The NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) hit the high banks of Talladega Superspeedway for the first time this weekend for a single-car qualifying session to setup the starting lineup for tomorrow’s YellaWood 500 – the second race of the Round of 12. With no practice session on superspeedway-style tracks this season, the series’ drivers and teams got their first glance at where they stand on the speed chart during the first round of qualifying. Team Chevy playoff drivers Kyle Larson and William Byron posted a top-10 qualifying effort in the first round of qualifying for an opportunity to compete for the pole position.
Hitting the track first in the final round of qualifying, Byron clocked-in a fastest lap of 52.926 seconds, at 180.932 mph, in his No. 24 Axalta Camaro ZL1 to take the eighth position in the starting lineup for the 500-mile event. Byron’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Larson recorded the fourth-fastest lap in the final round – driving his No. 5 Valvoline / HendrickCars.com Camaro ZL1 to a lap of 52.746 seconds at 181.549 mph.
The YellaWood 500 will take the green flag tomorrow, September 30, at 2 p.m. ET. Live coverage of the 500-mile race can be found on the NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.
14th Austin Dillon, No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Camaro ZL1
20th Alex Bowman, No. 48 Ally Camaro ZL1
KYLE BUSCH, NO. 8 X WORLD WALLET CAMARO ZL1, met with the media prior to the NASCAR Cup Series qualifying session at Talladega Superspeedway. Press conference quotes in advance of tomorrow’s YellaWood 500 – race two of the Round of 12.
With where you are in points and this type of wildcard race, does it change anything? Obviously I know you’ve won here, so you know you can do it again, but how do you approach this weekend? Does it change because of your positioning?
“No, it doesn’t change. I think you come in here with your stress-meter pegged, regardless of whether you’re 30-points to the good or 30-behind. We obviously know in our situation that we’re further behind, so you have to race. I think it’s been more sought out to just race these races; run them normal and not hangout in the back and try to wait for something to happen. With these cars and the way the race plays out, it’s so hard to make moves, make passes and get yourself track position whenever you want it. You can’t, so you’ve got to hold it when you’ve got it. If you don’t have it, then you have to figure out how to fuel save and short-pit guys and jump them on pit road. So there’s so many variables – you just have to race it out and don’t worry about it. What happens, happens.”
You had three wins so quickly in your transition to Richard Childress Racing. Have the other teams caught up? When you were that good to start out with, we just expected it to continue. What do you need to keep putting up something in the ‘W’ column?
“Trust me, I see it too. I think when we’ve had really good cars, I’ve just over-tried. In 2017, 2018, whatever when we were super-fast all the time – I always think back to the golden days.. you could drive from the back of the field to the front of the field. You could make something happen and I still feel like I can do that – I can drive from the back of the field to the front of the field. But in reality, with this car, equipment, talent and everything being so equal.. SMT data, everybody seeing it and being so equal – it’s tougher than ever to pass the guy in front of you. So I guess that’s kind of been a bit of my demise, which is I don’t feel like I can do as much as I want to be able to do. Me overtrying has sort of hurt my race craft, if you will.. where I haven’t been finishing, frankly.
With me and this Next Gen car, look at how many times I’ve spun out and crashed, you know what I mean. It’s just stupid compared to what it has been over time. I still have some work to do on figuring that out. But also I’m a very non-patient person and you have to show some patience in these races. They’re long races. Last week in the first stage, pushing and literally then just telling myself – OK, forget it, back up.. let’s finish this stage, and then swapping ends. I just finished telling myself to just make it to the end of the stage and I’m backwards. I don’t know exactly, but we’ve got to fix it.. I’ve got to fix it.”
ROSS CHASTAIN, NO. 1 WORLDWIDE EXPRESS CAMARO ZL1
How does this race feel different than the spring Talladega Superspeedway race?
“It doesn’t for me. Honestly, I come prepared the best that I can. I don’t want to stall it like I think I just heard somebody do leaving pit road. Do those little things right, on and off pit road. Last week, got super fortunate to come back after a throttle issue. If I would have been more aware earlier in the race, I would have never stalled it in the first place. For our Worldwide Express Chevy, it’s minimizing those little mistakes and just doing what I can do – whether it’s the next lap, taking it for what it’s worth if we get shuffled to the back. And just breathing.. I forget to breathe sometimes, physically and mentally. It doesn’t feel much different, I just need to try minimizing my mistakes.”
WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 AXALTA CAMARO ZL1
Byron on how he feels going into this weekend after picking up the win at Texas Motor Speedway and moving onto the next round, not having to worry about the outcome here:
“Yeah, it feels good, but we still try to show up to win every race. It definitely seems like we’re still in the same mindset when we get to the track. During the week, we’re a little bit more relaxed and maybe a little bit more relaxed in the hauler. But when we come out here on the grid, we’re focused on what we need to do. It’s the same objective and the same details.”