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MOORESVILLE, N.C. – The racing was all in fun, but a race car driver is always a race car driver and it was never more evident in a pair of races held during the seventh annual Champions Karting Challenge Thursday.
William Byron was nudged out of the lead in the final lap by Chris Eggleston in the Media & Champions Race at GoPro Motorplex, and the NASCAR Next driver returned the favor in the Champions Race. For the second year in a row, the seven NASCAR touring series champions and the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion competed at the popular road course in a pair of races.
For Byron it was sweet revenge – all in fun – of course, to pick up the win over Eggleston in a battle between NASCAR K&N Pro Series champions.
“Chris and I had a blast and Ander Vilarino, too, in the race,” said Byron. “I was in third place on the last lap and I felt there was no shot to get the win. We gave Eggleston a little bump and run payback for the first race but it was all in good fun.”
Bryon started sixth in the eight-kart field and quickly made his way up to the top three to set up his late race move to the lead and eventual win.
While the race was all in fun, Byron enjoyed meeting other NASCAR champions from across North America and Europe.
“Just getting to know these guys more is fun,” he said. “You watch them on TV and wonder what it would be like to race against them as we all have different levels of experience out here and we all have a good time.”
Byron becomes the fifth NASCAR K&N Pro Series East driver to win the champions race and he’ll now add his name to the list of previous victors of this event that began in 2008 with NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified champion Brian Loftin winning the inaugural race at K1 Speed in Anaheim.
To start the festivities, the champions were paired with media members in a relay race. The media kicked off the race before turning the wheel over to their champion teammate. Eggleston combined with Fox Sports’ Samuel Reiman to win the Media & Champions Challenge. This was the first appearance for both drivers in the annual event teaming up the NASCAR champions and media members.
“William and I seemed like we were trading positions every lap and it was the K&N East versus the K&N West right there,” Eggleston added. “That was probably the most fun I’ve had racing in quite a while.”
Reiman, who mainly covers Formula 1 and road course racing for Fox Sports, spun early in the race and was able to recover and help put his team in contention for the win.
“I started out third and got up to second pretty early but I didn’t realize how cold the brakes were going to be and spun it around,” Reiman. “I was able to recover and get back up to fourth and help us get the win. It was a lot of fun.”
After a day of fun the champions will now focus their attention on the awards ceremonies beginning Friday with the top finishers and special awards winners receiving their trophies and recognition during the annual Grand Champions Breakfasts at the Westin in Charlotte on Friday (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series) and Saturday (NASCAR Touring Series). For the second year in a row, these events will be simultaneously streamed live on FansChoice.tv and NASCARHomeTracks.com.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards will take place Friday. Among those honored will be Lee Pulliam as the 2015 national champion in addition to his Virginia and Motor Mile Speedway late model titles.
The awards will also recognize the Division I champions from 58 tracks across the United States and Canada, state and provincial champions and top rookies, Div. II-V national champions, and other special award winners.
On the following evening, NASCAR’s touring series champions will be recognized at the traditional NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards.
Honorees will include the champions from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1, NASCAR Mexico Series and NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. In addition, the series championship car owners and crew chiefs will receive their trophies, as well as the Most Popular Drivers and rookies of the year.
William Byron won the Champions Race at GoPro Motorplex in Mooresville, North Carolina. Streeter Lecka/NASCAR via Getty Images