INIANAPOLIS– In a battle that went all the way down to the wire, William Byron wins the Lilly Diabetes 250 from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for his third NASCAR XFINITY Series win of the season.
The JR Motorsports driver led 26 laps to hold onto the victory Saturday afternoon in his first start at the famous course. It was not easy for the NXS rookie as he held off a hard charging Paul Menard in the closing laps, all while having a horrible vibration during the run to the checkered flag.
“I just have thank god, it is really amazing to be here.” Byron said. “I have a lot of great people around me, it is very humbling to be at Indianapolis and win. I cannot believe that tire held on, but that was awesome. this is so fun.”
“This is so cool, this is awesome! I have never been to a Brickyard 400 or an Indy 500 but I watched as a kid. Man, it takes a lot to win these races and to win here is so special. Just thanks to all of the guys on this Liberty University team, to get Liberty a win this year is cool too. We are definitely going to celebrate this one and kiss the bricks.”
The race saw a new draft package in effect for Indy as NASCAR implemented restrictor plates, usually used for Daytona and Talladega, for this race in an effort to help passing.
The experiment seemed to work to perfection as the race saw a record 16 lead changes and plenty of passing throughout the field the entire afternoon.
Current NXS points leader and JRM teammate, Elliott Sadler led the field to the green flag and led the majority of the opening stage of the event. Until a late restart in the stage saw Kyle Busch take command of the lead. It was short lived as William Byron rocketed to the front to take the opening stage victory.
In the second stage, Busch once again took command of the lead after a series of pit stops. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver led most of the second stage, until a round of green flag pit stops towards the conclusion of the stage.
Under the green flag stops, Justin Allgaier’s day unraveled quickly. The JRM driver pitted too far over the line and then abruptly left his box while his crew was still servicing the car. As he left the stall, the suspension became damaged and was forced to a stop on the access road in turn 2. Ending his stellar day in P35, -14 laps down.
This left Elliott Sadler out on his own strategy call as he goes on to win the second stage.
As the race drew nearer towards the conclusion, Busch and Erik Jones took off from the field and looked all but certain to run away with a 1-2 result. With less than 15 laps to go, the pair came down to pit road. The pit stop, hurt Jones’ day as he was hit with a tire violation and was forced back down pit road to serve the penalty.
This left Byron in the lead with a vibration that got worse lap after lap.
As Byron continued to hold on to the lead, an unlikely driver arose to front. Paul Menard, who is no stranger to the “Brickyard”, as a past 400 winner, rocketed to the front to contend for the victory. In the end however, he couldn’t pass the young phenom and settled for a second place effort.
“He was beating me in turn one.” Menard said. “I was better in two, three and four. Turn one is the slowest corner and I had to come quite a bit off the throttle and he was able to carry a little bit more speed through there. Our car was too loose on the short run, but definitely a good long run car. I think a lot of guys started getting tight on exit. I was able to keep rotating and was able to keep the speed down the straightaway.”
Joey Logano finishes the race in the third position with Elliott Sadler and Cole Custer rounding out the top-five.
Ryan Reed, Brennan Poole, Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones and Ty Dillon complete the rest of the top-10.
The next NASCAR XFINITY Series race is July 29 at 3:30 pm/et for the US Cellular 250 Presented by American Ethanol from the Iowa Speedway (NBC, MRN, Sirius XM).