NO. 24 LIBERTY UNIVERSITY CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
Date: June 30, 2019
Race #17: Chicagoland Speedway
Track Specs: 1.5-mile oval / 267 laps / 400.5 miles
Start: Qualified 11th / Started 38th
Standings (from leader): 12th (-222)
RECAPPING THE RACE:
After having to start at the rear of the field for the NASCAR Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway due to an engine change, William Byron powered his No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 through the field and ultimately came home with a track-best finish of eighth when the checkered flag dropped Sunday night.
At the conclusion of final practice Saturday afternoon, the No. 24 team discovered an oil leak, and not wanting to take any risks for the race, elected to change engines prior to Saturday night’s qualifying session. Using their 11th-place qualifying effort for pit selection, Byron had to drop to the rear of the field for the start of the race Sunday afternoon. When the green flag dropped, Byron raced his way from 38th to 19th by the time the first caution, and ultimately the red flag, came out on Lap 12 for weather. Once the red flag was finally lifted a couple hours later, crew chief Chad Knaus called the No. 24 Liberty University Chevy down pit road for four fresh tires and to top off on fuel before the race went back green. Lining up in the 16th position for the restart, Byron quickly got back to work making his way through the field, finding himself within the top-five running order by Lap 30. Progressing up to the third position by Lap 73, Byron came down pit road under green for a splash of fuel to make it to the conclusion of Stage One. With varying pit strategy playing out, Byron was able to secure stage points - for the ninth stage in a row - after finishing Stage One in the eighth position. Knaus then called the No. 24 back down pit road under the stage break, this time for four tires, fuel and a minor adjustment to aid in a Liberty Chevy that was a little bit on the tight side.
Firing off eighth for the start of Stage Two Byron continued his march to the front, ultimately taking over the lead on Lap 99. Byron continued to pace the field until the caution came out on Lap 104. Coming to the attention of the Liberty University team under the stage break for a routine four-tire pit stop, Byron retained the lead coming off pit road. However once the field went back to green on Lap 107, Byron lost momentum, falling back as far as 11th. Trying to regain the track position lost, Byron was able to make it back up to seventh-place by the time the green-checkered flag was displayed signaling the end of Stage Two. Battling a now loose Liberty Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Byron brought the No. 24 down pit road under the stage break for four tires, fuel and minor adjustments.
Lining up seventh for the start of the final stage, Byron suffered minor fender damage on the restart, falling back to the 11th position, but was able to regain two of those spots when the caution came out a couple laps later on Lap 173. Electing to pit under the caution, the Liberty University team went to work getting Byron four fresh tires, fuel and repair work to the fenders of the No. 24 Chevy. Restarting 14th on Lap 177, Byron was able to once again power his way through traffic, making his way into the top-five running order with 65 laps remaining. Needing more front grip, Knaus called the sophomore driver down pit road under green on Lap 218 for four tires and fuel. With varying pit strategy once again playing out, Byron found himself sixth with 35 laps to go. However, as the green-flag run ensued, the handing on Byron’s No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 began to go away causing him to slip back to eighth-place. Trying to reel in the competitors in front of him in the closing laps, Byron ultimately crossed the finish line with a track-best finish of eighth at Chicagoland Speedway.
Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman captured his first NASCAR Cup Series win in Sunday night’s race, followed by Jimmie Johnson in fourth, Byron in eighth and Chase Elliott in the 11th position.
QUOTING WILLIAM BYRON:
“We were really good. We just had a couple of things not go our way; the one restart and we had one run that wasn’t the greatest. We got back to the top five and we just didn’t quite have enough that last run. Alex (Bowman) and those guys were really fast. Congrats to them. They did a great job. I just have to close in on those details a little bit more. We, as a team, are really close. It’s a little disappointing now that we have the speed that we do, but it’s good to take the lead at some point in the race. I think that’s six or seven in a row for that, so we just have to continue to do that. It’s good for Alex (Bowman) and hopefully we can piggy-back on that. I think we had another good points day, which doesn’t sound great, but we are making our way up the Playoff grid.”