NASCAR Truck: William Byron takes top rookie honors
William Byron takes the checkered flag in the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 18, 2016 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
William Byron has been named the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year on the strength of a record-breaking debut season in the Truck Series. He topped-off his 2016 campaign with a win Friday night in the Ford EcoBoost 200 season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway
“It feels awesome,” Byron said. “It’s just, it’s incredible. I mean, this team has worked so hard all year. We just had an unfortunate situation last week that we couldn’t control, but, man, they brought a good truck.”
Byron’s win Friday night was his seventh of the 23-race season, a record for a Camping World Truck Series rookie. It didn’t result in a championship, though, as he was eliminated from the series’ first-ever chase with an engine failure the previous weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, but the win did lock-up the 2016 Camping World Truck Series owner championship for his No. 9 Kyle Busch Motorsports team.
“Overall, just a spectacular season by William Byron and the whole No. 9 team,” truck owner Kyle Busch said. “They were flawless all year up until Phoenix; I guess. We had a little problem, there, and knocked ourselves out of contention, but everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports, they do such a great job.”
In addition to winning nearly a third of the races that made up the 2016 Truck Series schedule, Byron finished in the top-five in nearly half the races this year, posting 11 race finishes inside the top-five. His rookie stats also include 16 top-five finishes.
Byron claimed his first win in the fourth race of the season, getting to victory lane at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, the fourth race of the season. It was his fifth-career start, as he ran one race in 2015. Three races later, Byron was in victory lane again at Texas Motor Speedway near Fort Worth, the first of two-consecutive race wins, as he posted his third win at NASCAR’s home track of Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway to claim three victories in a span of six races. He also claimed wins at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta and Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., before punctuating his season with his Homestead victory.
Byron’s stint as a full-time Camping World Truck Series driver is a one-off one, though, as he’ll make the transition to JR Motorsports and NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2017.
“Before this race, we knew we had a lifelong bond between all of us,” Byron said. “I mean, it’s just been an incredible season. I’ve learned so much. They didn’t know what to expect, I think, with a rookie driver. They were like, ‘What’s this kid going to do,’ so I just tried to prove them right all year, and we just had an awesome year, so no better way to finish it off at Homestead like this.”