Teenager William Byron overhauled Matt Crafton with five laps remaining and drove to victory in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rattlesnake 400 Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway.
Byron, of Kyle Busch Motorsports, posted his second series victory at the expense of Crafton, who dominated the 167-lapper after brushing the turn three wall 11 laps into the night. Byron earned his breakthrough series victory earlier this season at Kansas Speedway, a 1.5-mile quad-oval similar to TMS.
Byron, 18, is the youngest Truck Series winner at TMS and the second-youngest overall, a record held by Chase Elliott in the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2014.
“It’s huge for our race team to get another win this year,” said Byron, a resident of Charlotte, North Carolina, who won his second series race in eight starts. “We didn’t leave any doubt out there that we deserved to win. It was cool to lead when it counted; to finally finish out there gives me a bit of confidence. I learned a lot about running the top.”
Byron’s margin of victory was 2.095-seconds and at an average speed of 134.919 mph. Pole-sitter Johnny Sauter finished third, followed by Ben Kennedy and Tyler Reddick.
With 43 laps to go, Crafton and Byron hooked up in a six-lap, side-by-side duel that lasted until the former took the lead on lap 129. Crafton held the point until lap 163, when Byron drove his No. 9 Liberty University Toyota Tundra into the lead for good.
“I found the top earlier in the race and it didn’t work very well 15 to 20 laps in the run,” said Byron, who led twice for only six of 167 laps. “Once I could get laps on the tires … it’s all about heart and you have to want it and my team wants it and I see that every day.”
Byron said he was frustrated when Crafton chose the outside for the restart on lap 125, following the night’s fourth caution.
“I learned the side draft and to pin him up there. I really pinned him tight,” Byron said. “I was sideways a few times and I hope I earned his respect.”
Crafton admitted he was not initially comfortable racing the rookie side-by-side.
“That’s impressive what that kid did,” said Crafton, who ended the night with 133 laps led. “If I could have done it any differently, I would have. We just lost all drive off the corner for whatever reason there. We ran so hard at the beginning of that run that it had zero drive off.”
Crew chief Ryan Fugle, who worked with KBM phenom Erik Jones during his run to the series championship last year, placed Byron in the same class.
“I’ve got the best race team in the garage,” Fugle said. “We go compete and William plugged in and has done awesome. Tonight was really cool. He struggled for a run, kept learning and running the top there and looked good.
“We trust our notebook. KBM has a really good notebook; we’ve won a ton of races. We practice nowhere near how we race. We use our notebook, all our drivers and crew chiefs and Kyle working tighter.”
Rico Abreu, Crafton’s ThorSport Racing teammate, also passed Crafton’s fading No. 88 Menards/Ideal Door Toyota Tundra on lap 164 and began pursuit of Byron. But Abreu’s bid ended when he brushed the wall with his No. 98 Safelite Auto Glass/Curb Records Toyota heading into turn one, a mishap that dropped him to ninth overall.
“I got the top going in (turns) three and four there and I kept following and following and you can only follow for so long,” said Abreu, a two-time Chili Bowl Nationals champion but a Truck Series rookie. “We came to the white (flag) and you have to push it with the way they’ve built this Chase format, you have to win and he’s (Byron) already won. I wasn’t going to do something too stupid and wreck him because I’ve done that before.”
Next up for the Camping World Truck Series is the Speediatrics 200 at Iowa Speedway on June 18th. FOX Sports 1 will cover the race starting at 8:30 pm ET.