In 2016, while both were at Kyle Busch Motorsports, Byron and Fugle combined to win a series-high seven races. While a blown engine at Phoenix kept him out of championship contention that season, 2016 remains Byron’s most dominate in NASCAR national series competition.
That may well be ready to change.
Fugle joined Hendrick Motorsports in the offseason to become Byron’s crew chief in the Cup Series this season and the reunion is off to a stellar start.
Byron put in a dominating performance in Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway and held off a late charge from Tyler Reddick to earn his second career win and first of the 2021 season.
Byron and his No. 24 Chevrolet team are now safely locked into the 2021 playoffs.
“Getting Rudy on board and just having a guy like that to work with. We really think the same way, and it helps us in a lot of ways to progress through races and communicate well and work through the off-season,” Byron, 23, said.
“Obviously you have to back it up with results, so I think for me, I wanted to make sure we had results, but I think the results come when you have people like that to work with. You think on the same page, and somebody who puts that kind of effort in.
“He puts a lot of effort in, but he’s obviously very intelligent. I feel like for me, it goes back to the Truck days and what we did there and the feelings that I had in those race cars and the things that I wanted to have in my Cup car and the feelings there.”
Fugle has not had a lot of time to adjust to how things are done at HMS but has relied heavily on fellow crew chief Alan Gustafson to get up to speed.
Back to their winning ways
The working relationship with Byron seemed to pick up where it left off nearly five years ago.
“What I brought was a knowledge of William,” Fugle said. “But when you have people that are experienced in Cup, as long as they pair up and work well together, Adam (Stevens) and Christopher (Bell) are both great. You put them together, I knew they were going to be great this year, as well.
“What helped us about the previous relationship was the fact that we’ve worked together before and I knew him, I knew how to push his buttons, I knew how to motivate him, and that helped buy me some time to learn these Cup cars that I don’t know yet, so I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Fugle called the opportunity to reunite with Byron at Hendrick and move to the Cup Series simply “the right situation.”
“I had a great job. The past nine years at Kyle Busch Motorsports I had an amazing job, so it had to be the right situation for sure to move on,” he said. “And then I just wanted to prove that I could – to everyone, to myself, to everybody – that yeah, I could do it at this level.
“So, we want to do it a whole lot more. It’s only my first win, so we’ve definitely got to get my second win and the next one after that. As a group, this is just great.”
Byron, too, is looking to continue to contend for more wins, particularly since Fugle and his team can take more chances now that they are locked in the playoffs.
“After the first win (last year), I think what clicked for me was just the hunger to taste the same feeling, like how exciting it is to win and what that means to the guys around you and your family and all the people that kind of put you here,” Byron said.
“I think once you get that taste in your mouth, you can’t really get rid of it. You want that.”