WEST COAST COMPLETE: William Byron picked up where he left off last week, showing speed and qualifying third for Sunday’s race at Phoenix Raceway. The driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet ran in the top five for the majority of stage one before taking the lead and scoring his first stage win of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season. Byron continued to run up front throughout stage two of the 312-lap event but faded to an 18th-place finish. However, with a solid day in points, Byron jumped to 15th in the driver standings.
LEADING THE CHARGE: So far in the 2022 Cup Series season, only three drivers have led laps in all four events: Byron, Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney. Byron has led the field in his No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 a collective 37 laps this year. In fact, the streak of four consecutive races is tied for Byron’s second-longest streak in his Cup career. In 2019, he led laps in seven consecutive races.
1.5-MILE MOMENTUM: Byron is no stranger to success on mile-and-a-half tracks during his Cup Series career. In 2021, he picked up the win at the third race of the year at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He went on to collect seven top-10 finishes across nine races on 1.5-mile tracks throughout the season – tied for the second-most behind only Kyle Busch (eight). Byron scored 370 points on 1.5-mile tracks in 2021 – the third-most behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Larson (440) and Busch (381). This season, the Cup Series has raced at one 1.5-mile track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where Byron scored a top-five finish. Heading into Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Byron is on a streak of three consecutive top-10 finishes at 1.5-mile tracks – tied for the third longest streak currently.
THE ATL ARCHIVE: With five previous Cup Series starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Byron had his best run at the track in the spring of 2021, starting in the ninth position and racing to an eighth-place finish. Other than his five Cup Series starts, Byron has two other NASCAR starts at the 1.5-mile venue including one in the NASCAR Xfinity Series where he finished seventh, the third-highest of the series regulars. He also has one start at Atlanta in the NASCAR Camping World Series in 2016 when he was running second before losing an engine, leaving him with a 32nd-place finish.
RUDY RUNS THE ATL: While crew chief Rudy Fugle has two previous Cup Series starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, he finds himself on an even playing field thanks to a newly configured racetrack. In his previous Cup Series starts there, Fugle has one top-10 finish. He has six Truck Series appearances at Atlanta, which include two pole awards and two wins. His drivers have collected four top-three finishes in six events, along with five top-10s. Fugle only has one finish worse than seventh at Atlanta, which came with Byron in 2016 when the duo was running second before suffering an engine failure.
BACK TO THE ROOTS: Going back to his racing roots, Byron will once again climb behind the wheel of the No. 24 super late model for Wilson Motorsports – this time for the Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory Motor Speedway on March 19. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native raced the car earlier this year at New Smyrna Speedway where he scored two wins in three starts. This weekend’s race at Hickory will be available for pay-per-view on RacingAmerica.com.
LIBERTY U IS BACK: On Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Byron will sport his new Liberty University paint scheme for the first time in 2022. Featuring a white base with navy flames and red accents, the Liberty University No. 24 will stand out on track. Liberty University has a long history with Byron starting back in 2014 in the late model ranks. The school has been Training Champions for Christ since it was founded in 1971. Located in the mountains of Central Virginia, Liberty is a liberal arts institution with 17 colleges and schools offering more than 600 degree programs from the certificate to the doctoral level on campus and online. Working on an undergraduate degree in strategic communication, Byron is now in his junior year at Liberty University through its online program.
William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on moving on from the West Coast swing to Atlanta: “It’s nice for the team guys that the West Coast swing is over. They’ve been working especially hard. They’ve been working late hours in the shop and then with the time changes it made it even harder on them, but they also made sure we showed up with fast cars. It’s nice that we have this week to try to regroup some before Atlanta and be back on a normal schedule, especially with how much of a question this weekend will be. I don’t know what to expect of the reconfiguration. It’s a question mark at this point. If it races how we’re anticipating, I’m thinking it will be similar to a truck race at Michigan with how drafting will play a factor, but passing will be at a minimum. Thankfully, we’ll have a full practice session to get up to speed.”
Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on adjusting to how the Next Gen car races: “Everything is new. Last year with it being my first year in Cup and at Hendrick Motorsports, I could hold a pre-race meeting on a Wednesday and could pretty much predict what was going to happen on a Saturday or a Sunday depending on the weekend because everything was the same. You knew just about how the car was going to handle and how you were going to approach it. We could study what lane you would want to be in for the restarts. Do you want inside or outside if you’re in a certain position? We knew tire fall-off, which meant you knew how many times you were going to pit in each stage. We talked about all those things during the week. This year we can’t have those conversations at all until at least Saturday when have a little bit of information to go off of. Then the race starts and it all just changes so quickly. Everything you thought may happen doesn’t happen in most cases. We have to utilize all of the great engineering support we have from back at Hendrick Motorsports and also from Chevrolet to keep up with things as they go to make the best calls in the moment.”