WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 AXALTA CAMARO ZL1 – Race Win Press Conference Transcript
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race winner today, William Byron. We'll go straight to questions from the media.
Q. I asked Rudy, Rudy had a good idea of the damage to the car when you spun. What were you thinking when you spun, and did the car feel any differently at that point?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, when I spun, I was like, well, here we go, we're flying through the infield. I was kind of looking towards the right side of the car just thinking about, okay, can I let it roll and not lock the tires up on the asphalt to try to keep them up, but then I saw the wall was coming quick.
I kind of let go of the brake for a minute and then locked it down, and I knew at that point I was probably going to have flats, and when I tried to get spun around it was really hard to get spun around, so I knew probably a right-side tire was flat, and it was the right rear.
I was trying to catch up, and as you do that, everything gets torn up, so it destroyed some of the floor and the crush panel and everything.
It was not good because this car really relies on all that, so it was not good at that moment, but lost a lap, changed tires, and then at that point the conversation with Rudy was just about, okay, we're probably going to have to make some pretty big adjustments here because the car is not going to drive good. It was pretty balanced before that point. Thought we were one of the better cars, just a little bit free back in traffic after the penalty, but we were making good time.
So we made a lot of adjustments. We changed a lot of things, rounds in all four corners and probably air pressure, too, and got it to where it was competitive. It was competitive for 15 laps, and then I was just kind of on pins and needles after that. I would make some mistakes because either I'd put myself in some bad positions aero wise and lose grip or just not trust the car.
I knew when we got out front, we were in the probably lower teens, like 12th, 13th running and we were doing okay, but I knew when we got out front we'd have more air on the car and be okay. Then it was just about playing the air game with my spotter Brandon and trying to manage all that.
Q. We knew weather from the start of the night was probably going to come into play at some point. From the outside looking in, that was a very chaotic, entertaining race. Behind the wheel as you get closer to halfway and then you get past halfway, how chaotic is it for you to keep constantly getting weather updates, and are you on the edge of your seat, so to speak, is the next call going to be we're doing? What are you going through?
WILLIAM BYRON: I honestly don't get too excited. I feel like for me, I've never had a rain win, so I was like, sure enough, with me leading, this isn't going to happen like this. So I'm like, just thinking about what lane I'm going to choose.
I think as soon as the caution came out, I asked what lane are we going to choose because I didn't even want to think about the possibility of rain and coming down pit road. All that was secondary to me. I was just thinking about, okay, how can we control the race so when the next caution comes out for rain we're in a good spot.
So I started thinking about that, and then my spotter and Rudy as well -- Brandon and Rudy were talking about, okay, it's starting to rain around the track, and I started to get some drops on the windshield. I was like, okay, we're probably going to get some drops and then it's going to stall, and then we're going to go back again.
I just kept thinking that way, and then even when I got out of the car I kept thinking that way, and eventually when we got over there I knew it was official. Then you start to feel better about it.
Yeah, it takes a long time. For me I'm just trying to stay locked in the race.
Q. Is Jeff going to make you sit in the calendar and count up 3,000 races?
WILLIAM BYRON: As long as they'll have me I'll keep going. Hopefully I can get to 3,000. Seems like a lot of races.
Yeah, I don't know how many years that is, but I'm willing to do it as long as I can.
I love what I do, and hopefully keep doing it. I just like to race. Feel like I'm just this year starting to just kind of understand the flow of everything, and it's starting to click.
It's been a good year, but like someone told me in a meet and greet today, they're like, how many races are in a year, and I was like, 38 and a couple exhibition, and we're on 19. I was like, well, we still have half a season to go. Everything we've done to this point is great, but if we suck from here on out, it's not going to be fun, so hopefully we just keep on going.
Q. The last three races we really only saw two-wide racing, attempts to get the third lane going and never could get it running. Tonight we saw that the dominant lane to be in. Were you surprised by that? Did that catch you off guard how well that third lane worked?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, it had to get cleaned off. It was definitely grayer up there, but you can count on Reddick to clean it off. He goes there right away, which is amazing.
I think he kind of cleaned off the entry, then it started cleaning it off, center off got a little bit cleaner, a little bit cleaner. I think handling was just a big enough issue -- if handling wasn't an issue, you're still going to see two wide because the car has so much drag that you can run the bottom two lanes and not ever get a run on the outside.
The fact that handling and how much we were lifting made it a three-wide race, and really it was just about trying to find clean air, which was what made your car handle better.
Q. I'm kind of surprised you're six years in and you're still trying to find your rhythm. It's not like you're a rookie anymore.
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I just think I haven't raced a lot in my career, so getting a later start, I think every race is a learning experience.
Obviously I'm comfortable with a lot of things, but if I go and race something else, I'm very comfortable, but these are the best guys, and it takes every little detail.
I think still inching up on those things, still getting better. There's a lot -- I thought tonight there was a lot of things I could have done better, pit road speed, decisions.
I think there's still a lot of things you can improve. But we're on the right track.
Q. Getting a win this late in the season, what kind of confidence does that give you going into New Hampshire, going into Pocono? New Hampshire you're still looking for your first top 10.
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, New Hampshire is tough for us. It was great all the way until I got to the Cup Series, and I thought, I'm really good at this track, and then I got against all the Cup guys, and I'm like, no, I'm not very good here. I got a truck win early, and I think that kind of helped make me overconfident that I was really good there, and I think just inching up on little details here and there, and I thought we had a really good sim session at Loudon last week.
I think we're confident going in there. I'm sure the 19 is going to be fast. I think there's going to be a few other guys that were good at Gateway, the 11.
I think it's going to be tough, but yeah, that's certainly one we circled on the calendar. We've done a lot of sim work for it. Hopefully all that stuff pays off and we show up fast.
Q. (No microphone.)
WILLIAM BYRON: A little bit, yeah. I think it's probably the closest thing we've had lately. I would say that, maybe a little bit at Nashville and then obviously Phoenix, but that was way back.
I think a lot has changed since Phoenix, but I feel good about our car. If the sim is close, I think we did a lot of good things.
Q. What was your thought process after the infield spin condition of the car, the rain coming? How did you pull off a win, or how did you keep composure with all that?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I mean, first it starts with just the basics, just getting to pit road, not tearing up the car even worse.
I think I went a little bit fast at first to try to get caught up, and then tore up some stuff, so then I took it easy around the apron.
When I got to pit road I realized they were taking a lot of stuff out of the right side of the car that had been torn up, so I thought, man, it's probably pretty hurt if they're trying to peel off parts of the car to clearance it.
It was. I think the car was damaged for sure. But we were able to change the balance enough to where it got manageable, and like I said, we were able to get the balance to where we could drive it, and we just weren't the most aggressive out there, but we could make some moves.
Q. When you look back on this race, say a week from now, a month from now, down the road, what do you think you're going to remember the most about it?
WILLIAM BYRON: Just the perseverance by the team. I think it's easy to give up, kind of pack it in. Just be like, okay, we're a lap down. But we'll try to get the Lucky Dog, try to have a solid finish. But we kept working on the car. We got aggressive with the changes to try to make the car have a better balance and then got aggressive with the strategy, too.
I think it's -- I could tell in Rudy's tone, he never gave up and he was constantly pumping me up saying the car is fine, just go drive the heck out of it and see what happens.
Some of that motivation was great, and then I get in the corner and it would be loose, and I'm like, still not quite there. But it was okay. I think that we worked together really well.
Q. We had Jeff in here earlier, and he had talked about this kind of multiyear narrative about trying to get you to come out of your shell or just showing us something, whatever that something is. I'm curious, what has the process been like with Jeff and really all the marketing people at Hendrick, and what are they trying to pull out of you exactly?
WILLIAM BYRON: I don't know. I'm pretty reserved. I'm introverted. But I think just being more comfortable around the racetrack in my environment. I think being with the team is what drives me. When I get up every day, it's about how can I get better as a race car driver. I try to focus on that goal.
I'm sure a lot of guys have that same goal, but for me, yeah, it's what I think about. It's what drove me to get into this sport. That's really what I follow is just my desire to be a better driver.
I think they recognize that. My work ethic and the things that I want to do to get better. Just try to be comfortable with that, and I've surrounded myself with people that believe in that and want to nurture that and help support it.
I think Rudy and I have a good process during the week, and I think Jeff and I have a great relationship, so it's just about trying to win more races, and then yeah, be excited and be happy that those moments happen, but for me, it's all about kind of the process and the work.
Q. Speaking of winning races, you're the defending winner of the Slinger Nationals. You're headed back there on Monday. What's so cool about that event and why is it on the radar? How do you feel about your chances?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I feel good about it. So a little bit pissed off at the last race that I ran a super, got moved and finished second. Yeah, excited to get back in those cars.
I think the Slinger Nationals is going to be really competitive this year. I think Erik is running well. He's got his stuff good. Chase is going to be up there, Matt. Then the whole cast of characters up there.
Yeah, there's a lot of local guys that are fast, too, and I think the thing I learned last year is just to try to keep my heart rate in check. It's easy to get worn out there.
Hopefully I don't fall out of the seat and I can do a good job for the team. I'm excited. I haven't ran a super late model in a few months. It's kind of been a couple months of just personal stuff and none of the races really lined up for me to run.
But yeah, I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a busy week, but it'll be fun.
Q. I want to say you're 21 points ahead of Truex now in the regular season. How much have you been looking at these points every week just to see about the regular season title?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I mean, we definitely look at it. There's no doubt about it. I look at Racing Reference and look at all the top 5s, top 10s, all that stuff.
Yeah, I think Truex has been running really well. It's just a matter of us performing well. I feel like if we can perform at a high level, we put ourselves in position to run up front and get stage points.
Yeah, it's a long -- we've still got, what, six, seven races until the playoffs, and we've just got to keep inching up on it. We can't have any major bad weeks. This looked like it was going to be a bad week, and we overcame it. It's a good lesson to learn, but I think we're coming up on two tough tracks that we've got to really hone in on with Pocono and Loudon.
I know that the 19 is going to be fast there and all the JGR cars, so we've got to keep it up.
Q. What is it about Rudy and his personality that is good for you, that works for you?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I think he's just no-nonsense. It's just facts and it's what can we do to go faster. I don't have to worry about him -- he just shoots me straight. He just talks about what we need to do better, and I feel like that works really well for me because I'm honestly similar.
I think we're similar in some ways on a professional side, and then on a personal side we keep up with each other, but we're not hanging out getting beers. But we certainly have grown closer on that side, but I think in a professional sense, we just work really well.