SHIFTING MOMENTUM: While the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season may not have started like William Byron and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team hoped, they have diligently worked to build positive momentum. During the first seven races this year, Byron had one top-10 finish, three top-15s and led four laps en route to an average finish of 22nd. In the last six races, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native has collected three top-10s, five top-15s and led 22 laps, all while holding a 13.5 average finishing position. Even with the unfortunate luck early this season, Byron is sitting 14th in the driver point standings compared to 15th at the same point in 2019.
KEEPING THE STREAK ALIVE: Byron has one of the best chances to capitalize on this weekend’s doubleheader at Pocono Raceway, which is one of his best tracks on the NASCAR circuit. Byron is riding a streak of three consecutive top-10 finishes at the “Tricky Triangle” dating back to the July race during his 2018 rookie season. This three-race top-10 stretch is the longest for Byron at any track. The third-year driver is tied for second on the list of longest active top-10 finishes at Pocono behind Kyle Busch who has seven consecutive top-10 results there.
PREVIEWING POCONO: In his four Cup Series starts at Pocono, Byron has one pole award coming in the June race last season, as well as one top-five finish and three top-10s. He led 35 laps in two of those events. With a personal track-best finish of fourth during his last trip to Pocono Raceway, Byron holds a 9.25 average finish, which ranks second-best all-time behind Erik Jones, who has an 8.33 average.
PAST POCONO WINNER: Byron isn’t a stranger to victory lane at Pocono. After starting from the pole in 2016, he dominated the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race, leading 44 out of 60 laps before capturing the checkered flag.
NO TRICKING KNAUS: Making his 38th and 39th starts as a Cup Series crew chief at Pocono Raceway, Chad Knaus leads active Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs in best finishes there. With three wins at the 2.5-mile triangular track, Knaus swept both races in 2004 and captured the win again from the pole in the spring of 2013 with Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team. Last year, he called the shots for Byron during their first two trips together to Pocono. In June, the duo captured the pole position, led 25 laps and scored a ninth-place finish. Despite starting at the rear of the field in late July, Knaus and Byron utilized pit strategy to put the No. 24 in contention, scoring a fourth-place finish.
AXALTA’S HOMEBASE: Byron has extra motivation during this weekend’s doubleheader at Pocono Raceway, racing in primary sponsor Axalta’s backyard. With its headquarters located less than 100 miles from the “Tricky Triangle” in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the third-year driver will pilot the iconic Axalta flames for both races this weekend. In 2020, Axalta is the 22-race majority partner of the No. 24 team. The company’s relationship with Hendrick Motorsports was recently extended, taking one of the most enduring partnerships in sports through 2027.
DISHING ON ‘DEGA: Despite having a weather-postponed race and starting at the tail end of the field at Talladega Superspeedway due to inspection issues, Byron wasted little time making it into the top-five running order – five laps to be exact. With weather looming during the Monday event, Byron showed his drafting prowess by running within the top 10 for the majority of the race, including leading 11 laps. Getting shuffled out of line with less than 30 laps to go, he tried to fight his way back to the front, ultimately scoring a personal track-best finish of 11th at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.
ALL-STAR RACE VOTING: For the first time in Cup Series history, the 2020 NASCAR All-Star Race will be held on the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway, and Byron is looking to lock himself in. Last year, the driver of the No. 24 Camaro battled his way into the main event by winning the first stage of the Open qualifying race in a stellar last-corner pass. However, if Byron isn’t able to lock himself in to the All-Star Race before July 15 by winning a points-paying Cup Series event, he will have three chances during the Open qualifying race by winning one of the race stages or receiving the coveted fan vote. Fans can place their vote once per day with votes shared on social media counting double at NASCAR.com/fanvote until noon ET on Tuesday, July 14. The winner of the fan vote will be announced immediately following the conclusion of the Open qualifying race on Wednesday, July 15.
William Byron on the recent string of hot races:
“This is a good time of year in Pocono with the weather being nice. It will probably be one of the cooler race weekends we have had since we returned to racing. Every weekend has been extremely hot and we don’t typically run races in the South at this time of year. Typically, we’re up north during the months of June and July, so that’s been an adjustment.”
Byron on the Pocono doubleheader:
“I think, overall, it’s going to be a fun weekend. I really enjoy racing at Pocono. I think it’s one of those racetracks we go to that’s cool to race at but is also really tough to get around. The restarts are really difficult and usually pretty treacherous. It’s important to have good, clean and consistent restarts there. You also need a good long-run car that turns well to make speed. Now adding in back-to-back races there, I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to bring a new challenge, and I think we’re up for it. We’ve ran well at Pocono in the past, so this is a chance for us to really capitalize.”
Byron on Pocono car setup:
“I think there’s still some truth to when people say you need to have your car set up better in one corner than the others at Pocono Raceway. However, I think nowadays with the way engineering is, you have to figure out how to make it work in all three corners pretty well more than you used to. You have to be close to exceptional in all three turns to be competitive, but I think Turn 3 is the most important, personally. The way that corner is and how difficult it is for the majority of the field, you want to be better there than everyone else. I always look at racetracks and try to see where the majority of the field will be weak, and usually the best cars throughout the race excel in those areas of weakness. With that being said, I think the saying still holds true today with the three corners and having to be good at one end over another.”
Crew Chief Chad Knaus on his attitude toward a doubleheader:
"I’m excited for the doubleheader and the challenges it’s going to bring. I do think though that with us in a new normal of no practice and no qualifying that it almost makes this weekend’s doubleheader a bit easier. We don’t have to worry about the mileage on pieces and parts of the car as much as we would have. Of course, there will be some parts of the car that we’ll go over more closely no matter what just because of how rough Pocono is and the amount that these bodies shift over bumps. I think the biggest challenge will be the strategy aspect not just for the best outcome on Saturday but to set yourself up for a good result in Sunday’s race as well. Honestly though, I’m just really excited to get to the track and see how this whole thing works out. Pocono is a track I love going to and has always been one of my favorites."