Intense drama is one way to describe this year’s Toyota Tundra 250.
John Wes Townley won his first career pole and led the field to green. Unfortunately for Townley, he quickly gave up his lead to Tyler Reddick.The first caution of the race came early as Rico Abreu got loose in Turn 1 on Lap 3. The race went back to green on Lap 5 and was green until the expiration of the caution clock, which brought out the yellow on Lap 45. Unfortunately for Townley, he was involved in an incident shortly after the restart that involved John Hunter Nemechek. An innocent bystander, Parker Kligerman, was a part of the aftermath and it ended his night early.
After several cautions came out following restarts, the race ran green from Laps 82 to 122, when the caution clock expired again. Matt Crafton was able to gain the lead on the restart following the sixth caution and led 57 of the next 58 laps, briefly giving up his lead to Timothy Peters for one lap. Crafton, a two-time winner at Kansas Speedway, relinquished his lead for good on Lap 135 to rookie William Byron.
Byron was able to lead the next 33 laps of the race until Christopher Bell overtook him on Lap 167. The last caution of the race, which was brought out by Reddick spinning out in the backstretch on Lap 168 set up overtime.
Johnny Sauter looked like he was headed to Gatorade Victory Lane following the final restart of the race, as he led going into the final lap of overtime. However, Ben Rhodes clipped Sauter in Turn 3 of the final lap, causing Sauter to spin out.
Byron took advantage of Sauter’s misfortune and rode into Victory Lane for the first time in his young Truck Series career; the victory was his first of (currently) six this year. It served as Byron’s coming-out party in the NASCAR circuit, who at the time was a relatively unknown driver driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
“It’s pretty special to have William Byron win this early in his career,” said team-owner Kyle Busch.
Coming into the race at Kansas, Byron had five NASCAR Camping World Truck race starts under his belt and he was still in high school. Byron joked about his inexperience in Victory Lane, noting that he didn’t even know how to do a burnout.
The victory for Byron was just the beginning for the 18-year-old.
“This is a dream come true. I was six years old watching truck races and I didn’t start racing until I was 14,” said Byron following his win at Kansas. “To be in a Toyota Tundra [and win] like this is amazing.”
In the two weeks following Kansas, he would start on the pole at Dover and Charlotte. The two weeks after that, he won back-to-back races at Texas and Iowa. From May 6th to July 30th, Byron won five of the nine Truck Series races.
Byron’s fifth win broke Kurt Busch’s record for most wins by a rookie in the Truck Series.
Less than two weeks later, Byron met with Rick Hendrick to sign a multi-year deal with JR Motorsports, which he’ll begin next year as he moves on to the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
While Byron’s focus remains on winning a championship in the Truck Series, it’s hard to not look ahead at his bright future in NASCAR. With the addition of Byron, Hendrick Motorsports arguably has the two most talented drivers under the age of 21 in NASCAR with Chase Elliott being the other.
Elliott was able to win the XFINITY Series Championship in 2014 at the age of 18, becoming the first rookie and youngest driver to win a NASCAR national series title. If Byron is able to win the championship at Homestead-Miami on November 18th, he will become the second rookie and second youngest driver to win a NASCAR national series title. If that’s the case, Elliott (born on Nov. 28) will have Byron (born on Nov. 29) beat by one day.