WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 LIBERTY UNIVERSITY CAMARO ZL1 – Pole Win Press Conference Transcript
WHAT DOES THIS POLE MEAN TO YOU AND THE FIRST PIT BOX SELECTION FOR THE RACE, STARTING UP FRONT, TRACK POSITION, AND STRATEGY THAT GOES INTO THAT?
“It’s good. I think it’s been an up and down weekend. The Cup car we definitely had a little bit of work to do yesterday just on overall balance and grip in some areas, and areas in me as a driver. I feel like when we talked overnight with Brian and Brandon and talked on the phone with Rudy, talked about how there’s maybe three-tenths on my end and three-tenths on the car’s end. We’re able to close that gap a little bit today and put both together. Good to get the pole, but really tomorrow is what matters and there’s a lot of work to do. A lot of physical work to do in the race later today, then tomorrow is going to be tough. Excited for it. Hopefully prepare throughout today and then going into tomorrow.”
WHEN YOU SAW TYLER (REDDICK) PUT DOWN THE LAP THAT HE DID IN THE OPENING QUALIFYING, WHICH WAS A MILE AN HOUR FASTER THAN FIRST GROUP, DID YOU STILL HAVE THE CONFIDENCE THAT YOU WERE GOING TO BE ABLE TO BEAT HIM IN THE SECOND ROUND? HOW DID THAT WORK OUT?
“I honestly didn’t. I thought Tyler (Reddick) has been the fastest all weekend by a good bit. I thought, ‘Okay, if we can just get in the top three, maybe those guys will slow down a bit or something will change to allow us to have a better lap.’ I knew I left some on the table. I don’t think I thought I could have picked up that much, but a little bit is a lot. In each corner, you’ve got 22 corners around here, so you pick up a little bit in each corner. Maybe you keep the corners that were pretty good, you keep those the same, and all of a sudden there’s a second. That’s what I’ve always noticed with road course racing – a little bit is a lot. Just put a really good lap together. My team gave me the confidence of having a really similar car Round 1 to Round 2 that I could just hustle and I didn’t have to question whether car grip was going to be there. It was really good.”
THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN THREE SEASONS (RUDY FUGLE) HAS NOT BEEN IN YOUR EAR DURING A RACE, AND HE’S BEEN UNIQUE WITH HIS MANNERISMS AND HOW HE TALKS TO YOU. HOW DIFFERENT HAS THAT BEEN NOT TO HAVE HIM IN YOUR EAR?
“We’ve always had that comfort with each other. He’s honestly built the culture around the team. That culture of the race team continues whether he’s there or not. That foundation has been built. You plug in a couple of other pieces, and to do a little bit different roles, but everyone starts to step up a little bit more and makes sure that each other’s jobs are easier so that we can fill the gap that’s there without him being there. Just thankful for the work he does throughout the week, and managing this race team and getting it to where it is. He’s got his stamp on everything that we do. We’ve got personnel on the team that can pick up each other in those situations, and it’s nice to see that we have that strength at Hendrick to fill that gap.”
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO RACE AGAINST TWO F1 CHAMPIONS, A FOUR-TIME IMSA CHAMPION, ESPECIALLY AS YOUR TEAMMATE, AND DO YOU FEEL JORDAN (TAYLOR) WITH RUNNING SO WELL HAS A SHOT TOMORROW?
“I think Jordan (Taylor) is really strong. The thing that’s impressed me about him is his adaptation to the lateral capability of this car. That’s probably where, I haven’t talked to the other guys, but that’s where the biggest difference is, how free the car is and how loose it can be in certain corners. His braking is phenomenal. He’s got excellent characteristics under braking and downshifting. I think he’s a right foot braker, which is crazy in the modern era of NASCAR. It’s impressive what he’s doing. And I think the other guys, too. It’s just impressive that they come over and try this because it is so different. Maybe it’s a little more similar with the NextGen but it’s still quite a bit different. The car has a lot more body roll and it’s a lot heavier.”
DOES THIS SEEM SURREAL TO HAVE THE RUN YOU’VE HAD SO FAR, AND HOW WILL YOU COPE WITH A RACETRACK LIKE COTA BEING PRETTY HOT TOMORROW?
“It’s not unexpected, I don’t think. It’s great to see things come together like they are, but we’re putting in the work, putting in the effort throughout the week, throughout the weekend to make sure we’re prepared. So, I’m not really surprised by what our team is capable of. It’s nice to see it all click, but it’s a long season. We just have got to keep it up for however many weeks are left and we’ve got a lot of things to still do and accomplish. It’s a grind, so we’ve got to strap in and get ready for it. I think the other aspect of it is heat. The heat is going to be tough. Just managing the day throughout the day and getting the right amount of nutrients and hydration and sleep is probably the biggest thing. Just making sure I stretch and things like that. It’s going to be tough for sure.”
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO CHECK OFF THE WINNING BOX ON A ROAD COURSE WITH HOW IMPRESSIVE YOU’VE BEEN AT THEM SO FAR?
“I think it’s good. I think the race is what matters. I haven’t had the success in the races that I want to have, so just putting it together for the entire three, four hours. Not making mistakes, making the critical decisions that it takes to be successful. Qualifying has always been pretty good for me. I’m typically able to just kind of get on the wheel for that lap and make the most of it. I think it’s just doing that for three hours and managing the tires, managing the brakes, the ebb and flow that it takes. Typically, we’ve had to race for stage points and cycle ourselves back. I think that’s something this year that will be different. I’ve always kind of been racing for points, so this year hopefully we can stay up front the whole time.”
HOW DIFFERENT WILL THIS BE STRATEGICALLY AND THE ADVANTAGE OF STARTING UP FRONT BECAUSE OF HOW THE STAGE BREAKS WILL BE?
“It should be a little bit different tomorrow but there’s still probably going to be one or two times that others cycle forward that you kind of have to get through traffic. A race is never that easy to kind of be out front the whole time in NASCAR racing, so there’s going to be some period of time that you’re going to cycle back, like to eighth or ninth, but you’re going to have to make up that ground. You just got to focus on those time periods, and making up the track position you can, and then managing what you have so you’re not getting beat up back there, beating up the brakes, the tires. It’s management, but hopefully we can be towards the front the whole time.”
JORDAN TAYLOR, NO. 9 UNIFIRST CAMARO ZL1 – Qualified fourth
JORDAN ON DRIVING COMPARISONS TO IMSA VS. NASCAR…
“There was no comparison. I almost crashed the car on my first two laps yesterday. Expecting one thing and realizing something different, so it was honestly a full new experience. Yesterday, I felt like I was out of control 90 percent of the time. Today, I felt like I understood what the car was doing. We made good setup changes to kind of help me with that, to give me a better sense of where the grip was. I see people talking about how close the parallels are, but I think if you talk to anybody who has driven both, it’s quite a shocking difference.”
HOW WAS IT GETTING THE CALL TO DRIVE FOR HENDRICK CONSIDERING YOU’RE A BIG JEFF GORDON FAN?
“The call came from Jeff (Gordon) himself. It was surreal, and honestly felt surreal until getting to the track here and getting into the car in practice. I was shaking the whole time until we actually got to driving. It’s definitely an intense experience. Obviously, it’s all rushed and last minute, but the guys have done an amazing job prepping me and getting me as prepared as possible. Getting speed out of the car and myself is one thing, I think the race tomorrow will be a whole different animal.”
HOW DOES THAT ALL FEEL, GETTING PAST ALL OF THAT TO TODAY, PERFORMING WHEN YOU NEEDED TO AND PUTTING THE CAR WHERE YOU FELT LIKE IT SHOULD BE?
“It’s a relief, to be honest. Coming in here, everyone knows it’s a winning car and winning team. If the car’s not up front, there’s one different variable which is the driver not doing his job. I knew there’s a lot of eyes on it to perform. I’m just glad to make everyone proud, to be honest. I know Jeff (Gordon) and Chad (Knaus) and Mr. Hendrick all took a risk on me to put me in this car in this position with no experience in (NASCAR), so I’m just glad to make them proud so far. We’ll see how tomorrow goes.”
ARE YOU PREPARED FOR RESTARTS?
“I don’t think I’m prepared for anything knowing race day. We have done as much as we possibly could to prepare. Obviously, rolling through pit lane, to practice pit speed. Yesterday, during practice, doing one pulling into the pit stall to see what that’s like. We did practice at the shop. I’ve driven around by myself the 65 minutes we’ve had on track. I haven’t really seen a lot of other cars, so I think it’s going to be a much different experience tomorrow.”
ARE YOU GETTING COMFORTABLE WITH HOW YOU COME DOWN PIT ROAD? YOU MENTIONED YOU’RE USED TO PUSHING BUTTONS ON THE STEERING WHEEL. TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT?
“We’re used to just going flat out like it’s on cruise control and not thinking about it. That was honestly my number one concern was coming into the weekend: not just remembering that but nailing it. I know there’s a fine window of getting it right. In the simulator, we practiced it a bunch. I told the guys I’d rather sacrifice a couple of laps in practice to roll through pit lane to practice that. So we did yesterday to get a feel for it. Hopefully it’s easier than the simulator, but it’s still a difficult variable. I still haven’t had to look for my pit stall yet with a million boards while looking at the dash. It’s going to be another element to learn tomorrow.”
HOW MUCH SIMULATOR TIME HAVE YOU HAD?
“Probably an hour and a half total. It wasn’t as much as I would have wanted. I had 30 minutes the week I got the call, and then I had an hour this week. It wasn’t a ton of time. I would’ve loved to have had a whole week of simulator time. The Hendrick guys have done an amazing job. Obviously, the correlation between that Chevy simulator and real life, I was running the qualifying lap I think was an 11-zero and that’s what I ran in the simulator. Once I got comfortable in the car and exploited what was there, the simulator transferred very well. That was definitely good to have in my back pocket.”