Kyle Busch and William Byron had been trading jabs throughout the beginning of NASCAR's race at Watkins Glen International earlier this month. Not literally punches, but they made contact multiple times.
And the final time Byron retaliated against Busch, it totally backfired and ruined the No. 24 Chevrolet team's race after starting second.
"That was dumb," Byron said on the latest episode of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s podcast, the Dale Jr. Download. "That was so dumb."
After Busch spun as Byron passed him by on only the second lap, Busch delivered some payback, sending Byron's car through the grass at the road course as his No. 18 Toyota drove away. That was apparently the final straw for Byron's crew chief, Chad Knaus, who was fuming. And he told Byron over the radio:
William Byron went to express his displeasure with Kyle Busch…
But wound up with a heavily damaged race car at @WGI. Watch on NBCSN or stream here: https://t.co/wmwQrlNwAPpic.twitter.com/76LPqXCXaf
"If I see the 18 come back around here without you knocking the [expletive] out of him, we're gonna have a problem."
Bryon, who's only 21, followed orders from the veteran, seven-time champion crew chief, and it failed miserably. Byron rear-ended Busch, but almost all the damage was done to his own car.
Busch ended up finishing 11th, while Byron – who's still racing for his first Cup Series win – was 21st.
After that race – which Byron's teammate, Chase Elliott, won – team owner Rick Hendrick defended the move by Byron and Knaus, saying: "I didn't know Chad told him to [do that], but if I'd had a radio, I'd probably tell him the same thing."
"That was dumb" – @WilliamByron recaps Watkins Glen and the run-in with Kyle Busch.
Byron said he talked to Busch after the race at the NASCAR hauler, where officials often summon drivers to chastise them for their on-track behavior.
He said he didn't get in trouble with officials, but he felt good about his conversation with Busch and "sorted it out." He has a lot of respect for Busch, who he drove for in the NASCAR's third-tier Truck Series, explaining:
"Driving for him, it's a big deal. He did a lot for my career – just like you did – and I feel like I owe it to him to race him with respect, you know. So the Watkins Glen deal wasn't a respect thing. It was just kind of fighting for space."
Earnhardt also asked Byron to describe Knaus for anyone who hasn't met or seen him much. Byron said Knaus is "intense" and offers "little sympathy," adding:
"He's a Type A kind of guy. … He's very direct. He wants it direct, he wants you to tell him where you stand. He's not a super emotional guy, I would say. But he just wants everything to be lined up."
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