AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY (TWO-MILE OVAL)
LOCATION: FONTANA, CALIFORNIA
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE FIVE OF 36)
TUNE IN: 3:30 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, MARCH 17 (FOX/MRN/SIRIUSXM)
No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
GOING BACK TO CALI: This Sunday, William Byron will climb behind the wheel of his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to make just his second NASCAR Cup Series start at Auto Club Speedway (ACS) in Fontana, California. Last spring, Byron had an overall solid day at the two-mile, D-shaped oval, qualifying 29th and racing his way to a 15th-place finish, leading a lap in the process. The 21-year-old driver also has one NASCAR Xfinity Series start under his belt at ACS – in 2017 he started sixth and crossed the finish line in fifth. In the Cup Series, two drivers have earned their first wins at ACS – Jimmie Johnson (April 2002) and Kyle Busch (September 2005) – with both of those wins coming during their rookie seasons while driving for Hendrick Motorsports.
AT IT AGAIN WITH AXALTA: For the third time this season, Byron will sport the Axalta flames on board his No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Hendrick Motorsports. As a leading global company focused solely on coatings and providing customers with innovative, colorful, beautiful and sustainable solutions, Axalta Coating Systems is continuing its 27-year partnership with Hendrick Motorsports as a primary partner for both the Nos. 24 and 88 teams in 2019. The company sponsored Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 team for 23 years beginning in November 1992 before moving to the No. 88 team in 2016 and sharing primary sponsorship with the No. 24 starting in 2018. This year, Axalta returned as primary partner on the No. 24 Chevrolet for 13 races total, including a stretch of four more races running through Bristol Motor Speedway in the spring.
KNAUS KNOWS BEST: Returning to the site of his first win as a NASCAR Cup Series crew chief, Chad Knaus’ stats at Auto Club Speedway are hard to beat. In 24 races, Knaus has called the shots for six wins, with the most recent one coming just three years ago in 2016. He has two poles at the two-mile, D-shaped oval, including an average starting position of 8.6 with 99.9 percent of laps completed (5,501 of 5,505).
MEET BYRON: Byron will visit the Hendrick Motorsports/JR Motorsports souvenir hauler in the ACS Fan Zone on Sunday, March 17, from 9:25-9:45 a.m. local time. Fans can purchase Byron gear at the hauler and get it autographed by the driver of the No. 24 Chevy.
PUTTING PHOENIX IN THE PAST: Despite a career track-best qualifying effort of seventh and running within the top five early on in Sunday’s race at ISM Raceway, a loose wheel with 35 laps to go forced Byron to pit under green, sending him to a 24th-place finish.
William Byron on Auto Club Speedway:
“I think it’s going to be a lot of four- and five-wide racing. Obviously, at Vegas, I wouldn’t say the pace was that much slower than a normal race, but we were able to be more aggressive on the restarts and position ourselves better before things become more single-file. I think those first four or five laps are going to be really crazy still. I think that the lane choices that you have at Auto Club Speedway will help keep the racing a little bit closer, and with that, you are going to have to kind of be gritty throughout the run to keep your position. I think it’s going to be a crazy race and we are going to have to deal with that especially on the restarts and will need to try to maximize that.”
Byron on why he thinks drivers like to race on worn surfaces:
“I would say there is just a little bit more feel in the car and you can move around more. It’s more rewarding when you figure something out and you are able to make a pass that you might not have been able to make on a new pavement track. You are very car-dependent on new tracks, so I think it takes some of that factor out of it and you are able to drive the car more and really make a difference.”