NASCAR: At Iowa Speedway, driver William Byron, 19, adds another career ‘first’ – Charlotte Observer

Charlotte’s William Byron found a surefire and quick way to get over one of the most disappointing losses of his young career.

Byron, a 19-year-old rookie driving for JR Motorsports, won for the first time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series on Saturday night at Iowa Speedway.

Byron broke through with his first win in the series just a week after an agonizingly close defeat to Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin at Michigan.

Saturday night, Byron, grabbed the lead with just over 20 laps left and held off Ryan Sieg to win the American Ethanol E15 250 in Newton, Iowa.

“Last week was just exciting to be that close to a win,” said Byron, who won the Truck race at Iowa in 2016. “It gave us a lot of momentum going into this week.”

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Byron, a 2016 graduate of Charlotte Country Day, had won seven times last season in the Truck Series, earning Rookie of the Year honors.

But he came up short in his pursuit of the Truck championship. A 27th-place finish following an engine failure at Phoenix a week before the series finale took him out of contention for the championship, even though Byron won the last race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

This season, Byron moved up to the Xfinity Series, NASCAR’s second-tier of racing, one notch below the Cup Series.

Byron also moved back home after starting his freshman year living on campus at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. He learned that life on campus offered too many distractions while he tried to balance a racing career and classes. He’s still enrolled at Liberty, but taking his classes online.

With NASCAR’s Cup Series race Sunday at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California, there were no Cup Series regulars in Saturday’s field.

Tyler Reddick finished third Saturday, followed by Ross Chastain and Dakoda Armstrong.

“It’s awesome just to kind of come this far,” said Byron, who received a congratulatory call from JR Motorsports co-owner Rick Hendrick after the win.

Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his sister Kelley Earnhardt Miller are JR Motorsports’ other co-owners. The team, based in Mooresville, fields three other full-time Xfinity Series entries.

Sieg, also in search of his first win, was on Byron’s tail on the final restart and nearly overtook him.

But this time Byron, who led 78 laps, was the driver with just enough to hang on.

“I gave him all I could give,” Sieg said. “He was just a little stronger, a little faster.”

For Byron, his first Xfinity Series win brought quick redemption after Hamlin beat him by 0.012 seconds last week.

“To get second last week kind of hurt because we were that close,” Byron said. “But I feel like it gave us extra motivation.”

Twitter lit up with congratulations for the young driver.

Christopher Bell led 152 laps in just his second career start in the series before a late wreck relegated him to 16th.

Series leader Elliott Sadler, making his 800th career start, qualified fourth but was sent to the back of the field for an unapproved adjustment. Sadler finished eighth.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Follow Mike Reader on Twitter.

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