CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY (1.5-MILE OVAL)
LOCATION: JOLIET, ILLINOIS
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 17 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 3 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, JUNE 30 (NBCSN/MRN/SIRIUSXM)
SPEED IN SONOMA: Making his second career NASCAR Cup Series start at Sonoma Raceway this past Sunday, William Byron kicked off the weekend by qualifying a track-best second. When the green flag dropped for Sunday’s 90-lap race, Byron immediately took over the top spot and raced out to a substantial lead. With the No. 24 Hertz Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 pacing the field for the first 21 laps, Byron picked up his first stage win of his Cup career as well as a valuable playoff point. From there, the No. 24 team played pit strategy to maximize their points accumulated, capturing a top-three finish in Stage 2. However, in the closing laps, the handling of Byron’s Hertz Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 went away, swinging to the tight side, resulting in a 19th-place finish.
BYRON TO THE FRONT OF THE STAGE: Byron’s front-row qualifying effort last weekend at Sonoma Raceway added to his impressive sophomore season run. The driver is tied for the most poles in 2019 with three but now leads all drivers this season with seven front-row starts. In fact, Byron has started within the top three positions in five of the last six races. He has led laps in the last six races, as well, which ranks him second to teammate Chase Elliott, who holds the longest active streak with seven. Byron has finished inside the top 10 in seven of the last eight stages, including his first stage win at Sonoma, and has gained 44 points on the current playoff bubble, putting him 14th in the point standings with 10 races left in the regular season.
LIBERTY RETURNS: Making its return this weekend, Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet will sport the Liberty University colors for Sunday’s race at Chicagoland Speedway. Returning as a primary sponsor of the No. 24 team in 2019 for 12 races, Liberty University has a long history with Byron starting back in 2014 in the late model ranks and is in its fifth season of sponsoring the 21-year-old driver. Liberty University 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 that offer more than 600 degree programs from the certificate to doctoral level, on campus and online. Working on an undergraduate degree in business communication, Byron is now in his junior year at Liberty University through its online program, and he started his online classes on June 24.
CHICAGO CREDENTIALS: Making the trip to the Windy City for this weekend’s race, Byron will make his second career Cup Series start at Chicagoland Speedway. Currently, the sophomore driver has made one start at the 1.5-mile oval in each of NASCAR’s top three national series. In all three races, Byron has shown speed, qualifying in the top 10 each time, with his best effort of eighth coming in the Cup and Xfinity Series. However, various issues have hindered the young driver’s finishes. Last year, a tight-handling Chevy resulted in a 20th-place finish in the Cup race, while transmission issues in the 2017 Xfinity race relegated him to a 33rd-place result. In his Chicagoland debut in 2016, an on-track incident early on during the Truck Series race ended his day in the 30th position.
HEADING HOME: This weekend, No. 24 team crew chief Chad Knaus will have extra motivation when he climbs on top of the pit box for Sunday’s race. The veteran crew chief hails from Rockford, Illinois, which is approximately 111 miles away from the Chicago-based track. Before cutting his teeth in NASCAR, Knaus was the crew chief for his dad at nearby Rockford Speedway, where they won multiple track championships together. However, in 17 Cup races at the 1.5-mile oval, Knaus has yet to capture a win at his hometown track. Coming close on multiple occasions, Knaus has three runner-up finishes as well as seven top five finishes and 11 top-10s. Chicagoland Speedway is one of four tracks left on the Cup Series schedule where Knaus has yet to visit Victory Lane.
William Byron on Chicagoland:
“Chicago is really rough and probably the closest to Atlanta of the tracks we have raced at so far this year. I’m excited to see where we are now to where we were earlier in the year with this being a low-grip track. It’s always hot there, so we can count on that. The name of the game is always trying to stay hydrated for this type of race. With tire wear being a factor, we need to manage aggression level as well. With the way the car slides around there, you really have to manhandle the car. It’s more about managing your car and not putting yourself in a bad spot. I feel like it’s going to be a really interesting show there this weekend.”