MOORESVILLE, N.C. (May 16, 2017) – After having the most successful rookie season in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series history in 2016, William Byron is already on his way to having a very successful rookie season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. The 19-year-old North Carolina native has led the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings since the season opener at Daytona and has captured one pole (Phoenix), two top-five and five top-10 finishes so far this season.
Byron and his crew chief Dave Elenz both gave the No. 9 team a B+ grade for the first nine races of 2017.
“I think I would probably give myself a B+,” Byron stated. “I think we have had some good runs, we got the pole in Phoenix and we have a few top-five finishes. I think we have run pretty solid. The last few weeks have been a hurdle, but overall, it’s been solid.”
Elenz agreed with the grade, seconding his young driver’s opinion and adding some thoughts of his own.
“I would say that with a rookie driver and it being his first time at some of these tracks, I would give ourselves a B+,” Elenz said. “We have had good speed, but we have been unable to finish it off at some tracks.”
The No. 9 team has earned 177 points this year at tracks measuring 1.5 miles in length or larger. Elenz says the team has good speed on the mile-and-a-half tracks, but they are missing something on the shorter tracks.
“Our short-track speed is a little off,” judged Elenz. “At Phoenix, we were able to lead the field to green and were able to capture a top-five finish. Aside from Phoenix though, we have struggled a little bit on the shorter tracks. The mile-and-a-half tracks are where we are a little stronger.”
Byron said that he believes the team has gotten better during qualifying on the 1.5-mile tracks, but agrees with his crew chief that there is also room for improvement.
“I think we have maximized our qualifying efforts at some of the 1.5-mile tracks and I think we have done a good job there,” said Byron. “Our team’s race strategy has been strong so far. I think we could be able to focus in on fine-tuning what we have a little better and not make major adjustments throughout the weekend so that we are able to have a little more consistency. I think with this, we would be able to give a little bit more concise feedback throughout the weekend to ensure that we are going in the right direction.”
Rookie seasons usually entail a lot of learning for both drivers and their teams. The No. 9 team has participated in three test sessions (Phoenix, Atlanta and Charlotte), which has helped Byron get a feel for the cars and tracks prior to the race.
“I am really looking forward to the Charlotte race next week,” said Byron. “We were able to test at the speedway a few weeks ago and we feel like we got some really good information out of that test. We have a great car going there and when we tested there we had a lot of speed. Our mile-and a-half program is good, so I am really looking forward to racing at home next week.”
Elenz said the information gained from the Charlotte test was helpful and allowed some side-by-side comparison with the other three JRM teams. “Our team was able to get some good information from the Charlotte test and we were able to come back to the shop and compare notes with our teammates,” he said. “We have done well on that type of track, so Charlotte is a race everyone is looking forward to.”
The tracks coming up on the schedule are places where Byron has raced before and where Elenz has found success in the past. The combination of rookie driver and experienced crew chief will likely work in the No. 9 team’s favor during the second quarter.