WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 VALVOLINE CAMARO ZL1 – Race Win Press Conference Transcript
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our race winner William Byron.
Q. You've won at pretty much all types of races now, but how important was it to win on a road course?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I hadn't really thought about that, but it is cool, we have a variety of racetracks that we've won races on, so that's neat for our team.
I think road courses this year have been really tough for us. I think we started the year strong at COTA, had top-2 speed. Reddick was the car to beat, but we were a close second there.
I felt like we could build on that for the rest of the year, and I got excited for the road courses, and then we just went through a slump there with Sonoma and Chicago where it was just really tough for us and we struggled.
We started the turn the corner in Indy last week. We had a lot of speed coming from the back. Just had good grip in our car. Felt like I could push the car to make lap time, and I felt optimistic coming here that we could run well. But Rudy kind of kept talking me down. He's like, we just need to get a solid top 10.
I think I really just felt optimistic that we could run well. As soon as we got out there in practice and the way the car felt through some of the corners that are really important here, I just felt really good about what we had.
Yeah, just really proud of the team. It's cool to get that first road course win. It's taken a lot of effort. A big thanks to Max and everything that we've kind of put into it. It's nice to see it pay off.
Q. First off, if I'd have asked you at the beginning of the season if you were going to rack up five wins before we ever got to Daytona for the cutoff of the regular season, what would your comment have been?
WILLIAM BYRON: It would be pretty awesome. But yeah, I think we knew that we could do that. We knew we were capable. It's just last year was tough with the new car.
We hit the ground running, and we had some good results early. Even back to testing, we were really fast in testing.
Then it seemed like the car evolved, and we struggled to kind of adapt and evolve with it a little bit through the summer and in the fall we showed up with a lot of speed again.
I think in the fall last year saw a lot of potential. It was really us and the 11 throughout the Playoffs in terms of average finish and running position. I think the start of this year, started to roll really smooth, and then we just kind of got into a rhythm.
Q. Out there earlier today, you're dominating, you're ahead of everybody by a couple seconds, but what's going through your mind to get this win, and once you crossed -- hell of a burnout there on the frontstretch a couple of times, I believe. What were you thinking and what was the emotions like for you?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I mean, I was just, no caution, just playing for no caution. I think everyone in the lead always has that mindset.
You're trying to prepare if there is one, so you're trying to manage the tires. You're thinking about what do I need in terms of adjustment, if we have to pit.
So you're just thinking about all those factors, and I think for us, we just tried to manage all those things, and really kind of the last five laps just tried to kind of manage the gap and take care of the brakes, take care of the shifting, make sure I was smooth on upshifts, downshifts and all that stuff pays off.
Q. It was a track position race, so did you feel like once you passed Denny that it was your race to lose, and was there any moment in there where you felt like you made a mistake that might lost you?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, it was. I think this place is becoming more and more track position over the last couple years. It's just really fast-paced, and the setups keep getting better. We keep evolving.
Yeah, so I think it's tough to -- guys don't make a lot of mistakes, but when I was able to get Denny there, up through the esses, I felt good about that, and then I felt like it was all going to come down to how close could I stay to McDowell for the pit cycle. I didn't want to burn through the tires too much, and so I felt like I was keeping a good gap to him, and we just -- just really thankful. Rudy did a great job on the strategy there going into Stage 2, to stay out one lap later, have a clean lap with clean air. Our car was really fast, so once we put ourselves in clean air, gave us a little bit of a buffer and we took the lead on that sequence.
Just really good execution by the whole team for that, and yeah, I knew we had a great car in practice. We were really fast.
Q. Looking ahead to Daytona now, obviously Chase and Alex are both on the outside looking in. How does Hendrick Motorsports approach that going into Saturday night's race?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I mean, just try to help those guys as much as we can. Superspeedways is really the place that we can help the most. All the -- I got a few questions about it. All the other tracks it's tough to help, unless you're just really equal and battling it out.
But superspeedways is a chance -- everyone is really close there. Hopefully we can push those guys when we need to. I intend on being aggressive there and just making sure all my belts are tight and make sure we're ready to go.
Q. You kind of talked about yesterday, the ups and downs that you've had in the past. Is this win kind of a good momentum boost or more of a hey, we're still here type victory to kind of put that aside?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, we've had a tough four races I would say. But we've had speed at I think three of the four. Indy comes to mind, Michigan and Pocono. Then the other ones we didn't quite have the speed or we had issues during the race.
Yeah, it's just part of the ebbs and flows of the season, I think, that you want to be on kill for 38, but it's really hard to just be good every single week.
I think it naturally was kind of a little bit of a reset for us and try to get ready for the Playoffs.
Q. I asked Jeff this, as well, when he was in there, but obviously the 24 has had a lot of success
here at Watkins Glen, so how neat is it to bring the 24 back to Victory Lane here?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, it's cool, I spent a lot of time watching summer races here with that flames car and how good he was here at the Glen. Him and Tony Stewart basically all the time.
Yeah, it's great to carry on that legacy with the car, and we'll share a couple of memories over it.
Q. William, do you think back-to-back road courses played a big part in today's victory?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I think the momentum from last week was really big. I think Steve Letarte talked about it. We had a really good run from the back.
It kind of went unnoticed because we finished 14th and there were no cautions, and we didn't show much of anything there.
But we just were passing people and working our way through the field, and just felt really good about our car.
I think that momentum carried to this weekend and gave us some confidence.
Q. What's it like working with Max Papis?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, we've worked together forever, so we've developed a friendship, and I think that over years and years, we talk about racing, and we probably do less of the day-to-day stuff now than we used to maybe in the Xfinity or at the beginning of the Cup days.
But we still keep in touch and talk all the time.
Q. I asked you yesterday if you just needed some momentum and you said that the difference last year is you guys just weren't putting your races together. Rudy came in here a little while ago and he said that when looking at the Playoffs that you guys are really confident, really looking forward to the Playoffs. He loves the 10 races. Why does this year feel different? Obviously take the wins aside, but why the confidence booster? Why is Rudy saying you guys are so looking forward to the Playoffs?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I mean, I think he's -- out of all the crew chiefs I've worked with in my life, I think he really values -- I think Chad was similar in his days with Jimmie, like we really focus on those 10 races and focus on what that looks like and build our setups around that.
I think we do kind of lose sight maybe in July and August of kind of what is still at play there, but I think that yeah, we're focused on those races. I feel good about our notebook for those tracks but there's also a lot of really good cars. The 11 has been fast, the 19 has been really fast, the 5 has been really good.
We've just got to keep building, but I think the tracks suit us well, and I think he knows those tracks really well.
I feel like we'll have good race cars there.
Q. Is the beard a good look, and how long do you plan to keep it through the Playoffs?
WILLIAM BYRON: Well, it's been here for a while. It's been here since last fall. I just started kind of figuring it out and how to maintain it.
But yeah, I like it. It's whatever. It's what I feel good in. Most important thing, my girlfriend likes it, so I feel like that's the most important thing.
Yeah, I think it's here to stay for sure, and everyone has talked about the playoff beards, and I'm a big hockey guy, so got to keep it.
Q. William, let's say that Chase and Alex don't make it into the Playoffs after next week. How does that affect Hendrick Motorsports as a whole, as an organization, and does it even matter to you when you're going for a championship?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I mean, we'd love for those guys to make it in. It means a lot to have all four cars in the Playoffs, but I think for us, we are focused on the 24 team when we're racing and when we're preparing.
But yeah, we try to -- we all lean on each other a lot for setups and advice and kind of owe a lot to each team for -- everyone has their strengths and different racetracks that everyone is really strong at, and try to do the best we can leaning on each team.