William Byron runs away with first Truck Series Chase race

William Byron continues to do a pretty good imitation of his boss at Kyle Busch Motorsports.

He did it again Saturday, absolutely dominating the first race in the inaugural Truck Series Chase playoffs at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Driving the No. 9 KBM Toyota flawlessly, Byron had the rest of the field covered all afternoon at the 1.058-mile track.

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"It’s just really cool to get a win here in the Chase," Byron said. "It feels awesome."

It was the series-high sixth win of the season for Byron, the 18-year-old NASCAR phenom who will begin driving for Hendrick Motorsports in the XFINITY Series next season.

Before he moves up a series and onto his new organization at HMS, Bryon wants to finish what he has started in the Truck Series this season. He took another huge step in that direction Saturday, guaranteeing advancement into the second round of the Chase with the victory after entering the day as the No. 1 playoff seed.

Second-place finisher and KBM teammate Christopher Bell got within three or four truck lengths of Byron on the last handful of laps, but that was as close as anyone could get as Byron led 161 of the 175 laps. Bell led 11.

"I was afraid the 4 (truck of Bell) was going to catch us there at the end," Byron admitted.

Matt Crafton finished third, with Tyler Reddick and Timothy Peters rounding out the top five.

That left Crafton in good shape in the Chase heading into the second race of the first round, behind only Byron and 11 points ahead of Bell in third. They are followed in the Chase standings by John Hunter Nemechek, who finished ninth in the race, Peters, Johnny Sauter  (10th in race) and Ben Kennedy (11th).

The big loser in the race amongst the Chasers was Daniel Hemric, who had all kinds of problems early on, including a broken brake line that caused a small fire in his pit stall. He ended up finishing 28th and is last in points among the eight Chase drivers heading into the second race of the playoffs next Saturday at Las Vegas.

Byron’s boss is Kyle Busch, the defending Sprint Cup Series champion who also happens to rank second all-time in Truck Series wins with 46. That includes two dominating wins in just four starts this season, when Busch led the combined total of 206 laps.

After crashing and finishing 30th in the regular-season finale at Chicagoland a week earlier, Byron felt vindicated by Saturday’s performance.

"We got redemption from last week. … To get a win now when it counts in the Chase feels so good," Byron said. "I was so down on myself last week, making that mistake. So to come back and get this win is really, really good for our team."