William Byron and Anthony Campi Racing have had their work cut out for them over the past month.
The Super Late Model they have entered into the Snowball Derby is a brand new Hamke chassis and it has been a work in progress to debug. Byron points out that it isn’t anyone’s fault, but it has been equal parts bad luck and just part of the process in shaking down a new car, but this build has given them fits.
That is why they raced the Florida Governor’s Cup at New Smyrna Speedway two weeks ago, a race where they failed to finish five laps short of the distance after going through numerous issues during practice that weekend. The came the test on Monday where they battled more mechanical gremlins and then a carburetor issue leading up to qualifying on Friday.
“It’s no one’s fault,” Byron told Short Track Scene on Saturday. “We’ve gone through the car twice. It’s just been a little problematic.”
But, in the Christmas spirit, they have made a list and checked it twice and Byron feels really optimistic for the Derby from the 13th starting position. He hopes that isn’t unlucky number 13 or will instead be some kind of reverse psychology.
From a race craft standpoint, Byron has tried his best to get his muscle memory back into Super Late Model mode after focusing entirely on the NASCAR Cup Series championship over the past three months. It was a season that culminated with a final four appearance.
Part of running the Gov Cup was for him to reacclimate. He also knew he would miss Snowball Derby practice day to take part in the NASCAR Champions Week celebration in Downtown Nashville. At the same time, he has missed a lot of track time this week too.
“I didn’t think that was a big deal until last year and I really felt like I wasn’t on top of things,” Byron said. “I wasn’t able to keep up with the track changes with practice.
“It was good that we had Stephen (Nasse, Campi teammate) shaking our car down all week. If he hadn’t put those laps on it, built that notebook, it really would not have helped us.”
It stunk for Byron to lose Saturday Happy Hour but the rain is going to rash the track and make it a reset for everyone.
“The last chance race will rubber it back in,” Byron said. “That’s 50 green flag laps but there will probably be an adjustment period for us early in the race. It’s a lot warmer than it was when we tested.
“But our 40 lap runs were really good. Really pleased with our pace. We don’t have fire off speed but I don’t think that matters as much until late in the race if there is a late restart. I kind of wish I had been able to make a mock run but that’s really the only thing.
“I mostly feel good about it.”
He tested on Monday but it was cold and it stands to be a warmer humid race on Sunday.
No matter what, Byron is just happy that he gets to be in this position, racing for Cup Series championships and having the luxury to chase the occasional marquee Super Late Model races when his schedule allows.
The Derby is one that is especially important to the 26-year-old.
“For me, it just fills a void in my resume that I really wanted to get back to,” Byron said. “I wanted the chance to be able to come back to a place that I knew was important when I raced here before but to be more confident and competitive.
“This place was a real challenge for me back then. It wasn’t a track like a Hickory where I made a lot of starts at. Even then, and still now, it feels a lot like a Cup race with the length but also the competition..
“It’s a level playing field and a track that’s really challenging. So really, anytime that I get to run these big races, it just feels like fulfilling a long-time goal and it’s something that’s really important to me.”
Continuing Snowball Derby coverage on Short Track Scene is presented by Phoenix Water Solutions.