CHEVROLET NCS AT RICHMOND 1: William Byron Media Availability Quotes

In the Hendrick Motorsports Museum, there’s a big sign that says ‘Race to 300’, and now it says ‘304’ above it. I’m curious.. what would be the next big thing for Hendrick Motorsports or do you have any sense of what the next big sentimental moment would be?

“I think the race at Martinsville Speedway for the 40th season is a pretty big deal. That’s been a big deal over the offseason, with all the paint schemes and everything. I think trying to win a championship in the 40th year is probably a huge deal. So yeah, I think just some of the milestones this year, in general. I don’t now about race win numbers, but obviously getting to 400. Hopefully I’m here for that and can contribute more. But I think those are the big ones.”

What did you learn about yourself at Martinsville Speedway last year? For some of us, seeing what you did – be almost delirious and pull out the finish the way you did. When the season was ended and it got quite, what did you take from that because it was a victory for you, personally, to come through that?

“Yeah, I mean just the wear and tear of the playoffs and the season. Just tried to reflect on that race and what we could do better to not be in that position again; not to be kind of limping across the finish line as a collective group, whether it be the car, myself, the heat and all those things. We’ve done a lot of work to be better in those areas. With the heat – we’re actually trying a new helmet fan this week, so I feel like we’re on the right track with all that stuff. And then we’ve done a lot of work on the car to be better on short-tracks, so hopefully all of those things apply this weekend. That’s the goal – try to show up here with speed; have some pace on our side, have some handling to maneuver and just have a good, solid race. That’s the goal and Martinsville is obviously the big test.”

I’m more looking at the challenge, you know from you to come from on the other side of that. Some guys would have just thrown up their hands. The drive it took you to get through that moment just spoke so much about your character.

“Yeah, I’ve always been really resilient. I think it’s easy to look at me and say that I’m a pretty quiet guy and pretty reserved. But I played football since I was in fifth grade and every time I put the helmet on, I had resilience and wanted to hit people.. I played defense. I feel like my coaches knew that about me, and Rudy (Fugle) knows that about me. Once I put the helmet on, it’s pretty tough to get to me and affect me. So I feel like I’m resilient and that is throughout the whole race team. I feel like our whole race team is just gritty and hard-nosed.”

Last weekend, Rudy Fugle was very blunt about the struggles you guys have had at Richmond and Martinsville. Can you give me a better sense of why that may be.. whether it’s the setup of the car, or any other potential issues?

“Yeah, I mean it’s just one of those places we go to that we just don’t have an idea of how it’s going to go. So anytime you go to a track and you don’t really have a notebook that you feel confident on – we’ve had some good races here, but we’ve never shown up here knowing that we can run an easy top-10 or compete for a win. And not that we go anywhere thinking it’s going to be a cake walk, but you go to certain tracks and know that you have a great notebook, like going to COTA or going to Watkins Glen. I feel like this is one of those places where we’re still trying to build that solid notebook, but I feel really good going into this race because we had a great test a couple of weeks ago. We’ve done some different things with our preparation, so I feel good. But until we get on track, we really don’t know and it’s probably one of the few places that is like that for us.”

Following up on that notebook, does it throw a wrench into the works with the new short-track package and not knowing for sure how that will race?

“I don’t really know… like no, we don’t really focus on the package that much, in terms of how it changes our preparation. I think we maybe overestimated the difference there at first, so honestly we’re just trying to do the same things and just adapt to whatever the handling issues are. A lot of people have asked me – is it easier to pass.. is it harder. I don’t really care; I just want my race car to go fast. So that’s all I care about. I just want us to be faster than everybody else. The fast guys can usually pass people.”

As the most recent road course winner, this is especially good for you. The fact that Long Beach has even been rumored to maybe being a venue.. do you like the idea of adding street races or road races to the schedule, or do you like the balance that we have now between oval and road courses?

“Yeah, I like the balance of what it is right now. I think we can’t really oversaturate it. I like that we have four or five road courses. When we started to go to five or six, I knew that I had to become a better road course racer. I always had speed on road courses, but then it became a big priority.

I don’t know.. I like the traditional tracks that we go to, and I think our schedule is fine the way that it is. I think this year is probably the most traditional it’s been with having so many short-tracks in a row and we’re kind of back to the roots there.

I don’t know.. I’m going to go race wherever they tell me to go. But I think it’s a good balance right now.”

With you being such a popular driver within the simulation world, how do you feel about that.. how innovative it is and how we have so many new drivers going from sim straight up to the ranks? With you driving the No. 24 car, which is legendary within itself, how do you feel about the 40th anniversary and just continuing that legacy?

“Yeah, as far as the sim racing part – I think that’s just continuing to grow and evolve.

The 40th anniversary – I’m really excited for it. I’m excited for our Martinsville scheme that we have. I think it looks amazing. I saw it in the shop this week and feel really excited for that race, in general. We’ll have a lot of Hendrick Motorsports employees and family members out there, so I know it’ll be a huge deal.”

We’ve talked a lot this week about tire conservation. Being one of the younger guys but also coming up racing some late models on some really worn out race tracks – how do you feel your skill set is positioned, in terms of tire wear and conserving tires over the course of long green-flag runs like we usually see here?

“Well you can only manage your tires when your car is balanced and fast, so I think the whole debate a couple weeks ago about who’s saving tires the most – it’s the guys who have pace and reserve to use. But yeah, I mean when I got to late model races – we’ve had success at a lot of late model races and it just typically comes down to how good my car is driving; how can I manage my tires to be good at the end and if my car is driving good.

Yeah, it’s fun. When you have a fast, good-handling car, you can kind of ride third or fourth and push it at the end and really pour it on. I don’t know.. I kind of like going all-out, all the time, but I do like fall-off. I think that we need to have some advantage to the first four or five laps – putting damage on your tires and putting a half-second of lap time together against the field. Like there needs to be a difference in if you go super hard at the beginning and paying for it. But like I said, you have to have pace and reserve, and you have to have a good-handling car. That’s just racing. And the guys that have that are going to have an advantage on tires at the end of a run.”

You mentioned your notebook for this particular track. Does it change at all, given the fact that Sunday’s race is going to be at night, as opposed to recent years when it’s been in the daytime?

“Yeah, I mean we really don’t know what it’s going to be like. We have a notebook from 2018 and 2019, to just look back on what the track did. But it’s really hard to know with this car. It has very different traits. I feel like it’s going to be a learning curve throughout the race. The race is going to start at 7:00 p.m., so you’re going to be in some daylight for the beginning stage and then it’ll kind of transition. So it’s just going to be about trying to keep up with the track. But I’m excited it’s a night race. I think short-tracks belong under the lights. It’s exciting to see the rotors glow. If there’s contact and things, it’s a little more exciting, I think.”

Winning at Daytona and COTA, just talk about the momentum heading into tomorrow night’s race.

“Yeah, I mean we’ve got momentum, for sure. But just trying to stack the weeks together is the big thing. We don’t want to have one good week, one bad week and one good. So we just want to kind of be boring; be mellow and have really solid runs when we don’t win. If we’re in a position to win, we want to obviously capitalize. But I think the big thing is try to stack some thirds, fourths, fifths; some laps led. A 10th-place finish isn’t a bad thing, so just have those solid days, and when you look at the results sheet, it looks like nothing happened.”

When did the history of Hendrick Motorsports at Martinsville Speedway really become engrained into you?

“Yeah, I mean just growing up as a fan of the sport, I think it was easy to tell that Martinsville Speedway was their place. It was a track that they dominated. And really then learning about the history of Geoff Bodine winning there, and then learning about the tragedy; just tying it all together and understanding the real history there. It’s deep, right? It’s been a really important place for decades. Every time we go there, I think there’s an emphasis to run well, but especially this year.”