Byron scores a dominant victory in Truck return at Martinsville

From the rear of the field to the front and straight to Victory Lane, William Byron made a triumphant return to the winner’s stage in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series after surviving a carnage-filled event to dominate and win the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 200 at Martinsville Speedway on Thursday, April 7.

The 24-year-old Byron from Charlotte, North Carolina, led three times for a race-high 94 of 200 laps, including the final 84, as he fended off Johnny Sauter, Kyle Busch and the field through the final 36 laps to claim his first Truck victory in six years while piloting the No. 7 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Silverado RST for Spire Motorsports, which recorded its first victory in the Truck circuit.

With on-track qualifying initially scheduled for Thursday canceled due to inclement weather, the starting lineup was determined through a calculated formula factoring in the results from the previous event along with the fastest laps and points positions. With that, Zane Smith, winner of the previous Truck event at Circuit of the Americas, started on pole position as he shared the front row with Kyle Busch, who was making his third of five scheduled Truck starts. 

Prior to the event, Modified competitor Dillon Steuer dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments to his No. 20 Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado RST. 

When the green flag waved and the race started, Zane Smith fended off Ben Rhodes and Kyle Busch to retain the lead for a full lap as he led the opening lap. Behind, Rhodes, who attempted a three-wide move at the start, moved in front of Busch for the runner-up spot while Chandler Smith and John Hunter Nemechek settled in the top five.

Seven laps into the event, the first caution flew when Kris Wright and rookie Jack Wood collided on the frontstretch, with the latter ramming into the former that was spinning. 

When the race restarted under green on Lap 13, Zane Smith and Rhodes briefly dueled through the first two turns until Smith cleared the field through the backstretch while Stewart Friesen moved up to third place. Just then, the caution returned when the No. 40 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado RST piloted by Dean Thompson came to a stop on the frontstretch, which soon after came on fire inside the cockpit as the driver hopped out. Eventually, the fire situation was enough to terminate Thompson’s run early.

Ten laps later, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Zane Smith retained the lead while Friesen and Rhodes battled for second in front of Kyle Busch and Chandler Smith. Behind, Christian Eckes was up in sixth place followed by Grant Enfinger and John Hunter Nemechek, who was losing spots on the track.

Through the first 30 laps of the event, Zane Smith was leading by more than a second over Friesen followed by Rhodes, Kyle Busch and Chandler Smith while Eckes, Enfinger, Nemechek, Derek Kraus and Matt Crafton were in the top 10. 

Three laps later, Johnny Sauter and Hailie Deegan made contact while battling for 22nd place entering the frontstretch, which resulted in Deegan sustaining a tire rub, but the race proceeded under green.

Nearing the Lap 40 mark, the caution returned when Spencer Boyd stalled his No. 12 Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado RST near the exit of the backstretch due to a loss of fuel pressure.

Under caution, some led by Kyle Busch pitted while the rest led by Zane Smith remained on the track. During the pit stops, Matt Crafton was penalized for speeding on pit road. In addition, Tate Fogleman was penalized for pitting outside of his pit box.

With six laps remaining in the first stage, the race restarted under green. At the start, Zane Smith retained the lead once again while Rhodes challenged Friesen for the runner-up spot. As the field scrambled for positions behind, Smith continued to lead. 

When the first stage concluded on Lap 50, Zane Smith claimed his third Truck stage victory of the season. Friesen fended off Rhodes to retain the runner-up spot while Nemechek, Enfinger, Eckes, Kraus, Tanner Gray, Chase Purdy and Tyler Ankrum were scored in the top 10.

Under the stage break, some led by Zane Smith pitted while the rest led by Ben Rhodes remained on the track.

The second stage started on Lap 60 as teammates Rhodes and Eckes occupied the front row. At the start, Rhodes, competing on worn tires, cleared the field on the inside lane through the backstretch and retained the lead while Kyle Busch and Eckes battled for second. Just as Busch prevailed, Carson Hocevar went to work on Eckes for more followed by Ty Majeski, Matt DiBenedetto, Johnny Sauter and William Byron.

By Lap 70, the caution returned when Boyd stalled his truck for a second time in the event, this time between Turns 1 and 2.

At the Lap 75 mark, the race restarted under green. At the start, Rhodes fended off Kyle Busch to retain the lead once again while Byron, who moved into the top five, battled and overtook Hocevar for third place in front of Eckes.

On Lap 78, the caution returned when Lawless Alan spun following contact with Tate Fogleman in Turn 2. Under caution, some led by Busch and Byron pitted while the rest led by Rhodes remained on the track.

When the race restarted under green on Lap 85, Rhodes fended off Hocevar to retain the lead while Eckes, Ty Majeski and Matt DiBenedetto battled in the top five and in front of sixth-place Zane Smith. 

At the Lap 90 mark, Rhodes extended his advantage to more than a second over teammate Eckes while Hocevar, Majeski, Zane Smith, Nemechek, Matt DiBenedetto, Parker Kligerman, Enfinger and Colby Howard were in the top 10. By then, Byron was in 13th while Busch was mired outside of the top 20.

When the second stage concluded on Lap 100, which marked the halfway point of the event, Rhodes, who managed to complete the event’s first half without pitting once, claimed his third stage victory of the season. Teammate Eckes settled in second ahead of Hocevar, Zane Smith, Nemechek, Majeski, DiBenedetto, Kligerman, Enfinger and Taylor Gray.

Under the stage break, some, led by teammates Rhodes and Eckes, both of whom pitted for the first time in the event, pitted while the rest led by Byron and Chandler Smith. During the pit stops, Hocevar overshot his truck while pitting. Following the pit stops, Zane Smith, who led the first 55 laps, was penalized for speeding on pit road. 

With 92 laps remaining, the final stage started under green. At the start, Byron retained the lead ahead of Chandler Smith and the field through the first two turns and the backstretch. Shortly after, however, the caution flew when Kaden Honeycutt, who replaced Matt Jaskol in the No. 46 G2G Racing Toyota, got sideways after making contact with Austin Wayne Self. He then made contact against the trucks of Tanner Gray and Blake Lothian before getting hit by Dillon Steuer and coming to rest sideways in Turn 2.

Eight laps later, the race restarted under green. At the start, Byron fended off Chandler Smith to retain the lead while the field fanned out to three lanes through the backstretch. 

Another five laps later, the caution flew again when Kris Wright and Dillon Steuer wrecked in Turn 4.

With 73 laps remaining, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Byron rocketed away with another strong restart while Chandler Smith and Johnny Sauter dueled and battled for second, with the latter prevailing. Meanwhile, Kyle Busch was in fourth while Matt Crafton and Stewart Friesen battled for a spot in the top five.

Six laps later, the caution flew again when Rhodes, who was racing in the top 10, attempted to make a bold move on teammate Eckes for position, and then made contact that sent Eckes into Friesen’s No. 52 Halmar Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. As a result, Friesen, who was in seventh place, spun in Turn 3, though he continued without sustaining any significant damage.

When the race restarted with 62 laps remaining, Byron launched ahead with another strong start to retain the lead while Sauter settled in second ahead of Chandler Smith, Kyle Busch, Crafton, and Nemechek.

Down to the final 50 laps of the event, Byron was leading by nearly a second over Sauter followed by Kyle Busch, Chandler Smith and Crafton while Nemechek, Ty Majeski, Rhodes, Enfinger and Kraus were in the top 10. Zane Smith was up in 11th place followed by Eckes, Ankrum, Kligerman, DiBenedetto, Chase Purdy, Carson Hocevar, Friesen, Hailie Deegan and Lawless Alan.

Six laps later, the caution flew when Jesse Little spun entering Turn 2 off the front nose of Tate Fogleman, which he was then hit by Bret Holmes as Kris Wright rammed into the side of Little in a billow of smoke. Under caution, some like Zane Smith, DiBenedetto, Hocevar, Colby Howard and Deegan pitted while the rest led by Byron remained on the track.

With 36 laps remaining, the race restarted under green. At the start, Byron retained the lead followed by Sauter and Kyle Busch while Nemechek battled and overtook teammate Chandler Smith to move into fourth place on fresh tires. Behind, Crafton was in sixth ahead of Rhodes, Enfinger, Kraus and Majeski. 

Six laps later, Byron stabilized his advantage to less than a second over Sauter while Busch, Nemechek and Chandler Smith trailed by less than two seconds. Shortly after, Chase Purdy limped to pit road with a flat tire.

With 20 laps remaining, Byron extended his advantage to more than a second over Sauter while Busch, Nemechek and Chandler Smith remained in the top five. Rhodes was in sixth ahead of Crafton, Enfinger, Majeski and Zane Smith while Kraus, Ankrum, Eckes, Friesen and DiBenedetto were in the top 15. 

Down to the final 10 laps of the event, Byron, who carved his way through lapped traffic, continued to lead by more than a second over Sauter followed by Kyle Busch and Nemechek while Rhodes was in fifth in front of Chandler Smith.

With five laps remaining, Byron remained the leader by more than a second over Sauter while third-place Kyle Busch trailed by two seconds. Behind, Nemechek and Rhodes trailed by less than three seconds while Chandler Smith trailed by more than four seconds.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Byron stabilized his advantage to more than a second over Sauter. Remaining uncontested at the front, Byron was able to navigate his way around the paperclip-shaped short circuit for a final time and claim the checkered flag for his first grandfather clock trophy.

In addition to claiming his first NASCAR national touring series victory at Martinsville, Byron recorded his eighth career victory in the Truck Series and first since winning the 2016 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway when he drove for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Byron also recorded the first Truck victory of the season for Chevrolet.

“It was a lot of fun,” Byron said on FS1. “Great crowd here at Martinsville. I’ve never won a race at Martinsville. [I] Struggled here when I was in late models. Just awesome to get the win tonight. Great truck. HendrickCars.com, Chevrolet. Thanks to Spire [Motorsports]. All the guys back at their shop, they don’t have a lot of guys, but they do alright. It was fun to work with [crew chief] Bono [Manion]. [I] Had a little help from [Cup crew chief] Rudy [Fugle]. He knows the truck really well. Yeah, just awesome. Thanks to Mr. [Hendrick] for letting me come do it. Pretty awesome. I’m excited.”

Sauter, the 2016 Truck Series champion who competes on a part-time basis between ThorSport Racing and G2G Racing, settled in second place for his highest on-track result since finishing second at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in February 2020.

“It was fun,” Sauter said. “It’s been a while. Just so proud of everybody at ThorSport. This is our first in-house chassis, in-house body complete. I called for an adjustment early in the race to just tighten it up a little bit and at the end it was just too much. This is the way it’s supposed to be. This is what this whole deal is about: to go for wins. To start shotgun on the field and finish second, that’s a solid day. I knew it was gonna be good. I knew on Lap 2, we had something we could race with. I’ve been doing this long enough to know. I wish I didn’t call for that adjustment. Who knows, you think that’s enough but all in all a solid night. The goal was to win and we just came up one spot short.”

Kyle Busch came home in third place in his third of five Truck starts this season while Nemechek and Rhodes finished in the top five. 

Chandler Smith, Crafton, Enfinger, Zane Smith and Tyler Ankrum completed the top 10 on the track. Ty Majeski, Christian Eckes, Stewart Friesen, Derek Kraus and Matt DiBenedetto finished in the top 15 wile Hocevar and Hailie Deegan, who confronted Lawless Alan following the event, finished 17th and 19th.

There were nine lead changes for six different leaders. The race featured 11 cautions for 71 laps.

With his fifth-place result, Ben Rhodes leads the regular-season standings by four points over Chandler Smith, 21 over Zane Smith, 25 over Stewart Friesen and 44 over both John Hunter Nemechek and Christian Eckes.

Results.

1. William Byron, 94 laps led

2. Johnny Sauter

3. Kyle Busch, one lap led

4. John Hunter Nemechek

5. Ben Rhodes, 47 laps led, Stage 2 winner

6. Chandler Smith, two laps led

7. Matt Crafton

8. Grant Enfinger

9. Zane Smith, 55 laps led, Stage 1 winner

10. Tyler Ankrum

11. Ty Majeski

12. Christian Eckes

13. Stewart Friesen

14. Derek Kraus

15. Matt DiBenedetto

16. Parker Kligerman

17. Carson Hocevar

18. Colby Howard

19. Hailie Deegan

20. Lawless Alan

21. Tanner Gray

22. Tate Fogleman

23. Timmy Hill

24. Bret Holmes, one lap down

25.  Chase Janes, one lap down

26. Taylor Gray, two laps down

27. Jesse Little, two laps down

28. Blake Lothian, two laps down

29. Chase Purdy, three laps down

30. Kris Wright, five laps down

31. Austin Wayne Self – OUT, Brakes

32. Dillon Steuer – OUT, Accident

33. Spencer Boyd – OUT, Electrical

34. Kaden Honeycutt – OUT, Accident

35. Jack Wood – OUT, Accident

36. Dean Thompson – OUT, Electrical

Next on the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule is the series’ second annual running of the Pinty’s Truck Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Course, which will occur on April 16 at 8 p.m. ET on FS1.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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