William Byron credited a season’s worth of studying tire conservation as the key to visiting Victory Lane for the first time in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East career Saturday night at Greenville-Pickens.

In a field of some of the best conservation racers in the business, Byron managed to lead every lap and claim a convincing win in front of a healthy crowd at the historic half-mile. Gray Gaulding finished second with Dalton Sargeant, Austin Hill and Daniel Hemric rounding out the top-five.

While each one of the top-five had their own unique storylines heading into Greenville, Byron’s victory probably counts as the biggest surprise. He only won one Late Model Stock Car race at Hickory last season running for the potent JR Motorsports team, and his first few Pro Late Model and Super Late Model starts have had mixed results. But after a 7th in the KNPSE Smyrna opener, Byron came to Greenville and made a statement in just his second series start.

“It’s crazy, I couldn’t imagine ever being here since I started racing just two and a half years ago,” a smiling Byron said moments after being showered in confetti. “I grew up the last few years watching guys like Joey Logano race and he got his first win here, so it’s great to be in that company.”

For most of the race, it wasn’t clear if Byron would indeed be the one sitting in victory lane. At a track that is notorious for eating tires and having winners lay way back until the closing laps, it seemed to many that Byron was going too fast too early. He took the lead from the outside on the first circuit and would routinely open up leads over a second through both the long runs and the restarts that made up the 150-lap feature.

But as the 150-lapper wore down, the “likely suspects” found themselves racing for second, never able to cut any of Byron’s lead away. A green-white-checkered saw Dalton Sargeant and Gray Gaulding pull right back up to Byron’s back bumper. It was no matter for Byron, who nailed a picture perfect restart and won by four carlengths on Gaulding.

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“Honestly, [on that last restart] I expected a divebomb,” Byron explained. “I just tried to really gas it up right in the center of the corner to give the best kind of gap back to those guys. I didn’t mind if I had to use a little more brake, I knew I just needed to stay right at the bottom. Gray went low a little on that restart but he gave me some room and it paid off.”

“We were conserving the whole time really. I just didn’t want anyone within three carlengths of me because I feel like when guys get that close they can sniff it and they go after it harder. I learned a lot of that by racing at Hickory last year. All the JR Motorsports guys really coached me and I used it tonight.”

Gaulding was second in his first race since departing NTS Motorsports after New Smyrna. He was teamed up with Brandon Gdovic’s team and made a real run to the finish.

“I got to say I’m having more fun with this group than I’ve ever had,” said Gaulding moments after climbing from his racecar. “The car was just simply fast. We threw this deal together and we almost won the race. We had a good gameplan but coming from 11th, I had to work my tail off to get just this close. It’s hard to believe, but I’m excited about what Bristol [the next KNPSE race] will bring.”

Dalton Sargeant was third, just missing out on completing a West to East sweep after winning at Kern County last week. He faulted a poor qualifying effort for putting them behind the 8-ball in terms of getting the best track position. Austin Hill was fourth and saw his three-race winning streak end. Still, he’ll lead the points heading into Bristol. And then there was Hemric, the talented Super Late Model racer making his first East start. He won the pole earlier in the day but seemed to struggle early on runs on fresh tires and wound up fifth.

The next race for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East is April 18th at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Kevin Whitaker 150 Results

(powered by 51's Third Turn)
Fin St # Driver Make Laps Led Status Pts
29William ByronChevy152152running48
1112Gray GauldingToyota1520running42
1051Dalton SargeantChevy1520running41
622Austin HillFord1520running40
120Daniel HemricChevy1520running39
43Kaz GralaToyota1520running38
1615Nick DrakeToyota1520running37
504Ronnie Bassett, Jr.Ford1520running36
798Rico AbreuChevy1520running35
1918Peyton SellersToyota1520running34
1381Jeremy BurnsChevy1520running33
1227Kyle BenjaminFord1520running32
2231Dave Garbo, Jr.Chevy1520running31
144Kenzie RustonToyota1520running30
172Collin CabreToyota1520running29
944Dillon BassettFord1520running28
2149John HollemanChevy1520running27
35J.J. HaleyChevy1510running26
186Devon AmosToyota1510running25
1542Jay BeasleyToyota1490running24
2445Christian CelayaChevy1470running23
2340Travis Miller Chevy1150crash22
2023J.P. MorganChevy640crash21
2547Mike SenicaChevy480crash20
834Scott HeckertChevy460crash19

–Story & Photo by Tim Quievryn // Speed51.com Southeast Editor // @thethirdturn

Byron Proves To Be Quick Student At Greenville Pickens