CHEVROLET NCS AT PHOENIX: Byron Claims Pole Position for NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race

       In his first career appearance in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Four, William Byron posted a best-lap of 27.15 seconds, at 132.597 mph, in the final round of qualifying to claim the pole position for the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway.

 

·       The feat marks Byron’s fourth pole win of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, and his 12th career pole win in NASCAR’s premier series.

 

·       Team Chevy is the only manufacturer to have its Championship Four drivers represented in the final round of qualifying, with Byron’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson and the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Camaro ZL1 team posting the fourth-fastest qualifying lap.

 

·       Byron delivered Chevrolet its ninth NASCAR Cup Series pole win of the 2023 season, and its 743rd all-time pole win in NASCAR’s top division.

 

·       NBC will broadcast the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, November 5. Live coverage can also be found on the NBCSports Gold App, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.

 

 

TEAM CHEVY UNOFFICIAL TOP-10 STARTING LINEUP:  

POS.   DRIVER

1st      William Byron, No. 24 Axalta Camaro ZL1

4th      Kyle Larson, No. 5 HendrickCars.com Camaro ZL1

7th      Erik Jones, No. 43 Allegiant Allways Rewards Camaro ZL1

8th      Ross Chastain, No. 1 Worldwide Express Camaro ZL1

 

TOP-FIVE UNOFFICIAL STARTING LINEUP: 

POS.  DRIVER

1st      William Byron (Chevrolet)

2nd     Martin Truex Jr. (Toyota)

3rd      Kevin Harvick (Ford)

4th      Kyle Larson (Chevrolet)

5th      Bubba Wallace (Toyota)

 

WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 AXALTA CAMARO ZL1 – Post-Qualifying Media Availability Quotes: 

 

Q. William, do you feel like you guys have the race pace to match that? Obviously looking at the practice speeds yesterday, it seemed like the 20 and 12 had long run speed. Do you feel like you guys have that in the 24 car?

WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I don’t know. I think we were right there in the mix. We definitely needed to connect our corner a little bit better and just kind of get our overall balance a little bit closer. Felt like we leaned heavily on some of the Chevy teammates, so thanks to Kyle Busch and RCR for some of the changes they made, also the 1 car.

Feel like we have something to race with.

 

Q. Knowing the 24 car’s legacy, the championship dry spell, what are your thoughts?

WILLIAM BYRON: I don’t really think about that. I think, I mean, maybe when I got in the car it felt that way and thought about that, but not at this point. It’s just all about our team that we’ve built.

Yeah, it’s great to have Jeff here and his support, and we share a bond, but I’m not thinking about that when I’m driving.

 

Q. William, I don’t know if you know, the restart zone was in one area yesterday, they moved it back. You’re leading the field on the initial restart. Did that matter that they moved it back to where it was? Do you practice that?

WILLIAM BYRON: I think it would have definitely been an adjustment given where it was, I mean, just watching the Truck race, kind of seeing how that played out.

I think moving it back to the traditional spot is great. Kudos to them for doing that, recognizing it. I think yeah, I won’t do anything different on the initial start. Just try to have a good start, I guess, get through the gears.

 

Q. We’ve been through press conferences after press conferences to get to this point. Is this like a relief that now you get to get in the car and go race?

WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, for sure (smiling). I mean, it’s nice to be done with all the hoopla. It’s going to be great to get in the car.

I mean, it’s been nice. I love it out here. We’ve done a lot of fun things. My friends are here. I’m just excited to kind of do normal stuff for the next 24 hours.

 

Q. In the past races, it’s come down to a final pit stop and a short green-flag run. How do you feel about confidence-wise your speed in the short run versus the long run? What’s more important?

WILLIAM BYRON: Try to be good the whole run.

Honestly, for us it’s not really that focused until maybe we see in the race what our weaknesses are. In practice, nobody ran 60 laps on tires to know what that falloff is going to be like. I felt like

 

Q. William, your first time in the Championship 4. Have you gotten any advice from Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, the guys that have done it?

WILLIAM BYRON: No, not really. I mean, I haven’t really asked. I feel like it’s just trying to experience it for myself. That’s the best way you can learn.

I feel like for me, I kind of go back to Xfinity days, what that felt like, because it was the same format, albeit a lot different competition. Yeah, I just kind of go back to my own experience because I feel like that’s all that really matters.

 

Q. I’m struck by seeing the two of you guys sitting up there. You’re each respectively potentially the future of these two iconic teams, could go on to become a great rivalry. I’d like to hear you talk about each other as a driver, how the future feels like it’s here.

WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, Christopher and I have known each other since Truck. We spent a lot of time racing each other. I feel like that has continued into the Cup Series. We got in a little bit different time, a little bit different path. We’ve always raced really hard and with respect.

It’s good to race people all the way up through the ranks because I feel like you really respect those kind of people more so than just someone I guess who came in and you don’t know anything about, so, yeah.

 

Q. William, you talked about being in this format before in the Xfinity Series. There’s a lot of talk about first-timers, pressure. Do you feel any pressure? Is it any different or a normal weekend in a lot of respects?

WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I mean, you’re going to be nervous because that’s normal. I think that having that experience was something that really stuck with me to get in the Cup Series.

Yeah, no, I don’t feel any different this week. I feel like it’s a lot of pressure to get to the Final 4. I feel like all of us would say that it’s a big accomplishment to get here. You’d like to have this every year. You’d like to this the same meaning behind the championship weekend.

I’m excited. I feel like we have a great opportunity.

 

KYLE LARSON, NO. 5 HENDRICKCARS.COM CAMARO ZL1 – Post-Qualifying Media Availability Quotes: 

 

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Kyle Larson. We’ll get right to questions.

 

Q. Yesterday Cliff said that them having to revinyl part of the car, that just means they’re in the right spot for the weekend. How important is it for you to have him, that support?

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, that’s good. I don’t think any team would be upset if their driver scuffs the wall on the straightaway. As often as I do it, it doesn’t seem to annoy him as much as maybe it would annoy some other crew chiefs.

No, I mean, yeah, I feel like I have the support of my whole team, even when I make dumb mistakes. But, yeah, I don’t know really where I’m going with it… It’s just a scuff (smiling).

 

Q. Was that just a mistake and was there any concern about the handling of the car?

KYLE LARSON: I barely touched the wall.

 

Q. The fact that you and William are top four in this, is this a Hendrick Motorsports race I don’t want to say to lose, but do you feel you have shown that you haven’t lost a step since the spring?

KYLE LARSON: I wouldn’t say that. I mean, I think we all saw the practice sheets yesterday. I think the 12 and the 20 looked a step better than especially me and even William a little bit. Was honestly surprised that they didn’t make the final round there, all that.

So, no, I’m not counting out Blaney or Bell at all. It’s a long race, so they’ll overcome wherever they start. I’m sure they’ll drive through the field. The Final 4 guys, most everybody respects or shows a lot of respect to on the racetrack and gives a lot of space.

I think they’ll find their way to the front pretty quickly.

 

Q. New tire this weekend. How did it feel out there compared to the spring?

KYLE LARSON: I mean, the spring has been so long ago, I don’t really remember how I felt in practice. Yesterday I was just struggling for entry grip a lot. We made a lot of adjustments overnight. I felt much better there in qualifying. It’s qualifying trim versus race trim. Still don’t know how I’ll be compared to yesterday.

I think the entry grip was better with the other tire. I don’t even know the differences within the tire. Yeah, no, I mean, lap times seem to be a little bit faster, at least in qualifying trim. I don’t know what that means, though, for the race.

 

Q. You talked about the 12 and the 20 had what seemed good long run speed yesterday in practice. How do you expect the conditions and what you learned in the practice session yesterday to translate to tomorrow?

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I’m not sure. I miss practice. It was great to have practice. 50 minutes at night, three sets of tires, it was just chaos yesterday (smiling).

I don’t know. I’m not saying I miss the three practice sessions that we used to have, but I thought it was just really chaotic yesterday. I felt like there was may more chaos than a 20-minute session just because three sets of tires, it’s like you’re always in traffic. You were either catching somebody or you were in the way of somebody, being on different laps on tires. Yesterday’s practice was difficult. Nighttime, we don’t race anywhere close to nighttime tomorrow, so…

Yeah, I left last night just basically being more confused I think than had I just not practiced at all. Yeah, that was interesting and makes the weekend kind of more difficult. I guess that part of it’s good.

 

Q. You have seven top-five finishes here at Phoenix. You looked good in qualifying. How confident are you going into tomorrow?

KYLE LARSON: I don’t know. I mean, last night I was not too confident, just more so confused. We qualified better today than I thought we would. I think my race car is quite a bit better than we were yesterday.

I understand it’s going to be a tough race. I don’t know. I mean, yeah, past results help confidence, but it’s a different race every time you come back.

 

Q. You’ve been here before. You’ve won a championship. What experiences can you draw on from then to now?

KYLE LARSON: Nothing. I mean, it’s a totally — I said it a lot on Media Day, but it’s a totally different series than it was two years ago. The cars are different. Restarts are different. Just the style of racing is different. The way cars react around other cars is different.

There’s not really anything I feel like I can take from a couple years ago, other than just knowing that we’ve done it before so we can do it again. But that really doesn’t mean anything either.

 

Q. A few years back in the championship race, you talked about really not wanting to upset things and being very respectful. Does that era still exist in this series like in that Homestead race? Is the expectation that people will race you as you raced a few years back in Homestead?

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I’m not sure. I think circumstances are different. I think then, that race you’re speaking of, I was running third, and I was really fast catching Martin, who was leading, but catching Kyle as well. I knew if I passed Kyle, I was going to screw his chance at winning a championship. I kind of wanted to leave it to those two to race it out.

I think it just varies from driver to driver. I think there is a handful of drivers in the field that would have the Championship 4 drivers in mind, and then there’s probably a handful of drivers that are going to race hard, which you can appreciate both ways.

Everybody wants to win a Cup race. They’re hard to win. Phoenix, I feel like there’s more opportunity for people to win than at Homestead back then. I think because of that, yeah, the people will be more aggressive in the way that they race or just race more normal probably.

Like I said, every circumstance is different. You don’t really know until you get out there and get in those situations.

 

Q. Blaney is 15th. Bell is 20th. You’re 4th. Byron is 1st. Does any of that really matter? The race comes down to the last pit stop. Does any of that help you? At the end of the race, what are you looking for to make sure you get off pit road?

KYLE LARSON: Well, I mean, even though they start 15th and 20th, they still get to pick third and fourth pit stall selections. They’re going to end up in a good stall. Their car obviously was really good in practice yesterday, so they’re going to find their way to the front.

I don’t view anything about where they qualified. I wish I would have got the pole. Just was a little bit off of William there. I think honestly if I would have qualified a little bit better the first round, I think what I did in the second round would have caught him off guard a little bit sooner than it did, and I probably would have beat him, gotten the first pit stall selection.

Yeah, just got to execute every chance you get. I just didn’t execute quite good enough the first round.

 

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Kyle.

 

GM PR