BY GABRIELLE MCMILLEN
The last time William Byron was at Daytona International Speedway he was celebrating his first NASCAR Cup Series win in victory lane. The 23-year-old driver said his Aug. 29 win bolstered his confidence in taking on the legendary superspeedway.
“It will be nice to go to Daytona and have that excitement and that accomplishment that we did last time,” Byron said. “It won’t really change the way we race, maybe (we’ll be) just a little more confident when we get down to the end of the race.”
Byron described the DAYTONA 500 as an endurance race, even though the actual timing isn’t too different from non-superspeedway events. However, the strategy, the 2.5-mile circuits and maneuvering around other drivers all provide a thrilling, yet exhausting event.
“Just the build up to the race is really exciting,” Byron said. “The race itself is really a marathon. It’s a long race – you have a lot of pit stops, a lot of strategy and it’s tough to make it to the end of the race with a shot to win. You have to get to the end of the race to have a good chance to win.”
Byron has another reason to be thrilled about returning to Daytona International Speedway. The events leading up to the 500 will allow him to officially start his engine with crew chief Rudy Fugle instructing him over the radio.
While Fugle has yet to call a Cup Series race, the duo was paired up in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series during Byron’s rookie year in 2016. They notched a record-breaking season with seven victories and led 21% of all laps run. Byron’s experience and growth in the Cup Series will allow him and Fugle to dive deep into every aspect of an upcoming race.
“I think we’re just a little more technical together,” Byron said. “I feel like when I was working with him in the Truck Series, I was pretty young and he was sticking to the basics with me, so it didn’t overload me with too much info. I feel like now we’re a little but more technical and a little more descriptive and detailed with our feedback.”
Speedweeks will kick off with The Clash on Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. ET. After the culmination of the Duels on Thursday, Feb. 11, drivers will start their engines for the DAYTONA 500 on Sunday, Feb. 14 at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX.