LONG POND, Pa. — Since NASCAR reverted back to single-car qualifying, William Byron has time trialed second, third, first, and first. For the second week in a row, Byron grabbed the pole and showed frontline speed Sunday in the Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway, leading the opening 22 laps.
But, like the previous results played out, he couldn’t translate sheer speed into his first career Monster Energy Cup Series victory. It did, however, earn Byron his third top 10 in four races. He’s also jumped from 19th to 14th in points over that span.
Kyle Busch went on to lead 79 of the 160 laps to pick up his fourth win of 2019.
“Obviously, we were definitely as fast as [Busch] at the start of the race,” Byron said. “I don’t know how the race would have progressed. It took us a long time to get by guys. That was just something that was a hindrance. But overall it was really good. The guys did a great job on the car. This was a solid day. We’ve had two in a row now. That’s great for us.”
It’s well documented by now, that the 2019 aero package for the Cup Series presents tougher-than-ever circumstances for drivers to complete passes given the decrease in horsepower on tracks larger than one mile and overall increased downforce.
“The only times I could make a move is when I went in there and almost crashed a guy trying to do it, or get so close he got loose,” Byron said.
Even if Byron could pass easier, he probably wouldn’t have found himself in the top three by the end of the race since he and crew chief Chad Knaus aimed for points rather than track position itself. In the, Byron earned the second most points of the day at 45 (second and third in the stages, respectively).
Byron restarted 12th with nine laps to go and picked up three more positions to finish ninth.
“We kind of went for the points, which, with the way the strategy was, it was hard to get back [up front],” Byron said. “But we got a lot of points today, which was great. I know it doesn’t sound super good but we had really good stages and really good runs there. Able to go from 12th to ninth on that last restart, and that was nice. Hopefully we can go to Michigan and be able to improve that even more.”
“Obviously another pole is awesome,” he added. “I have to work on some things and clean it all up, and then I think we’ll be really close.”