NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: William Byron Scores Dominant Chase-Opening Win at New Hampshire

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In a Nutshell: William Byron was in his own zip code Saturday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He led 161 of 175 laps en route to a decisive 0.446 second victory over teammate Christopher Bell. Byron gave up the lead during a yellow-flag pit stop when he took four tires but spent just 14 laps following teammates Bell and Cody Coughlin before retaking the top spot for the final time. Matt Crafton, Tyler Reddick and Timothy Peters rounded out the top 5.

Who Should Have Won: William Byron. There’s really no explanation needed here. Byron was simply in a different class than the rest of the field and extended his lead to more than five seconds and made a statement that he and the No. 9 team are a solid threat for the championship.

ALBINO: William Byron Stomps Field at New Hampshire

Race Rundown:

Daniel Hemric Chase Hopes Take Hit

The opening race in the Truck Series’ inaugural Chase took a wrong turn for Daniel Hemric, who joined the field on points following last week’s race at Chicagoland Speedway. Just 26 laps into Saturday afternoon’s race, Hemric suffered a blown left rear tire that resulted in him spinning, and if that wasn’t enough, a fire lingered in the back end the sent him back down pit road again.

After struggling with his brakes as he pulled to a stop in his pit box, Hemric’s No. 19 crew worked on the truck for a few laps before pulling the truck behind the wall to bleed the brake system. Hemric eventually returned to the track for a handful of laps before ultimately retiring to a disappointing 28th-place finish.

Despite the struggles, things now get much simpler for the No. 19 team with a 21-point deficit on the cutoff line since there’s no mystery of what needs to happen next if Hemric wants to keep his championship hopes alive.

Ben Rhodes Loses Top-10 Finish in Last Lap Spin

Rookie Ben Rhodes didn’t make the Chase but did do his best at New Hampshire to ensure people still remember his name. After leading the first practice session, Rhodes qualified fifth and remained inside the top 5 until varying pit strategies under caution on lap 53 sent him outside the top 10. He once again raced into the top 5 with just over 60 laps remaining.

But after falling outside the top 5 and heading the wrong direction in the field as the laps wound down, crew chief Kevin Bellicourt called his driver down pit road for four tires and fuel. Rhodes restarted 17th and worked his way back into the top 10 as the field took the white flag. A side-by-side battle with Brett Moffitt resulted in Rhodes spinning and backing his No. 41 truck into the outside wall. He was credited with a 15th-place finish.

Quick Hits:

  • John Hunter Nemechek, who recovered to a ninth-place finish after an early spin, will likely face penalties next week after his truck failed post-race inspection at New Hampshire. The No. 8 Chevrolet was found outside the height requirements limit, and any penalties will be announced later in the week.
  • Cameron Hayley, who narrowly missed making the inaugural Chase field, ran solidly inside the top 10 for much of the race and looked like he might bring home his third top 5 in the last five, but you couldn’t prove it by his 19th-place finish. A loose wheel on a late pit stop sent him a lap down to the leaders, and the No. 13 team was never able to recover.

“We struggled in practice, struggled in qualifying, but we were really good during the race today – one of the fastest trucks on long runs. I made my way through the field and had it all planned out, strategy wise, and had issues on pit road.”

  • After suffering a blown engine at Chicagoland Speedway last weekend, Jordan Anderson, who is nearing the completion of his first season with Bolen Motorsports, was in danger of missing Saturday’s race at New Hampshire. But a last-minute crowd-funding effort garnered enough funds for the No. 66 team to run to completion. Anderson finished 22nd, four laps off the pace.
  • Kaz Grala, who made his seventh start with GMS Racing at New Hampshire Saturday afternoon, scored a career-best seventh-place finish. He debuted at Martinsville earlier this year but crashed out to a disappointing 31st-place finish. Grala’s career-high finish previously was an eighth-place result at Gateway Motorsports Park. He currently has just three top 10s in seven starts and an average finish of 17th.

“I’m very excited. The GMS Racing crew got this No. 24 Chevy rolling today and I’m really happy about that. We got behind on track position a little bit in the middle of the race and I think that hurt us a little because I really feel like we had a top 5 run. That’s what we’ve got to keep doing, bringing top 5 trucks and in contention and our luck will come.”

ALBINO: Kaz Grala Scores Career-Best Finish

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: 15 (add Alon Day, Stewart Friesen, Kaz Grala, Austin Hill, Matt Mills, Brett Moffitt, Akinori Ogata and Ryan Truex)

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 5; William Byron, finished first; Christopher Bell, finished second; Cole Custer, finished sixth; Kaz Grala, finished seventh; Brett Moffitt, finished eighth

Rookie of the Race: William Byron

Chase Standings:
William Byron
Matt Crafton (-16)
Christopher Bell (-17
John Hunter Nemechek (-22)
Timothy Peters (-24)
Johnny Sauter (-26)
————————
Ben Kennedy (-27)
Daniel Hemric (-47)

Best of the Rest: Though much of the focus, both on television and in print media, is on the Chase contenders, there’s another battle building just outside of the top 8. Cole Custer, who narrowly missed a Chase-qualifying win at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, sits ninth but can’t breathe easy. Tyler Reddick sits just six markers behind the driver of the No. 00 Chevrolet, and Cameron Hayley dropped two spots but sits just seven points out of ninth. Their next closest competition is Spencer Gallagher, who is 53 points back and very little threat barring unprecedented bad luck for all three drivers ahead of him.

Quoteable:

“I was afraid the 4 (Christopher Bell) was going to catch us there at the end. We started to get tight, but that’s what happens sometimes when you get out front. It was really good – just a great race for us. I can’t thank these guys enough. Everyone at KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports), Liberty University – it’s just really cool to get a win here in the Chase. It feels awesome.” William Byron

“Eeveryone at KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) did an awesome job this weekend. Whenever we came over here and tested, it obviously proved to be very helpful and I’m really proud of that because we’ve tested at three race tracks that we’ve raced at so far and all three of them the KBM trucks have been outstanding at. We’re the second-best truck here and just needed a lot more to run with the 9 (William Byron).” Christopher Bell, finished second

“I honestly raced it just like it was any other race, and I’ve said that all along – you can’t really focus on a Chase race. If you go out there and do your job, and all the ducks line up, you have a shot. You can’t over analyze it, over think it, and make mistakes. That’s what we’re trying to do – just take it one race at a time.” Matt Crafton, finished third

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads out west to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next Saturday night. Last year, John Wes Townley started on the outside pole and stretched his fuel to score his first career win. Coverage for the DC Solar 350 begins at 8:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

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