AVONDALE, Ariz. – Sunday is a big day for William Byron and chief of staff Rudy Fugle.
Their fantasy football teams meet. Second place in their league is at stake.
Of course, the pursuit of a Cup Series championship should be a top priority for them when they stand in the crowd at Phoenix Raceway.
“I mean, if there’s one week we can’t speculate, it’s this week,” Byron said Thursday.
Byron and Rudy Fugle are one race away from winning their first World Cup. If they can accomplish that on Sunday (3 p.m. ET on NBC and the Peacock), they will celebrate the latest milestone in a relationship that has grown under the spotlight.
“It’s a very tight relationship in terms of friendship,” Fugle told NBC Sports. “We also use that friendship to get what we want in life so that things go well for us in business. The fact that we understand each other is great. “
Fugle has been the leader of the Byron’s Cup team since the start of the 2021 Cup. He took over for Chad Knaus, who was the captain of the team in 2019 and 20. Darian Grubb was the captain of the Byron team in 2018.
Byron made it early in his first season with Fugle. He won his third race of the season at Homestead. That was their only trip to Victory Lane, but Byron finished the season with 10 top 20 finishes and 12 top 12 finishes. He finished the season 10th in points.
Since their first Cup season together, Byron and Fugle have won eight races together – two last season and six this year. One more win would seal their first championship. It will also be the first time since 1999 that the No. 24 car has reached Victory Lane seven times.
“It’s just getting the process right, getting more experience, getting better,” Fugle said of the win. “Learning from mistakes is like having a fast car.”
The relationship dates back to the 2021 season. Fugle was Byron’s team principal at Kyle Busch Motorsports during the 2016 Truck season. They celebrated seven wins together but fell short of the championship due to an engine failure in the final race.
The relationship has grown as Byron and Fugle have followed up wins and championships together. This does not mean that they only talk about their daily activities during the season. Their friendship continues.
Byron and Fugle have a lot of conversations that will help them get out of the trouble of the Cup season. Everything is optional as a topic of discussion, especially sports. Fugle said he prefers to avoid talking about golf. He just doesn’t really enjoy it.
“Our favorite sport is football, so we like to talk about football with our teams,” Fugle said. “Or fantasy football … or something like that. We both enjoy short and Super Late Model racing, so we enjoy discussing what’s going on there.”
The chemistry between Byron and Fugle is evident. That’s what Rick Hendrick indicated at the end of the game when he said he thought there would be “a lot of competition” around the team.
Yes, the chemistry is much closer than just working together on the weekend. Byron and Fugle must be in constant contact. They should know what each other wants during the difficult time of the competition.
Fugle says he has reached this point. She and Byron know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They know when to turn off the radio and when to be quiet. There are no hot-of-the-moment controversies that circulate on social media after every race.
“We work well together because we can, I can be clear to him and he can learn from what I’m saying and try to fix the car,” Byron said.
Byron continues to put in high marks while working with Fugle. They have brought number 24 back to fame. And maybe to the competition.