MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WFXR) – On Thursday night, William Byron proved at the Martinsville Speedway that he hadn’t forgotten how to drive a truck.
As he made his second start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series since 2016 — after a blown engine knocked him out of last year’s Nashville race — Byron parlayed perfect pit strategy into a decisive victory in the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 200 at the Martinsville Speedway on Thursday, April 7, according to NASCAR.
In his last full season in the series in 2016, Byron won seven races before moving on to the Xfinity Series and finally to the Cup Series.
With Kevin “Bono” Manion on his pit box, along with input from Cup crew chief Rudy Fugle, Byron brought his No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet to pit road for the final time on Lap 83 of 200, taking over the lead when the trucks ahead of him pitted at the end of Stage 2 on Lap 104.
The 24-year-old from Charlotte, N.C., led all but two of the final 96 laps, beating runner-up Johnny Sauter to the finish line by 1.138 seconds. Kyle Busch came in third, followed by John Hunter Nemechek and defending series champion Ben Rhodes.
“It was a lot of fun. Great crowd here at Martinsville. I’ve never won a race at Martinsville and struggled here when I was in late models,” said Byron, who already had a Cup victory at Atlanta this season. “Yeah, just awesome to get the win tonight — a great truck tonight, the HendrickCars.com Chevrolet. Thanks to Spire, all the guys back at their shop. They don’t have a lot of guys, and they do it right, obviously. It was fun to work with Bono, have a little help from Rudy. Obviously, he knows the trucks pretty well.”
The race was also a homecoming for 2016 series champion Sauter, who made his second start of the season driving a ThorSport Racing Toyota for the first time since last year, his last full-time season with the organization.
Junior Joiner, long-time crew chief for Matt Crafton, retired from full-time competition at the end of the 2021 season, but returned to call the race for Sauter.
“I told Joiner today, I said don’t listen to me when I give you feedback on the first run,” Sauter said. “I called for an adjustment, and I shouldn’t have. I thought we fired off tremendous and just got a little too tight there at the two-thirds mark of the corner.”
“It was the first in-house chassis, in-house body for ThorSport,” he added. “To come home second was pretty solid.”
Sauter chased Byron after the final restart with 36 laps left, but he couldn’t catch up with the speed of Byron’s Silverado.
The race included 11 cautions for 71 laps. Zane Smith won the first stage wire-to-wire while Rhodes claimed the second-stage win. Chandler Smith, Crafton, Grant Enfinger, Zane Smith, and Tyler Ankrun finished sixth through 10th, respectively.
At this time, Rhodes leads the NCWTS standings by four points over second-place Chandler Smith.