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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: It’s Time to Pay More Attention to William Byron

William Byron is quietly having one of the best seasons to date in the NASCAR Cup Series. Is he a legit championship contender right now? – Kyle U., Lincoln, Nebraska

In a word: yes. Byron has 10 straight top-10 finishes this season, breaking Jeff Gordon’s previous record in the same numbered car at the same organization. He also is doing so at 23 years old, setting the record for age as well.

Byron’s average finish this year is 9.7 and he already has a win at Homestead-Miami Speedway, regarded as a driver’s racetrack (even with the 550-horsepower package) and has been in the shadow of Mr. Consistency, Denny Hamlin, this season. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be paying attention to him.

Remember those first couple years of underperformance from Byron? He finished 23rd in points as a rookie, jumped into the playoffs for his sophomore season and scored his first win last year at Daytona International Speedway. It’s just taken some time for Byron to gel with Hendrick Motorsports and for the organization itself to get their equipment right. Oh, by the way, grabbing the crew chief from Byron’s incredible Camping World Truck Series season in Rudy Fugle didn’t hurt matters, either.

See also
Dropping the Hammer: William Byron Racing for Mother After Her Brain Tumor Diagnosis

It’s no secret Byron and Fugle are a dynamic duo. Seven wins in one year (with a blown engine ruining their chances at a championship) and then *poof* the twosome was separated. Fast forward half a decade and they’re back together.

Chad Knaus moving off Byron’s pit box to a senior role at Hendrick has helped, too. He said as much earlier this season on the Frontstretch Podcast.

RELATED: William Byron On The Frontstretch Podcast

Kyle Larson has the most speed at Hendrick, but the same amount of wins as Byron to show for it. Byron has more consistency and has been racking up stage points like the quiet, baby-faced assassin he is. He may not be the sexy pick (and it’s entirely too early) but the Hendrick Motorsports driver is definitely a title contender at the moment.

With the result of Sunday’s race at Darlington, do you think NASCAR will go back to the 550-horsepower package for the Southern 500 in the playoffs? – Josh K., Reno, Nevada

*sighs* I really,Β really wish this wasn’t the main topic of conversation this week. But here we are.

Not every race is going to be a barnburner. If you’re reading this article, you probably know, understand and have lived this phenomenon for years. This Mother’s Day, May 9 wasn’t a great race. It was fine, an enjoyable Sunday afternoon watching 40 of the world’s best stock car drivers wheel it around one of the most unique tracks in the world.

The reason fans are so split between “this was so boring” and “that’s real racing” is because you want what you can’t have and you only realize a good thing once it’s gone.

If the 750-horsepower package had been a mainstay at all 36 races, we wouldn’t miss it and look forward to when it comes back on a limited basis. But because it isn’t prevalent in the top echelon of motorsports anymore, it’s enjoyed (by most) when it comes back.

Personally, drivers slipping and sliding, tires wearing out, feathering the throttle and the best drivers and cars rising to the top of the leaderboard is whatΒ I like to see. Not to say I don’t like the type of racing with the 550-HP package, but again, the reason I liked what I saw Sunday was because we don’t see it often.

NASCAR isn’t going back to the 550-HP package (that was in effect at Darlington last year for all three races) for the Southern 500 later this fall. I’d be shocked if they did. Not because they necessarily loved what they saw Sunday, but because continually changing rules during the season ain’t it, chief.

Who’s to say what the specifics of the package at certain tracks will look like for 2022 and beyond with the Next Gen car, but regardless, some races will have good drivers, in good cars, with good teams, spanking the field, just like Martin Truex Jr. did on Sunday.

RELATED: 3 Things That Will Make Or Break The NASCAR Next Gen

Learn to live with it and learn to appreciate driver’s full talents being shown when applicable … like on Sunday. It doesn’t have to be so in your face every week. Find beauty in the struggle.

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Larry

A quick note: Jeff Gordon’s season in 1998 had by far the most consecutive top ten results with 20 straight (including 17 straight top fives!). He also had 14 straight top tens in 1995. William Byron’s streak is third best as far as I am aware.

Joshua W Farmer

Jeff Gordon in 2007, from race 13 at Dover until race 22 at Top-10 finishes according to results from the 2007 season for Jeff on RacingReference. Another masterful feat was Harvick in 2015 AFTER his championship year–he should have been champion but NASCAR gave Kyle Busch that waiver. Harvick had 3 wins and 12, get that 12!!! 2nd place finishes along with 2 poles. I mean that percentage is right there with Gordon, who should have a 5th championship (actually I think it’s 7 but we have crappy playoffs when NASCAR should award the championship to the most enduring driver).

Jo

Another bandwagon to jump on? How about we wait until he actually accomplishes something?

His improvement this year can be traced directly back to Rudy Fugle, his crew chief when he was at KBM. Kyle Busch is responsible for more of the top drivers and crew chiefs in Cup than any other single person.

Sue

I really wish you wouldn’t pay so much attention to william bryon but you sure did. He is extremely all about himself.According to him, he never does anything wrong.

WJW Motorsports

And the final time Byron retaliated against Busch, it totally backfired and ruined the No. 24 Chevrolet team’s race after starting second.

β€œThat was dumb,” Byron said on the latest episode of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s podcast, the Dale Jr. Download. β€œThat was so dumb.”

Echo

Hey Davey, write about Chase next week if possible. I want to reallyyyyy see Jo Jo get rude.

Jo

I cheer for Chase every week. I disagree with his some things he does, however.

Jo

“some things he does.”

Joshua W Farmer

Jeff Gordon in 2007, from race 13 at Dover until race 22 at Top-10 finishes according to results from the 2007 season for Jeff on RacingReference. Another masterful feat was Harvick in 2015 AFTER his championship year–he should have been champion but NASCAR gave Kyle Busch that waiver. Harvick had 3 wins and 12, get that 12!!! 2nd place finishes along with 2 poles. I mean that percentage is right there with Gordon, who should have a 5th championship (actually I think it’s 7 but we have crappy playoffs when NASCAR should award the championship to the most enduring driver).

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