ASA/CRA Super Series
Why 2023 Was Right for Chase Elliott Late Model Comeback
Jan 27, 2023
You didn't really think William Byron would be one and done in his Super Late Model return, did you?
"A little bit, I think, maybe," Byron said on Friday at Watermelon Capital Speedway prior to Speedfest practice. "But no, honestly, it was just trying to get all the logistics to work out the way we had it planned."
That's a lot of casual, jocular hedging but it's a complicated and expensive endeavor and one Byron really wanted to commit to after winning six times in eight starts with Donnie Wilson Motorsports last season.
"I have wanted to do this for a few years and it's just the logistics," Byron added. "All the racing type things you have to consider but I'm excited to be back after some time off."
What all went into making sure Byron could return for another campaign alongside his Cup Series effort in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24?
"It just comes down to making it simple enough to allow me to not spend too much time focusing on finding a ride or getting to the track on race days and in a way that doesn't take away from the Cup work," Byron said. "The biggest thing is just making sure it’s not too much of a headache and something that is fun for me, purely from a racing standpoint
"This is my sixth year in Cup, so I know what I'm doing there, and it just comes down to picking and choosing what I want to do around it."
It took one race during Speedweeks last February for Byron to get comfortable behind the wheel of one of these cars, a platform that had changed a great deal since 2016, and he was off to a sensational season.
They won the Slinger Nationals, North South Showdown at Nashville and an Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory. It became clear that he should have been one of the Snowball Derby favorites, but they were just off that week in one of the hardest races to win.
It's why he's back for more -- trophy hunting in the bucket list races.
"The way last year was going, I definitely got my hopes high for the Derby and that was so disappointing, that week in general, and I really wanted it to go better," Byron said. "So that's still high on the list for us this year if we can make it work and I would love to win that race.
"I want to win this race too."
It's his first time here since 2016 when he and his now Cup Series crew chief Rudy Fugle came here with Kyle Busch Motorsports. A lot has changed since then, and this weekend makes a nice reflection point as a result.
"It's funny, I actually watched that race last night," Byron said before referencing his car chief. "Gere Kennon was working on (the NEMCO Motorsports) 8 car back then and we had a heck of a race with John Hunter (Nemechek.)
"We were door banging for 50 laps and the race was a lot of fun. Nemechek and Byron got wiped out racing Bubba Pollard for the lead that night.
"That was a lot of fun in hindsight and a lot has changed for sure," Byron said. "I was really inexperienced. I didn't know a lot about Super Late Models or racing in general. That was my first race with Rudy to get comfortable with him for Trucks that season.
"So, this a lot different from then, I think. I this race track has changed a lot since then too. It's a lot slicker."
How did the test go on Thursday?
"I thought we were good," Byron said. "We were top six all day and them I kind of botched the mock run, didn't get heat in the tires. So, we'll see how qualifying goes. I think there are six or seven cars that can win so it's going to come down to track position and making the right moves at the break with the tire change.
"I don't think right side tires matter at all, but it is going to add grip and some lap time, so you have to put them on at the right time."
Live coverage of Speedfest 2023 on Friday and Saturday will be provided to subscribers of RacingAmerica.TV.Byron joins a stacked roster that includes Chase Elliott, Bubba Pollard, Corey Heim, Johnny Sauter, Carson Hocevar, Matt Craig and more.
In all, Speedfest features 340 laps of action between the Super Late Models, Pro Late Models, Outlaw Late Models, Legends and Bandoleros.