Indianapolis – Rookie and 19-year-old William Byron held off a late-race charge by 2011 Brickyard 400 winner Paul Menard to win the Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a record setting race.
NASCAR brought several changes to the Xfinity Series race in hopes of making the racing better, including a bigger rear spoiler, restrictor plate and air ducts on the front bumper. That combination rewrote the record books for this race.
The 16 lead changes were a new track record, and a big jump from last year’s two lead changes, along with a record eight different leaders. And at 0.108 seconds, the margin of victory was the closest in series history at this race. Not to mention, Byron is the youngest winner at the track.
“That was awesome,” Byron said. “This is the first time I’ve come here. It’s such a special place. To make laps around here is really special. It’s neat to get a win, and I think it does a lot for us this year.”
The race started with a lot of anticipation on how this race would play out. Instantly, drivers ran much closer together. Elliott Sadler led until the competition caution, but the second place car ran no more than two tenths of a second behind him.
Kyle Busch, who started 11th, worked his way to second and was challenging for the lead when the lap 15 caution came out.
Busch exited pit road as the leader, but restarted second to Daniel Hemric who stayed out. Hermit spun his tires and Busch jumped to the early lead.
Not soon after, William Byron snuck up behind Busch and worked his way past the veteran for the lead. Byron was able to hold off many attempts by Busch to take the lead and went on to win stage one.
Stage two saw three cautions and a lot of strategy towards the end. Leader Justin Allgaier pitted with four laps remaining in the stage, trying to get in a good position for the final run to the finish. But mistakes on pit road ruined his chances.
Allgaier slid too far into his pit box and had to back up, left without the right front tire fully attached to the car and ran over the air hose upon exit. The tire came off as he tried to get on track, forcing him to stop and bring out a caution, which was also the end of stage two.
Sadler took the stage two win after Busch also pitted for strategy.
The final stage saw no cautions. Busch started the final stage with the lead and held it over teammate Erik Jones. Eventually, the two pitted with tire issues, and with the hopes that others would follow.
Nobody else pitted after the two Joe Gibbs Racing cars, which set up a battle between Sadler, Byron, Menard and Joey Logano.
Byron took the lead and held off a charge from Logano. With the laps winding down, Logano faded, and thanks to the new aero package, Menard was able to close in on Logan and make the pass for second.
Lapped traffic got in Byron’s way as the two cup drivers battled for second, making it impossible for him to pull away. Menard overcame what was at one point more than a second lead for Byron and reached his back bumper with five laps to go.
The rookie, however, out dueled and blocked Menard on his way to his third Xfinity Series win of the season.
Menard admitted he tried to do what he could to win, but in a clean way.
“He was better than me in Turn 1, so he had the advantage there,” Menard said. “I definitely tried to get him loose, but it didn’t work. I even drove it into Turn 1 hard to try to make him loose, but he made it stick.”
The additional pieces to the cars to help make the cars racier is seen as a potential test for the Monster Energy Cup Series’ Brickyard 400, which has seen lackluster racing in recent years. NASCAR did confirm that no changes would be made tonight for Sunday’s race.
Zach Horrall is a NASCAR reporter for the Indiana Sports Report and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by NASCAR and has full media access. Follow @ZHorrallBU and the @IndySportsRep on Twitter.
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