The Hendrick Motorsports star intends to race Super Late Models all summer
In his brief return to Super Late Models, William Byron has already added a Music City Guitar from Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway to the trophies collected earlier this year from Hickory Motor Speedway and New Smyrna Speedway.
That is in addition to a pair of Cup Series victories and a playoff points championship lead through 11 races.
Now, after winning the North South Super Late Model Challenge on Saturday night, driver No. 24 made his intent to return to the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in December official. To win the biggest race of the year in this discipline, Byron will have to overcome, amongst other nuances, an error that nearly cost him the North South Challenge.
On the final restart with 11 laps to go, Byron spun his tires as the control car and allowed both Stephen Nasse and Jett Noland to get by before the entry to Turn 1. Byron had led since Lap 23 to that point. Byron immediately passed Noland back a lap later and was to the back bumper of Nasse and his Jett Motorsports No. 51 with five to go.
The winning pass came with two laps to go and it was another series of lessons to add to the notebook in his first year back as a semi-regular Super Late Model contender.
"The shifting in these cars are a lot different, definitely now, than what do on Sundays and even what I was used to before," Byron told Racing America after the race. "The shifter isn't different but it's how the car reacts to it.
"It's already a fast restart while you're turning and this car gets looser, and not tighter when you shift, so I spun my tires."
Thus, Byron would have to chase down Nasse, and find a way around him. Of course, this would be the first time the two have raced against each other since their infamous run-in during the 2016 Snowball Derby -- a race in which Byron slid into Nasse while racing just outside the top-five resulting in a retaliatory strike and a Twitter tirade.
How could it not be in the back of Byron’s mind as he approached the No. 51?
"Absolutely it was," Byron said. "I thought about it when he was running second. I thought, 'man, there might be some fireworks if he catches us and we're racing for the win.'
"We haven't really talked since then aside from in passing, waving and saying hey, but with how my career has gone, I wasn't sure what his perception of me as. He raced me really clean there and I appreciate that. He has great restarts.
"I wanted to make sure I raced him the right way. We had a really good car and I drove right up to him. I didn't want to make the move to early. I wanted to show him I was there, and I knew how much time I had with Branden counting the laps down.
"Once we got under him in 4, I drove it in a little deeper, he pinched me off a little and there was contact but just really clean tough racing."
With Donnie Wilson Motorsports, Byron has great equipment and some of the best minds in short track racing around him and he’s having a blast.
"It’s pretty awesome," Byron said. "I was nervous getting back in these cars because it had been so long and they’ve changed a lot. In that first race, I didn’t quite know the right pace to set and then that first race we won (at New Smyrna) we just held off Gabe Sommers and now I have the right feel.
"But the Derby is still a long ways away and we have to build my personal notebook, clean up things like tonight. (Cup Series crew chief) Rudy (Fugle) is always telling me to just keep adding pages -- learning the cars and these tracks.
"Our next one is Berlin for the Battle at Berlin at we’re going to add some more there."
Meanwhile, nearly a half dozen teams saw their race end before it could truly begin as Albert Francis got sideways out of Turn 2 on the first lap and collected several contenders behind him after an attempted course correction.
Dylan Fetcho was the first to drive into Francis but the melee eventually added Cody Coughlin, Tyler Tanner, Jake Finch, Jake Garcia and Michael Hinde. Matthew Craig, Cole Williams, Michael House and Jackson Boone were also taken out – three Fairgrounds Speedway track champions and the reigning All-American 400 winner.
The final caution came out due to Kyle Bryant stalling in Turns 3 and 4 with a mechanical issue. It was the only incident following the last lap melee.
Official Results North South Super Late Model Challenge
Tommy St. John
- Story By Matt Weaver/Racing America