By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
The last time a Hendrick Motorsports driver earned 10 consecutive top-10 finishes, William Byron was barely out of elementary school.
Now in 2021, it’s Byron who matches that mark, last touched by Jeff Gordon in 2007, with a 10th straight top 10 Sunday at Darlington Raceway. By finishing fourth in the Goodyear 400, Byron not only kept that streak alive but continued to solidify his spot in championship contention.
“I think it just shows the strength of the car, our team, our communication, all those things,” Byron said. “If you’re running 15th all day and you finish in the top five, it might feel nice, but it doesn’t really show much points-wise.”
The No. 24 team, however, have been earning stage points to go along with the strong finishes. Byron started and ran inside the top five throughout the running of the 293-lapper.
“I feel like for us to run where we finish all day is impressive and that’s what the good teams do,” he said. “We’re in that mix. We’re in that fourth-to-sixth range right now, so we just have to break that seal to get into the top two or three, which I think it’s pretty obvious which cars those are. We’re getting close.”
Though no victory for Byron on Sunday, it was a third top-five finish in the last five races, despite having only one in the first seven races of the season.
Still, Darlington and it’s slick conditions created some challenges for Byron.
“I thought we were pretty solid all day. We fell back to eighth or ninth early in the race and we were just too loose,” he said. “We didn’t really have the car fully connected yet, but we just got it better and better.
“The long runs were still our weakness. We were a fourth-place car. But to finish fourth is good for us. Tenth top-10 in a row is awesome. I think our team is just super consistent this year. That’s a credit to Rudy [Fugle, crew chief] and the guys preparing awesome cars and executing well.
The next step? To beat the very guys who finished ahead of him Sunday. Especially, the top two of Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr.
“We just have to find that little bit to kind of get with the Nos. 5 [Larson) and the 19 [Truex]. We’re there at times, but we can’t really break that seal, which is hard. We just have to continue to build the notebook. It’s Rudy and I’s first time going to these tracks, so I feel like there’s a lot of room to go still. But we’re doing great.”