NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
Date: April 7, 2019
Race #8: Bristol Motor Speedway
Track Specs: 0.533-mile concrete oval / 500 laps / 266.5 miles
Standings (from leader): 20th (-187)
RECAPPING THE RACE:
Returning to Bristol Motor Speedway for the third time in his NASCAR Cup Series career, William Byron started off his weekend qualifying a track-best second – the third time he has started on the front row in 2019. Fighting through a tough 500-lap race, Byron persevered to finish a track-best 16th in Sunday’s race at the 0.533-mile concrete oval.
Being a part of all three Hendrick Motorsports front-row sweeps in 2019, Byron rolled off second for Sunday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway alongside teammate Chase Elliott. Building speed on the initial laps at the start, Byron’s No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 got loose and slid up into the car next to him as the caution came out on Lap 3. Forced to give up track position, Byron came to pit road under the caution to the attention of the Axalta Racing team to repair minor right-side fender damage. Restarting at the tail of the field for the restart on Lap 8, the 21-year-old driver went to work trying to make up as much ground as possible, working his way into the top-15 running order after 60 laps. However, as Stage One began to come to a close, the handling of Byron’s No. 24 swung loose on entry forcing him to slide back to 20th, ultimately going a lap down before the caution came out on Lap 119. Electing not to pit with only a handful of laps remaining in the stage, Byron lined up for a two-lap dash to the stage break taking the green-checkered flag in the 18th position, the first car one lap down. Being the beneficiary of getting his lap back, Byron pit for four tires, fuel and adjustments for a still-loose Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, before lining up tail-end of the field for Stage Two.
Once again trying to make up ground on the restart, Byron tried to make his way through traffic throughout Stage Two but ultimately was caught by the leaders and put a lap down 70 laps into the green-flag run. With the caution coming out on Lap 214, crew chief Chad Knaus made the call for Byron not to pit and take the wave-around to get back on the lead lap. Restarting 17th with 30 laps remaining in Stage Two, Byron was able to stay ahead of the leaders on old tires to maintain his 17th position and remain on the lead lap when the leaders crossed the finish line on Lap 251 to signal the end of Stage Two. Hitting pit road under the final stage break, the No. 24 team gave Byron four fresh tires, fuel and more adjustments for an Axalta Chevy that had now swung to the tight side.
Lining up in the 13th position for the start of the final stage on Lap 262, Byron fought to remain within the top-15 running order as another long-green flag run ensued despite a still tight Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Putting up a hard fight to remain on the lead lap, he eventually was overcome and put one lap down with 143 laps remaining but maintained his position within the top-15 running order. A few laps later, the caution flag waved on Lap 376 with Byron running in the beneficiary spot once again allowing him to get his lap back. Coming to pit road for another four tire stop with adjustments, Byron restarted tail-end of the field on Lap 383. While working his way through traffic, Byron was collected in an incident that happened ahead of him bringing out the caution, this time on Lap 416. Byron brought the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to the attention of his crew multiple times under the caution for damage repair to both the left and right side. On the restart, Byron reported a left-front tire rub as well as issues with the splitter dragging on the track, but a caution just 11 laps later allowed Byron to come back down pit road multiple times for more damage repair. Through all the repairs, Byron remained on the lead lap and was scored 17th as the final laps began to wind down. Still fighting issues with his machine due to the damage, a caution with 21 laps to go allowed Byron to come to pit road one final time for four sticker tires. Unfortunately, Byron was caught speeding leaving pit road, forcing him to restart at the tail end of the field for the final restart of the day. In the final 14 laps Byron was able to gain one more position, securing a track-best and hard-fought 16th-place finish Sunday afternoon.
Jimmie Johnson led the Hendrick Motorsports brigade, finishing 10th, followed by Elliott close behind in 11th, Byron in 16th and Alex Bowman in the 23rd position after a loose wheel early in the event.