Gander Outdoor Truck Series

CWTS: William Byron Punches Ticket To Chase With Kansas Win

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William Byron does not graduate from high school until next month, however, I do believe that Saturday night at the Kansas Speedway will rival his high school graduation night! †Byron, who is just 18 years old, has a win in one of the three top series that he used to watch on TV as a young kid.

However it was not easy. It took a strong truck, a big stroke of good luck and some extremely bad luck for Johnny Sauter and Ben Rhodes for Byron to win Friday nightís Toyota Tundra 250 and reach Victory Lane at Kansas Speedway for the first time in five series starts.

Driving the No. 9 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports, Byron was third when frontrunner Johnny Sauter led Ben Rhodes into Turn 3 on the final lap of overtime.†Rhodes drove his No. 41 Tundra hard to the inside of Sauterís No. 21 Chevrolet, clipped the left-rear quarter panel of Sauter, sending both vehicles spinning toward the outside wall. When NASCAR threw the 11th caution of the race, Byron had the lead with two-time series champion Matt Crafton running second.

“I just got ran over by a bozo … I guess heís just brain-dead,” an irate Sauter said after the incident. “Itís just unfortunate that sometimes you canít race the way you want to.”

For Byron, who became the ninth NASCAR Next driver to win a national series race, there was only joy.

“It was crazy the last couple of restarts, and I had the lead there on the green-flag run (before the caution that forced overtime), and I was really just praying for no cautions, but you have to earn it,” Byron said.

“And my crew chief, Rudy Fugle, really told me about that on all the restarts. Heís like, ĎThis is how you earn it,í so I just canít thank (sponsor) Liberty University enough. This is a dream come true. I was six years old watching Truck races. Didnít start racing until I was 14, and just to be in a Toyota Tundra like this is amazing.”

The last-lap wreck wasnít the first time in the race Byron benefited from contact between two trucks in front of him. Moments after a restart on lap 135, the Toyotas of Crafton and Timothy Peters collided, breaking the momentum of both trucks and shuffling them out of the top 10.

Byron inherited the lead, shed eventual fourth-place finisher Christopher Bell after a brief battle and streaked away to a lead of 4.5 seconds before 1 caution for Tyler Reddickís spin on lap 164 of a scheduled 167 forced the overtime and bunched the field.

Sauter took full advantage of the restart in overtime, diving to the inside and blasting into the lead with Rhodes passing Byron for second in the process. Sauter appeared to have the race in hand until Rhodes made his kamikaze move and wrecked the leader in the final pair of corners.

With the victory, Byron has, more than likely, punched his ticket into the first Camping World Truck Series Chase.

Check out the unofficial results of the Toyota Tundra 250.

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About Leon Hammack

Leon Hammack is a retired airline pilot and avid race fan. Leon is a contributing writer and photographer for all three of NASCAR's touring series, as well as sprint car and midget racing. A native of Fresno, CA now wintering in Yuma, AZ., additionally, he spends the summer months near Coos Bay, OR. You may contact Leon on Twitter @captainblowdri

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