The big news surrounding SpeedFest 2016 at Crisp Motorsports Park in Cordele, Georgia has been the return of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, who will be racing his own No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports car in the 200-lap ARCA/CRA Super Series race. But Busch’s car won’t be the only KBM car there, and the second car will also be driven by a 2015 champion.
NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion William Byron will pilot the No. 9 Liberty University Toyota in Cordele, Georgia. The race will be his first of the season before he gears up for a full NASCAR Camping World Truck Series campaign with KBM.
“I’m just excited to get the first race of the season going,” Byron told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I think it’s really good to get a Late Model race in there before the Truck season starts. My last race was the Derby and that was a lot of fun, so I’m just excited to get back in it. I think with the caliber of team that I have this is a great opportunity, and that’s what I’m excited about.”
SpeedFest will mark the first time that Byron will get to race alongside his car owner, Busch. Byron admitted that he’s a little nervous about racing with Busch, but he’s ready to get that done early in the year.
“When I heard he was going to be racing I couldn’t be more thrilled,” said Byron. “I want to see where I stack up. It’s going to be awesome just having him there. I think everyone will appreciate him being there. It doesn’t mean that if you race him and you beat him that you’re automatically going to win a Truck race. But us being Late Model drivers and having that chance at an equal playing field race is an awesome opportunity.”
Byron said what he’s most looking forward to about having Busch race with him is that he can ask him questions and lean on him throughout the weekend in the Peach Tree State.
“I’m just trying to get as much information as I can before we get to the first Truck race,” he said. “In the Late Model deal I haven’t asked any questions, but I know I’ll have a chance to ask when I get there.”
While Byron wants to try to beat his boss, that isn’t the most important thing for the 18-year-old driver, a strong finish is extremely important.
“That always helps just having more confidence and momentum going into the next race,” Byron said. “If I have a good result in general that would just be a great thing. It would be a way to start off on the right foot and legitimize what I can do.”
Byron said he wants to have a strong run before he heads to Daytona in February for his second career Truck Series start. He believes that heading to a new track, the D-shaped short track of Crisp Motorsports Park, is a good place to have it happen.
“I want to go into Daytona confident,” said Byron. “I know that anything can happen at Daytona. You can wreck, and that’s not a great way to start a season. So this is the first race for me in terms of everything. It has a lot of magnitude and a lot of weight. That’s why I’m going to it and I’m going to be ready for it.”
Even though a Super Late Model is way different compared to a NASCAR race truck, Byron said seat time is everything, and that’s another reason why this race is so important.
“I think just having the advantage of being back in a race car and just going out there cold in the first race of the year, that racing experience you have from last year, you can’t recreate it unless you go do it,” Byron said. “It kind of challenges me in ways they need to be challenged. That experience is what I look to when I go Late Model racing. I just want to get back in that groove and be comfortable with all of the experiences that I didn’t have over the offseason.”
Race fans can watch Byron go up against Busch and host of other Super Late Model racers on January 31 by watching live on Speed51 TV. Video tickets for the event can be purchased now for just $27.99.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com