bozo” and “brain dead.”

BEDGOOD: Johnny Sauter, Ben Rhodes Collide on Last Lap at Kansas Speedway

Truck Rookie Report
2016 Rookie of the Year Candidates
No. 00 Cole Custer
No. 4 Christopher Bell
No. 9 William Byron
No. 18 Cody Coughlin
No. 22 Austin Wayne Self
No. 33 Grant Enfinger
No. 41 Ben Rhodes
No. 98 Rico Abreu

No. of Rookies in the Race: 7

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 3; William Byron, finished first; Christopher Bell, finished fourth; Cole Custer, finished seventh

Rookie of the Race: Race winner William Byron

2016 Chase Qualifiers:

Johnny Sauter (Daytona)
John Hunter Nemechek (Atlanta)
William Byron (Kansas)

Quotable:

“It was crazy the last couple of restarts and I had the lead there on the green flag run and I was really just praying for no cautions, but you have to earn it and my crew chief, Rudy Fugle, really told me about that on all the restarts. He’s like, ‘This is how you earn it,’ so I just can’t thank Liberty University enough. This is a dream come true. I was six years old watching Truck races. Didn’t start racing until I was 14 and just to be in a Toyota Tundra like this is amazing.” William Byron

“I know we had the truck to beat without a doubt if we would have had clean air – I mean, clean air was huge. When we were ahead of the 9 (William Byron) earlier we drove away from him eventually. I just wanted this Menard’s Toyota Tundra to get out front. The 17 (Timothy Peters) just – the 9 pushed the 17 and had a really good restart and got by us on that one, but it’s a shame because I know this thing was so good – a brand new truck we just brought here and these guys worked really, really hard and we had the truck to beat and that’s racing.” Matt Crafton

“I’m still learning these things and the aero is so important and so easy to make positions up on restarts or just killed on them. I’ve had a couple good ones and a couple bad ones and it sucks to end up fourth after running second most of the race and taking the lead at one point, but this is the run we needed after Daytona – we were really fast. Atlanta, we had the truck to beat, and Martinsville we kind of struggled and ended up crashing again, so just really thankful to get out of here with a top-five and actually finish the race. You’ve got to give a big congratulations to my teammate William (Byron). It’s cool to seen him running so well and I’m excited for the rest of the year. I’m glad that we don’t have to take any more weeks off now.” Christopher Bell, finished fourth

“My guys worked extremely hard getting this truck together, and it showed tonight. I know how much work goes into these things, and I feel awful for how everything ended, but we were there and I was going for it. [Sauter] was trying to block me on the high side, and came back down once I moved to the bottom, and I should have just stuck it on the top and run it wide open to see if I could have got a good finish. We really need the points right now. It’s just disappointing, we had a shot to win it, and I just wanted to take it because the chase format is so hard to get into, because the competition is so tough. I hate it for my guys though, I’m really disappointed with the finish.” Ben Rhodes, finished 18th

“I think this night is unprecedented for William (Byron) for sure. Just the limited experience that he does have in the Truck Series and the limited experience that he has in racing in general, I’m well impressed with the way he’s been able to drive the vehicles that he’s driven in over the years and the success that he’s had in those races too and being able to move up the ladder as quick as he has and to be with KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports). We saw William early last year and talked with him and his dad about putting this deal together. Fortunately, it all came together and we are able to be here tonight and be in this moment to have William be able to win this soon in his career in the Truck Series and hopefully there’s many more to come.” Winning owner Kyle Busch

“[I’m] a little sore. That second one was a hard hit. So many emotions. I’m proud that we’re here, we made the race. It’s been a tough two months for us – Martinsville, Atlanta – we ran so good at Daytona. I think it’s just part of the growing pains. This team didn’t exist three months ago, and we’re still a small team. A lot of positives tonight – you gotta look a little deeper to find them. We were running sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth in there for quite a few laps. To go from barely making the race to running up front there and playing some strategy, I couldn’t be more proud.” Jordan Anderson, finished 29th

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series will head to Dover International Speedway next Friday night. The Dover 200 will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 at 5:30 p.m. ET and can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM channel 90.

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About Beth Lunkenheimer

Beth Lunkenheimer
Content Director Beth heads up management of our 30-person staff, acting as Tom’s main assistant with technology and personnel while working as Frontstretch’s Truck Series expert. The author of Truckin’ Thursdays and the coordinator of the site’s pre and post-race coverage, she also runs a periodic charity column that spotlights when NASCAR gives back. A childhood transplant to Texas, Beth is a 13-year writing veteran who has contributed content to BRANDT and Athlon Sports, among other outlets.

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3 comments

  1. Avatar

    Kyle Busch does more for young drivers than anyone in NASCAR, including the media darlings and especially including Dale Joonyer who won’t give anybody a ride unless he brings a bucket load of sponsor money with him.

    • Avatar

      Hey Putz, who’s your source for all your brilliant information? To get a ride in a Busch machine, you don’t have to bring any sponsor money? What are you smoking?