MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 20, 2016) – This weekend marks the kickoff of the inaugural Chase for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) in Loudon. Rookie William Byron leads the point standings as the top seed with five wins during the regular season, a record for a rookie in the Truck Series. Byron knows his way to Victory Lane at NHMS as well after winning a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race there last year, and hopes to end up there again on Saturday.
Byron is confident going into this weekend based on his past experience at the 1.058-mile oval. Last year he started from the pole and led 68 of 70 laps en route to a win in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Last month he spent two days testing his No. 9 Liberty University Tundra at NHMS, logging nearly 400 laps along with his Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) teammates Christopher Bell and Cody Coughlin. Although he was already familiar with the track from racing there last year, learning to hit your marks in a truck is a new challenge.
The team’s goal for the first round of the Chase is to treat each race like any other. Go for the win if you have a truck capable of winning, but if not, be smart and get the best finish you can to gain as many points as possible. Avoiding mistakes both on the track, and on pit road is one of the biggest challenges of the Chase in any series. Luckily Byron has a mentor who is very familiar with that process, his owner Kyle Busch, who happened to win the 2015 Sprint Cup Series Championship with the same Chase format. His crew chief, Rudy Fugle, also knows a few things about winning championships since he claimed the owner’s and driver’s championship with Erik Jones last year. He also part of the owner’s championship teams at KBM in 2013 and 2014.
Although nobody knows who will win the inaugural Truck Series Chase, there are a few sure bets. The final seven races will be exciting, intense, competitive and unpredictable.
William Byron, Driver of the No. 9 NCWTS Liberty University Tundra:
What does it mean to you to be part of the inaugural Chase in the NCWTS?
“It means a lot to me. There is only one inaugural Chase and it also means a lot to be the top seed with the wins we have. It is very important to our whole team and hopefully we can translate that into some good momentum for the Chase.”
What are your expectations for the first Chase race at New Hampshire?
“I think it’s going to be intense, especially with it being the first Chase race anyone has ever done in the Truck Series. I think drivers will start out pretty conservative, but by the end the intensity is going to ramp up since winning is the only way to be locked into the next round. I think New Hampshire is one of my better race tracks. I really like it and hopefully that translates to some speed this weekend. We need to get our Liberty University Tundra fast in practice to make sure we qualify well because track position is pretty important there. We want to start out the Chase with a really solid run and just have the right focus and mentality as we get going”
For the first round of the Chase do you race conservative for points, or go for the win?
“I think you go for the win if you are in that position, but if your truck is not that good that day you can’t cost yourself a finish. You just can’t make mistakes that way. If you do have a chance for a win you go for it, but if you don’t you have to get a top-five or top-10 finish. The important thing for us is to try and be solid.”
Rudy Fugle, Crew Chief of the No. 9 NCWTS Liberty University Tundra:
How much did the test at New Hampshire last month help William?
“It helped a ton. He’s won there before and likes the track so that’s always good. Racing there in a truck you have to learn new marks and there are new things to work on and we got better as a team too, so it should be a big plus.”
William Byron’s No. 9 Liberty University Tundra:
KBM-024: The No. 9 Liberty University team will race KBM-024 for Saturday’s UNOH 175. This is the same truck Byron raced at Gateway earlier this season. Erik Jones won from the pole with this Tundra at Phoenix in 2014.
The Fugle File:
Fugle begins his third season as a crew chief at KBM and fifth overall with the team. Under his tutelage last season, Erik Jones posted three wins, five poles, 925 laps led, 11 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes en route to becoming the youngest champion in Truck Series history and the first driver to collect both the Rookie of the Year and the series title in the same year. The duo also nabbed KBM its record-breaking fourth Truck Series Owner’s championship last season, which was the second with Fugle calling the shots. In 2013, he led KBM’s No. 51 Tundra team to a series-leading six wins and an Owner’s Championship. Entering 2016, the New York native’s Truck Series drivers have totaled nine wins, six poles, 21 top-five and 35 top-10 finishes across his 44 races atop the pit box for KBM.
Fugle has one start as a crew chief in the Truck Series at Loudon. In 2015 he guided Erik Jones to a seventh-place finish after leading five laps in the race.