Friday, June 18, 2021

TRUCKS: For the first time in nearly five years, William Byron starts a Truck Series race – and finishes last


William Byron picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s Rackley Roofing 200 at the Nashville Superspeedway when his #27 Cruisin’ Sports / Rackley Roofing Chevrolet lost the engine after 78 of 150 laps.

The finish, which came in Byron’s 25th series start, was his first of the year and first since February 27, 2016 at Atlanta, 125 races ago. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 8th for the #27, the 134th from engine trouble, and the 409th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 56h for the #27, the 1,103rd from engine issues and the 1,787th for Chevrolet.

Entering his fourth season as a full-time Cup Series competition, Byron has become a vital part of Hendrick Motorsports’ resurgence this season. After winning his way into the 2020 Playoffs by scoring his first career win in the cutoff race at Daytona, Byron won this season’s third race at Homestead, and finished no worse than 9th for the next ten consecutive races. It took heavy rain, minor damage, and one position for the streak to end at COTA with an 11th-place run. He then finished 4th in the Coca-Cola 600, and was set for another top-ten run in Sonoma before a late-race Turn 11 tangle took him out, leaving him 35th.

At Nashville, Byron would run double-duty, returning to the Truck Series for the first time since 2016, when he closed out a seven-win season with Kyle Busch Motorsports that put him fifth in the series standings. His ride this time was with Rackley-W.A.R., which just one week prior had hired upstart Josh Berry to replace veteran Timothy Peters. Berry would run again in Nashville, meaning Byron would run the team’s new second entry, the #27. Byron’s ride was one of three carrying logos for race sponsor Rackley Roofing, joined by owner-driver Clay Greenfield in the #68 Toyota. Byron’s paint scheme was a reverse of Berry’s with a white hood and blue rear.

Byron ran second-fastest in practice, trailing only Chandler Smith’s Kyle Busch Motorsports entry, and qualified 10th with a speed of 157.754mph (30.351 seconds).

A total of 42 of the 43 entrants took time after Jennifer Jo Cobb’s #10 Fastener Supply Co. Ford was withdrawn due to the team’s issues with a faulty loading ramp on their hauler, which kept them from practicing. Failing to qualify were Clay Greenfield in the third Rackley-sponsored entry, J.J. Yeley in the #49 Sam’s Dock Toyota, Bret Holmes in the #32 Southern States Bank Chevrolet, Spencer Boyd in the #20 Banana Pepper Sauce Chevrolet, Josh Reaume in the #33 Colonial Countertops Chevrolet, and Keith McGee in the #3 Military.Finance Chevrolet.

McGee was bumped from the field at the last minute after John Hunter Nemechek’s lap was disallowed, dropping the #4 Mobil 1 Toyota to 34th on the grid. McGee’s loss was the gain of Dawson Cram, who inherited 31st in the #41 Camping World Chevrolet. The final two spots belonged to drivers who didn’t even turn laps in qualifying due to inspection failures relating to the noses of their trucks: Todd Gilliland in the #38 Crosley Brands Ford and Tanner Gray in the #15 Ford Performance Ford. Both teams had their crew chiefs ejected, were docked 25 points, and incurred redundant tail-end penalties – Gilliland rolled off 35th with Gray 36th.

By the end of Lap 1, Gray had climbed to 30th with Gilliland in 34th, dropping Cory Roper to last in the #04 Carquest Auto Parts Ford. By Lap 3, Roper had cleared Trey Hutchens III, who returned to the Truck Series for the first time since his scary wreck at Charlotte last month. Hutchens’ #14 – a different chassis from his totaled Charlotte ride – carried sponsorship from Rich Mar and Quality Roof Seamers. Like Roper, Hutchens was fighting a tight condition, and on Lap 13 reported his truck felt bogged down, as if the engine was not pulling enough RPMs. Despite this, Hutchens was reeling in 35th-place Danny Bohn in the #30 North American Motor Car Toyota for several laps. But when Hutchens was lapped on the 21st circuit, he had dropped to 2.798 seconds back of Bohn. On Lap 38, Hutchens was told he’d run “about your fastest lap of the race,” at which point he was two laps down.

On Lap 45, the caution fell to end Stage 1. Hutchens reported he was “getting killed down the straightaway.” The crew prepared to raise the track bar three rounds, taking a pound out of the left-rear. By the restart, he was still two laps down, and reported his truck was better than the first stage, though he still wanted further adjustments. On Lap 70, Hutchens reported his water temperatures were okay, and the team told him “Driver, hard as you can, man. All you can do.”

Byron, meanwhile, had finished inside the Top 10 in Stage 1 and was still running there ahead of ThorSport teammates Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton. Entering the first corner, Byron’s truck let out a large puff of smoke, then slowed down the backstretch. NASCAR threw the caution for possible fluid, and Byron made it to pit road. The #27 made a move to the first garage entrance, then kept rolling, but when more smoke came from the exhaust, his truck stopped on pit road. On Lap 79, the crew talked about checking to see if it was “an oil line or something easy” to see if they could make a quick repair to try other things. But on Lap 81, they told Byron to climb out, saying “We’re done.” Byron took last from Hutchens on Lap 83 and was declared out by NASCAR on Lap 124.

Also declared out on Lap 124 was Derek Kraus, whose night began with his first career pole and ended with a hard crash. Kraus crossed the nose of Byron’s teammate, Josh Berry, turning his #19 Thorogood Toyota into the outside wall. The truck hit the fence twice more before it came to a stop in Turn 3, the driver climbing out with some difficulty. Hutchens climbed his way to 33rd, four laps ahead of Lawless Alan in the #34 Auto ParkIt Toyota. Both pulled out of the way of the leaders in the final laps along with Kris Wright, whose #02 Master Tech Chevrolet pulled high in Turn 1. 

Cup Series regular Ryan Preece led the final eight laps to take his first career Truck Series victory in his first-ever attempt, driving David Gilliland’s #17 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford. Seven spots behind him in 8th was Ty Majeski, who for just the second time in 2021 drove ThorSport’s new #66 Sim Craft Toyota. Majeski’s 8th-place finish followed his season-best 7th two rounds ago in Charlotte. Also impressive was Jack Wood, who started on the front row alongside Derek Kraus, finished 5th in Stage 1, 7th in Stage 2, and 11th at the finish.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #27 in a Truck Series race since June 8, 2012, when Brandon Knupp’s run in the #27 Hillman Racing Chevrolet ended with ignition issues after 2 laps of the Winstar World Casino 400 at Texas. It was also the first last-place run for the #27 in a Truck Series race at the Nashville Superspeedway.

36) #27-William Byron / 78 laps / engine
35) #19-Derek Kraus / 110 laps / crash
34) #34-Lawless Alan / 142 laps / running
33) #14-Trey Hutchens / 146 laps / running
32) #02-Kris Wright / 148 laps / running

1st) Niece Motorsports (4)
2nd) Rackley-W.A.R. (2)
3rd) CMI Motorsports, GMS Racing, Norm Benning Racing, Reaume Brothers Racing, Roper Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (10)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (1)


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