DARLINGTON RACEWAY (1.366-MILE OVAL)
LOCATION: DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 25 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 6 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, SEPT. 1 (NBCSN/MRN/SIRIUSXM)
LOOKING BACK AT THE LAST EIGHT: With the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series regular season winding down, William Byron has continued to show major improvements during his sophomore campaign. Since the Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway in late June, the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has finished second once (Daytona International Speedway in July) and has collected two top-five finishes and four top-10s. His average finish during that span of eight races is 11.75, helping him to gain 46 points on the playoff cutoff line.
MAGIC PLAYOFF NUMBERS: With only two races left in the 2019 regular season, Byron has potential to lock himself into his first Cup Series playoffs after this weekend’s race at Darlington Raceway. While a race win would automatically ensure his spot, the sophomore driver has a couple of other options to secure his place in the Cup Series championship hunt. Currently 75 points above the bubble spot, as long as Byron collects 50 points during the race he’ll be officially locked in. If it’s a repeat winner or someone already within the top 16, Byron needs to collect only 38 points once the checkered flag waves Sunday night in order to lock in a playoff berth.
THROWBACK FIT FOR TOM CRUISE: This weekend at Darlington Raceway, Byron will drop the hammer when the green flag waves, piloting a No. 24 Hendrick Autoguard/City Chevrolet Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that can’t be missed. Sporting neon green and yellow on board the car, he will channel his inner Tom Cruise, paying homage to his character Cole Trickle from the movie “Days of Thunder.” With Hendrick Autoguard, the premier vehicle protection program available at all Hendrick Automotive Group dealerships, serving as the primary partner for the No. 24 team during Darlington Raceway’s “Throwback Weekend,” it was a natural fit for the “Days of Thunder”-inspired scheme that was unveiled early this month and puts City Chevrolet back on the racetrack. While the movie draws heavy inspiration from Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick and his operation during the 1980s, there are some modern-day similarities that can be drawn between the current pairing of crew chief Chad Knaus and his young driver. In fact, Trickle recorded his first victory at Darlington Speedway, a feat Byron would like to accomplish Sunday night.
DIGGIN’ DARLINGTON: Returning to “The Lady in Black” for the second time in his Cup career and the third time overall, Byron is looking to capitalize on his previously strong showings at Darlington Raceway. Last year, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native qualified 10th and ran within the top 10 for most of the race until under 50 laps remaining when engine issues ended his day early. Prior to last year’s showing, the 21-year-old driver raced at the 1.366-mile track in 2017 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, starting sixth and crossing the finish line in fifth, the highest finishing Xfinity Series regular.
TIED FOR SECOND: Byron is one of five Cup Series drivers who have finished second in a race in 2019 but have yet to capture the checkered flag. He is also ranked third among the Cup field for most laps led (180) without a win. However, six drivers have scored their first Cup win at Darlington, and Sunday the No. 24 driver hopes to add his name to the list.
SOUTH CAROLINA STATE OF MIND: While No. 24 team fueler Landon Walker hails from North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, he has significant ties to the southernmost Carolina state, having played football at Clemson University. Walker, a former offensive tackle, earned a scholarship to Clemson in 2007 after being named an All-American offensive lineman in his hometown at East Wilkes High School. While playing at Clemson, Walker recorded 3,131 snaps with 49 starts at tackle through four seasons at the university. In 2011, he was named team captain, the same season Clemson went on to win the Atlantic Coast Conference championship. The college football standout was then recruited by Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 and earned a position as the starting fueler for the No. 5 team in 2015.
MEET BYRON: Byron will visit the Hendrick Motorsports-JR Motorsports souvenir hauler in the Darlington Fan Zone on Sunday, Sept. 1, at 2:50 p.m. local time. Fans can purchase Byron gear and special throwback merchandise for the driver to autograph.
OFF-WEEK FUN: Enjoying the final off-week of the 2019 Cup season, Byron was able to get a little rest and relaxation with family before jumping back into the final stretch of 12 races. Checking a couple of items off of his bucket list, he and his family traveled overseas, taking in everything that France and Scotland have to offer. To see more from Byron’s trip and how his Hendrick Motorsports teammates spent their time off, click here.
William Byron on his throwback scheme:
“I’m really excited about our throwback scheme this year. Obviously, the Cole Trickle throwback from 'Days of Thunder' is going to look really cool on track and under the lights. It fits us as a team as a whole really well especially with it being City Chevrolet and Hendrick Autoguard on board. It makes for a perfect fit. I’m definitely a fan of the movie and I’ve seen it a number of times. My dad actually just watched it for the first time a few weeks ago when I told him what we were doing. It’s a great movie and it’s really good for fans outside of the sport because it’s so encompassing of what NASCAR is about. It pretty much covers all the bases, so I feel like it’s a pretty good representation of what the sport is like.”
Byron on Darlington tire wear:
“It definitely chews up tires like Richmond and tracks like that, but it really comes down to car setup. You can manage your tires to a certain degree if you have clean air and out front or if you’re back in traffic and have a large gap on the guy in front of and behind you. If you’re pressing for a position, though, you’re always elbows up. My rule of thumb is trying not to make any big slides and trying to work the grip limit of the tire while not over taxing it. I was fortunate last year at Darlington that I never hit the wall in the race. We had a blown engine but we were running pretty well until then.”