In his Slinger Nationals debut, William Byron won the prestigious short track race with a late-race pass on Wisconsin native Luke Fenhaus and then withstood a technical challenge after the checkers.
“Guys started beating and banging and I was able to run the top,” Byron said after his win. “I don’t think I would have been able to pass both of them but the fact that they kind of got bottled up, I was able to work my way around them.”
It appeared the victory would be decided between the 2021 winner, Fenhaus and Ty Majeski, who won this race in 2018 and 2020. With 20 laps remaining in the 200-lap race, Majeski was leading Fenhaus as Byron closed in.
Sensing the urgency, Fenhaus used his bumper to loosen up Majeski and the loss of momentum was enough to allow Byron to make the pass.
The outside line was treacherous, with Byron getting pinched into the wall a few times after contact on the driver’s side.
Byron ran among the top five for most of the race, but the 200-lap race allowed him to make adjustments that were critical to his success.
“The first run there we were really loose in and off,” Byron said. “Just couldn’t really hustle it and got outhustled on the restarts. Once we made adjustments, I felt like we just got the car tight enough where I could get off the corner.”
The Slinger Nationals win did not come without controversy, however. Byron showed up with an aluminum bumper bars instead of the steel required for the race. When this has been discovered in pre-race inspection in the past, the penalty was for the car to be encumbered with an extra 25 pounds of weight. Byron’s infraction was not found until post-race inspection, which Fenhaus and the team believed should have resulted in disqualification.
Track owner Todd Thelen and the technical inspectors disagreed. After the race, Byron’s car was found to be more than 25 pounds over the weight limit, so they allowed the victory to stand.
For Byron, this was his sixth late model win in seven starts this year and they have come in a variety of series.
Fenhaus second-place finish was not the first time he was the runner-up in a high-profile race on this track. As the defending winner of the 2021 Slinger Nationals, he was invited to race in Tony Stewart’s Superstar Racing Experience at Slinger Superspeedway later in the year. Fenhaus finished second in that race to Marco Andretti.
Also in the race was Matt Kenseth, who was seeking his eighth Slinger Nationals win. He entered the race as the winner of his most recent attempt in 2019 and had a four-race streak of finishes second or better. Failing in his bid for another win, he nevertheless stretched his top-five streak to five consecutive.
Byron’s win on the quarter-mile, paved track came on the same night that his teammate Kyle Larson won the Brad Doty Classic on the third-mile, dirt Attica Raceway Park.
Byron’s Other Late Model wins in 2022
February 14: New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway, World Series of Asphalt Racing, Clyde Hart Memorial
February 19: New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway, World Series of Asphalt Racing, Orange Blossom 100
March 19: Hickory (NC) Speedway, PASS National Championship, Easter Bunny 150
May 7: Nashville (Tenn.) Fairgrounds Speedway, CRA Super Series
June 9: Berlin Raceway (Marne, Mich.), SRL National Series, Money in the Bank 150