Byron Best at The Brickyard

William Byron

Byron became the youngest series winner at IMS at the age of 19 years, 7 months and 23 days. (Photo: Getty Images)

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William Byron held off Paul Menard in the closing laps to win the Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday for his third NASCAR XFINITY Series victory of 2017.

The 19-year-old rookie becomes the youngest driver to win a XFINITY Series race at Indianapolis, coming in his first start in any racing series at The Brickyard.  

“It’s really amazing to be here. I’ve got a lot of really great people around me,” Byron said. “It’s a really special moment for us to win at Indy. Great couple weeks and just really proud of this entire race team."

Byron started third on Saturday and hung around the front of the field for much of the afternoon, winning Stage 1. After playing the pit strategy game with three laps to go in Stage 2, Byron fell back through the field missing out on any additional stage points, but was in prime position to restart the final stage near the front of the field.  

Byron restarted second in the final stage and stayed within shouting distance of the lead but it wasn’t until race leaders Kyle Busch and Erik Jones pitted with 19 laps to go which gave Byron the opportunity to score the victory.

After claiming the top spot following the leaders’ stops, Byron was able to hold off veteran Joey Logano while working through heavy lap traffic with under 10 laps to go, and then was able to beat Paul Menard to the finish line by .108 seconds. 

“I tried to save as much tire as I could. He started gaining on us pretty good and I started to have to push again and I was able to time my runs to where I could keep him back there,” Byron said.

It wasn’t all easy for Byron, however, as he battled a tire vibration in the closing laps. He said he was lucky to be able to hold on and not have a tire go down.

“We had vibrations for probably the last 20 laps or so and it kinda leveled off,” Byron said. “I went through trying to think about what it would do. It hung on and I’m thankful for that and that’s what ultimately won us the race."

It’s his third victory of the season, following triumphs earlier this summer at Iowa Speedway and Daytona International Speedway. 

The race featured new track records for both number of leaders at eight, lead changes at 16 and margin of victory at 0.108 seconds, all attributed to a new aero rules package being tested for the first time by NASCAR that was designed to promote closer racing and more passing.

The highlights of the rules featured the addition of a restrictor plate, an extended front splitter and taller spoiler and new aero ducts attached to the front bumpers of the cars.

“I thought it was great,” Byron said. “You were able to pass and equalize the top five or six cars."

“The package is close. The leader still has an advantage,” second second-place finisher Menard. 

Menard said he was good but just didn’t have enough to get by Byron in the closing laps.

“He was beating me in Turn 1. I was better in 2, 3 and 4. Turn 1 was the slowest corner and I had to come quite a bit out of the throttle,” Menard said. “He was able to carry quite a bit more speed than I was.”

Logano finished third with pole sitter Elliott Sadler in fourth and rookie Cole Custer rounding out the top-five finishers.

“I wasn’t even close. I was a distant third,” Logano said. “I was kind of in the hunt there with the 9, but just didn’t have a fast enough car to hang on.” 

“The package was interesting. You had to race really smart. You just had to be smart on restarts and knowing when to race guys and when to just keep momentum,” Logano said of the experimental rules package. 

Ryan Reed, Brennan Poole, Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones and Ty Dillon rounded out the top-10 finishers. 

The race was slowed five times for cautions for 22 laps.

Sadler continues to maintain his hold in XFINITY Series regular season points by 40 markers over Byron. Justin Allgaier, who was an early favorite to win on Saturday but stumbled after a bad pitstop and finishing 35th, is third in points - 133 behind Sadler. 

The NASCAR XFINITY Series continues next Saturday as the series makes the second visit of the season to the Iowa Speedway.

 

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