FONTANA FACTS: Checking in for the first stop on NASCAR’s West Coast swing, William Byron will make his fourth career Cup Series start at Auto Club Speedway this weekend in his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. In three previous starts at the 2-mile oval, Byron has turned in three 15th-place finishes, which is the eighth-best average finish at ACS among active drivers. In fact, Byron has led laps in all three of his starts at the California track, the longest active streak in the field currently. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native also has one NASCAR Xfinity Series start under his belt at ACS in 2017 when he started from the sixth position and crossed the finish line in fifth.
DEUCES: The Cup Series races at 2-mile tracks twice a year, but when they do, Byron is one of the most consistent active drivers. With his results at ACS and Michigan International Speedway, Byron holds an average finish of 14.8 – eighth-best in the Cup Series.
BACK TO THE ROOTS: Byron competed in a super late model at New Smyrna Speedway during his time in Florida for the DAYTONA 500. The Cup Series driver raced the No. 24 for Wilson Motorsports three times across the week during the World Series of Asphalt event. On Sunday, Feb. 13, Byron suffered a mechanical issue in qualifying but was able to race his way to a ninth-place effort after 35 laps. The next day, Byron started fifth and hunted down the leaders late in the event to score the win in Monday’s 100-lap event. Looking for more, he returned to New Smyrna on Saturday and dominated, leading 76 laps en route to his second win of the week.
THREE FOR THE 24: In the Cup Series, the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team has reached victory lane on three different occasions at ACS. The three wins tie the No. 24 with two other car numbers for the second-most wins at the California track behind only the No. 48 of Hendrick Motorsports, which has six. Byron hopes to add to that tradition with a victory in Sunday’s race.
FUGLE’S FIRST: While this may be crew chief Rudy Fugle’s sophomore season in the Cup Series, Sunday’s race will be his first at Auto Club Speedway at the highest level of competition. The Livonia, New York, native has three previous NASCAR starts at the 2-mile oval, all coming in the Xfinity Series. In those three starts, Fugle’s best finish came in 2009 with Michael Annett where the duo scored a sixth-place effort.
AXALTA AGAIN: After making its 2022 debut during last week’s DAYTONA 500, Axalta will adorn Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 once again for Sunday’s race in Fontana, California. Now in its 30th year of partnership with Hendrick Motorsports, Axalta will return as a primary partner on Byron’s No. 24 in 2021.
William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on why he feels optimistic racing at Auto Club Speedway: “It hasn’t been the best track in Cup for me, but I feel like that will likely change this year. I think I’ll have a better shot to compete there for a good finish if not the win. It’s a dynamic track that you will have to run in every lane to be successful. Honestly it drives a little bit like a short track in the corners. You have to revert back to what that feels like, but it’s also very fast down the straightaways. It’s a tough track that brings the best out of you.”
Byron on how important lane choice is at Auto Club Speedway: “You spend a lot of time listening to your spotter and your team on where other guys are running and what the data says. I think you also can feel a lot and see where other guys are running on track around you. It’s a track where you try to get out of the wake of the guy in front of you and try to find a lane that has clean air. I think that’s what makes it such a good race, you can find different lanes to run and you’re not dependent on the guy in front of you holding you up. It’s fun in that aspect. It really is a race-the-racetrack type of place. You can’t air-block somebody because they’re just going to find a new lane.”
Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on why he likes Auto Club Speedway: “This used to be one of my favorite tracks and I’m excited to get back there. It’s been a while since I’ve been and I’m sure the track characteristics have changed a lot, but that’s what I love about it. This is a track where it takes everything to have a good run. You need the right car setup, great pit stops, the right strategy with tires being such a big factor, and a driver who knows when to be aggressive. It’s really a track that highlights who has it all clicking. One mistake shows a lot. This will be my first Cup start at Auto Club, but I’m more than ready to get there and see what we have.”