TALLADEGA, Ala. — William Byron says his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team has prepared its case for an appeal of midweek penalties but that he hasn’t changed his approach for Sunday’s race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
Byron and his team were penalized for spinning out Denny Hamlin during a caution period in last weekend’s event at Texas Motor Speedway. NASCAR officials later said they did not see the incident as it happened and issued no in-race penalty. The driver and team were docked 25 points in their respective standings in Tuesday’s penalty report, and Byron was also fined $50,000 for the late-race contact.
As he did post-race at Texas, Byron reiterated Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway that he did not intend to send Hamlin’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota spinning off the track, but that he did want to deliver a message to convey his displeasure. Byron said he and the team took exception to the severity of the penalty, which will be appealed in a hearing next week.
“We’ve kind of compiled our list of evidence and got quite a few videos and things to look at and information that we’ve put together,” Byron said after qualifying ninth for Sunday’s YellaWood 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM). “So, I feel pretty good about that and willing to help any way I can. I feel like I’ve tried to help in some ways, just to try to get all the evidence kind of put together. But yeah, I feel good about that end of things. … Like I said, we’re just focused on, I mean, this weekend we just have to go get stage points, try to go win the race, and there’s worse places to do it.”
Jeff Andrews, Hendrick Motorsports’ president and general manager, said that the team opted to appeal in the hopes of presenting an opposing viewpoint of the incident and the intent.
“Until we get through the process next week, I think it’s probably best just to leave it at, our perspective of it is a little bit different and we would just like the opportunity to explain that and bring some things forward,” Andrews said.
The penalty dropped Byron from third to 10th in the Cup Series playoff standings, moving him from a 17-point cushion above the provisional elimination line to an eight-point deficit with two races remaining in the postseason’s Round of 12. Though the appeal is still pending, Byron said his approach to Sunday’s 500-miler relative to his playoff positioning won’t change.
“I race eight (points) behind. I don’t think about the hypotheticals,” Byron said. “Obviously, I feel like we’ve got a good case and a good idea of what … a good amount of evidence that we put together, but I race like it’s there and like it happened. So just move forward with it, I think go after the stage points and feel like we’re capable of running really well at superspeedways. I’ve had a couple of wins on superspeedway-type tracks, so feel good about that.”
Byron said he had a chat this week with Hamlin, who mentioned after Texas that he’d keep their run-in in his memory bank.
“We had a good conversation a couple of days ago, and we’ve never had issues,” Byron said. “So I’m not really worried about … I’m not thinking about Denny and his team. You know, I’m thinking about our team and what we can do going forward. So yeah, it was a good conversation, learned a lot from him, got a better understanding of kind of what he was thinking.”
Hamlin was not restored to his running position after the Byron bump, and he placed 10th in the Round of 12 opener in Fort Worth. Asked if he was satisfied that competition officials penalized Byron and his team, the JGR veteran offered: “Yeah, sorta.”
“I mean, it didn’t help my finish,” Hamlin added. “I saw a lot of people react, ‘well, he could have made up those spots.’ Well, it didn’t change the fact that I could have won the race and instead finished 10th. So you gotta account for those points in there, as well.”