NASCAR & Auto Racing

Hometown boy William Byron takes the pole for Charlotte’s Roval 400

The hometown boy won another NASCAR Cup Series pole Friday.

William Byron, who grew up in Charlotte and graduated from Charlotte Country Day, will start first in Sunday’s Roval 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s the fifth pole of the season for Byron, who also was the fastest in qualifying for May’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.

Byron, who had a top speed of 103.198 mph in his No. 24 Chevy around Charlotte’s hybrid oval-road course, is joined on the front row by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman (103.078). The top five is rounded out by Team Penske’s Joey Logano, Hendrick’s Jimmie Johnson and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Clint Bowyer.

Byron also won the pole for the Daytona 500, as well as at Dover (the week after the first Charlotte race) and the Southern 500.

“Just having the ability to be close with the car and to hone in on the little details,” Byron said of his qualifying success. “We don’t really panic in qualifying most of the time. If we’re close, we’ll fine-tune. We do well in that space of fine-tuning. That equals more speed.”

While Byron has had plenty of qualifying success this season and has a new crew chief in Chad Knaus (who won seven championships with Johnson), he’s still waiting on his first career victory. He’s 0-for-64 in his one season-plus on the Cup circuit.

“Qualifying is a different beast,” said Byron, who won the Xfinity Series title in 2017 and NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East championship as a 17-year-old in 2015.

“It’s a one-lap deal, while in the race a whole lot of things have to add up for a win. So they’re separate things for me. I’d love to win Sunday, because it would help our cause in the playoffs. I have to go out there and put a whole race together.”

Byron is going to need to use every advantage he can for Sunday’s race, which is the third and final of the first round of NASCAR’s playoffs. He comes in sitting in the 12th and final spot, two points ahead of 13th-place Bowman.

A victory would give him an automatic berth in the second round. But what he really needs to do is stay ahead of drivers like Bowman (two points behind him) and Bowyer (four behind).

“I would love to win Sunday to help my cause in the playoffs,” Byron said. “We have to go out there and put a whole race together

NASCAR notes

Team owner Jack Roush said he’s glad to get a second chance at having driver Chris Buescher back at Roush Fenway Racing.

Buescher, who ran for Roush when he won the Xfinity Series championship in 2015, will be reunited with the owner next season. Buescher left RFR in 2016 to race in the Cup series for a variety of teams, most recently with JTG-Daugherty Racing.

“It’s not often in life you get a chance to correct a mistake,” Roush said Friday of letting Buescher leave three years ago. “Fortunately, this is one I can make over.”

Buescher replaces Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at Roush Fenway. Stenhouse, who has driven full time for the team since 2013, has two victories (Daytona and Talladega in 2017). Next up for Stenhouse: free agency.

Josef Newgarden, crowned the IndyCar Series champion last week, drove a few exhibition laps on the Roval after Friday’s Cup qualifying. Newgarden drives for Mooresville-based Team Penske.

Bowman wasn’t in a conciliatory mood when asked Friday about his encounter with Austin Dillon in last week’s race at Richmond. The two young drivers bumped and banged during the second stage of the race.

“I don’t think there’s a relationship there,” Bowman said. “So, I was obviously frustrated with that situation, but I think it hurt his day more than it hurt mine. It’s just frustrating. I got ran all the way to the inside wall down the front straightaway and then just turned. It is what it is. I’m not immediately worried about it. You typically don’t see him at these places anyway.”

Bowman raised some eyebrows when he had this to say on his radio after Dillon — apparently acting on orders from team owner and grandfather Richard Childress — retaliated by hitting Bowman on the left rear, forcing him up the track and bringing out a caution flag

“I want to shove that silver spoon he’s been fed on all his life up his [expletive],” Bowman said.

Bowman didn’t back down from that either on Friday.

“And what the comment was, you heard it,” Bowman said. “I said what I said.”

Denny Hamlin wrecked his No. 11 Toyota during Friday’s practice and will drive a backup car and start Sunday’s race from the rear of the field.

David Scott: @davidscott14
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