News & Multimedia

Rookie Byron, Thrilling Lilly Diabetes 250 'Pass Eye Test' with Flying Colors at IMS

As a baby-faced emerging star basked in the glory of his continued ascendance in stock car racing, NASCAR smiled along with 19-year-old William Byron after he won the XFINITY Series Lilly Diabetes 250 on Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

A new IMS-specific rules package with horsepower-diminishing restrictor plates as well as air duct and spoiler modifications to alter drafting meant less speed but closer and far more entertaining racing with records in lead changes (16) and different leaders (eight).

“I think a great race is the objective,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Vice President of Competition. “I think what fans saw today was that. Certainly I think it passed the eye test.”

And JR Motorsports driver Byron sure passes that test, too. Byron, whose congratulation line Saturday included boss Dale Earnhardt Jr., is seemingly on a fast track to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series after his third win of the season. Last year, he won seven races in the Camping World Truck Series while driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

“It shows you why he’s got an incredible future,” O’Donnell said. “For us, you look at this race and you look at who won it, and it was a terrific winner for the sport, as well.”

Byron’s No. 9 Liberty University Chevrolet fended off a late challenge from 2011 Brickyard 400 winner Paul Menard, who conceded his No. 2 Richmond/Menards Chevrolet wasn’t as quick in Turn 1 and couldn’t make up the difference on the remainder of the 2.5-mile oval. The .108-second gap between those cars was a series record for closest margin of victory at IMS. And Byron became the series’ youngest winner at the famed track at 19 years, 7 months and 23 days.

“At the end, I was just thinking about the (right-front) tire,” Byron said. “Probably with about five (laps) to go, I reset my mind and said, ‘You know what, it doesn’t matter. If it blows, it blows. Whatever. I don’t care. If you’re leading at Indy, you can’t pass up that opportunity to pit.’ I just felt like we had to stay out there, we had nothing to lose.”

He wasn’t the only one concerned about that tire.

“I was shaking the whole time, especially the last five laps,” said Byron’s crew chief, Dave Elenz. “‘The tires are going to go away. The (No.) 2 is going to pass us.’ But he figured out how to back up to the (No.) 2 and manage the runs he was getting.”

When the tire held, Byron burned the rubber that remained by smoking some donuts on the front straightaway after taking the checkered flag. Byron, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, grew up watching the Brickyard 400 and Indianapolis 500 with dreams of one day racing at the famous track.

“This the first time I’ve come here, a couple of days ago,” he said. “It’s such a special place, just walking into the place. I’ve watched a lot of races here on TV, and seeing the history and to make laps around here is just really special. To see the front stretch, how narrow it is with grandstands on both sides when you come down the front straight, it’s a really special place. It’s neat to get a win and does a lot for us this year and hopefully propels us to a championship.”

JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler, more than twice Byron’s age at 42, has a 40-point XFINITY Series lead on the young challenger in second. While Byron is experiencing all of this for the first time, Sadler became a full-time Cup driver since 1999.

Byron passed Sadler with 16 laps remaining in the 100-lap race, then thanked Menard for racing him clean at the end. Menard paid the winner an understated compliment.

“I think he’s going to be OK,” Menard said.

Byron said he thought he and two-time defending champion Kyle Busch had the two best cars. Busch led a race-high 44 laps, but pitted late in an alternative strategy and was only able to climb back to 12th place.

Busch, also the two-time defending Brickyard 400 winner, quickly bounced back by going out and winning the pole for the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 on Sunday.

“I respect Kyle a lot because he’s so competitive,” Byron said. “I’m starting to feel like I can keep up with him.”

The Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 starts at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Sunday. Visit IMS.com to purchase tickets for all 2017 IMS events, including the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400, and for more information on all events.

Show More Show Less
Now Viewing
William Byron
 
Rookie Byron, Thrilling Lilly Diabetes 250 'Pass Eye Test' with Flying Colors at IMS
A new IMS-specific rules package with horsepower-diminishing restrictor plates as well as air duct and spoiler modifications to alter drafting meant less speed but closer and far more entertaining racing with records in lead changes (16) and different leaders (eight).
Read More
Related Media
Yoshihide Muroya and Takuma Sato
 
Sato Inspires Muroya, Shares in Japanese Joy of Red Bull Air Race World Title
An emotionally overwhelmed Yoshihide Muroya wiped away tears of joy as the reality started to sink in. A jubilant Takuma Sato raised his arms as if vicariously reliving his own euphoric, career-defining moment.
Read More
Yoshihide Muroya
 
Muroya Wins Red Bull Air Race, World Championship in Dramatic Day at IMS
Yoshihide Muroya of Japan flew to his first Red Bull Air Race World Championship in dramatic style Sunday, winning the season-ending event with a track-record run in the final round at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Read More
Melanie Astles
 
Challenger Cup Pilots Bergér and Astles Clinch Historic Firsts in Indianapolis
History was made twice at the Red Bull Air Race season finale on Sunday, 15 October 2017, when Challenger Class pilot Mélanie Astles of France became the first woman to claim a major motorsport win of any kind at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Germany’s Florian Bergér became the first pilot ever to win back-to-back Challenger Cup season championships.
Read More
Martin Sonka
 
Sonka Keeps Cool As World Championship Showdown Looms on Race Day
Martin Sonka doesn’t even want to think about the obvious, let alone discuss it. But there’s only so much reality he can block out. Sonka, the Master Class points-leading pilot from the Czech Republic, can claim his first World Championship with a victory in the Red Bull Air Race on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Read More
Melania Astles
 
Perseverance Helps Female Pilot Astles Soar toward Dreams in Red Bull Air Race
Astles, 35, also made history last year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the best finish by a female flyer when she placed a career-best second in the Challenger Cup race. Now she’s in position to rewrite the record books with an unprecedented victory Sunday. The Challenger Class race starts at noon.
Read More
Items 1 - 5 of 2,795
Reserve one of our hospitality suites for your next event!
To start planning your event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway please fill out our Information Request Form or contact IMS Sales Department at (317) 492-8739 or email at hospitalitysales@brickyard.com.
Latest Tweets