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While most 18-year-olds are having to handle the pressure of final exams, William Byron has hungry competitors to worry about.
Byron held off gallant efforts by Daniel Hemric and John Hunter Nemechek to win the the Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at the newly configured Kentucky Speedway. The victory is his fourth of his 10-race rookie season in 2016.
“If we hadn’t gotten to the lead there [winning the race] would’ve been tough,” Byron said, who officially locks himself into the Chase. “When those two guys were second and third, those are guys I’ve raced with a lot and who I respect. I was comfortable. I knew how they were going to race me. I obviously don’t want to lose but Id’ be OK with them if they got the win.”
The win by Byron marked the 51st series win for Kyle Busch Motorsports, breaking a tie with Roush as the all-time winning team in the history of the Camping World Truck Series.
“It’s due to a lot of great people and a lot of dedication and hard work,” team owner Kyle Busch said. “We’ll keep doing all that and strive to be our best.”
Following a restart with 42 laps to go, the win became a three-man battle, as they all fought tooth and nail for the bottom lane. As Hemric was unable to get by Byron, it was Nemechek who slipped by to steal the runner-up result.
“The [No.] 9 and all the KBM trucks have been fast the past few weeks, winning quite a few races,” Nemechek said. “From my standpoint, I already have a win, it’s trying to stay up in the point standings.
Though passing was a difficulty throughout the night, Nemechek gained four spots in less than 10 laps following a restart with 86 laps to go. The No. 8 driver believes he got the most out of his Chevrolet.“Having good consistent runs, it’s definitely something you have to look to if you’re having a bad night,” he said. “You have to make the best out of it.”
Though another heartbreak of a lose, Hemric tied his career-best Camping World Truck Series finish in third.
“We’re building better race trucks,” Hemric said. “I still haven’t been able to put the whole deal together but, as we wind down closer to the Chase, one or two guys may point their way into it. We got to keep doing what we’re doing.”
With 150 laps of racing on tap for the 31-truck field, the first caution flew early for Brett Moffitt, who blew a motor while running fifth in his first series start since 2013. With a debris yellow flying on lap 38, it was a two-truck crash by Rico Abreu and Austin Wayne Self that set up an unfortunate circumstance for one of the sport’s heaviest hitters.
Kyle Busch found the Turn 3 wall following contact from Spencer Gallagher, ending the night early for the two-time Kentucky winner.
“I had a run on outside thought I left enough room,” Busch said. “It’s a real shame. The guys at KBM gave us a good piece. Hurt ourselves with track position there. I thought I made a smart move and ended up getting wrecked.”
Despite the early exit, Busch was impressed by the new racing surface, pointing to the multiple passes he was able to make in the field.
“It seemed like there was a little bit of a second groove out there,” Busch said. “I actually made some passes in the second groove and it was all right. It’s definitely edgy up there. It wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be.”
A number of drivers had their opinions on the layout, as fifth-place finisher Johnny Sauter was a bit less impressed.
“Its going to get better with age,” he said. I don’t think anyone enjoys racing on a one-groove racetrack.”
Christopher Bell, who finished fourth, mirrors Sauter’s comments, as he looks forward to the track aging over the coming years.
“You can run darn-near wide open all the way around,” Bell said. “I’m just looking forward to it deteriorating a little bit, getting slicker to where we can move around a little more.”
Completing the top 10 is Cameron Hayley in sixth followed by Brandon Jones, Matt Crafton, Timothy Peters and Tyler Reddick.
Though polesitter Daniel Suarez led 59 laps, dirty air – added on by a pit road penalty on lap 105 – spoiled his chance on s first Truck Series win, as he came home 11th.
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