NO. 24 HENDRICK AUTOGUARD/CITY CHEVROLET THROWBACK CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
Date: September 1, 2019
Race #25: Darlington Raceway
Track Specs: 1.366-mile speedway/ 367 laps / 501.3 miles
Standings (from leader): 13th (-300)
RECAPPING THE RACE:
Rolling off from the pole position for Sunday’s rain delayed Southern 500, William Byron showed top-five speed for most of the 367-lap race despite having to regain track position throughout Stage Two from an early issue on pit road. As Byron found himself once again running back within the top five, he was caught up in a late-race incident that relegated the No. 24 Hendrick Autoguard/City Chevrolet Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to a 21st-place finish. However, Byron was able to collect enough points during Sunday night’s race to lock himself into the playoffs for the first time in his Cup Series career.
Capturing his fourth NASCAR Cup Series pole award of the 2019 season, Byron became the youngest pole winner at Darlington Raceway. After rain delayed the start of the Southern 500 Sunday night, when the field finally did take the green flag, the 21-year-old driver continued to show the speed that his No. 24 Hendrick Autoguard/City Chevrolet Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 had. Running second when the competition caution was displayed on Lap 35, Byron came to pit road for four tires, fuel and a round of adjustments to try tightening up his Chevy. Barely getting edged out on pit road for the lead, Byron restarted second and held that position until the caution came back out on Lap 69. Once again coming to pit road for a routine four tire stop under the yellow, the No. 24 team lost some time after slight issues on the right side during the stop, relinquishing Byron to line up in the ninth position for the ensuing restart. Still fighting a slightly loose Hendrick Autoguard/City Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Byron slid back to 11th on the restart but maintained the position as Stage One came to a close. Once again coming to pit road, Byron got four tires, fuel and minor adjustments before returning to the track, lining up 12th for the start of the second stage.
As the field went green for Stage Two, Byron continued to hold the 12th position, reporting to the team that is was “hard to pass in traffic.” However, the caution came out on Lap 142, allowing the No. 24 to come down pit road for fresh tires and adjustments to try help get the rear end to grip better. Picking up two positions on pit road, Byron restarted 10th with just over 50 laps remaining in the second stage. With a great restart, the sophomore driver found himself in the seventh position and trying to continue his march back to the front of the field as the yellow flag was displayed again shortly after. Happy with the last set of adjustments, Byron asked for similar changes when he came to the attention of his Hendrick Autoguard/City Chevrolet team on pit road. After his pit stop, Byron lined up ninth for the remaining 38 laps in Stage Two. Initially falling back as far as 13th, Byron fought through the remaining laps to finish Stage Two in the eighth position, reporting that this was the best his Chevy had been all race. Crew chief Chad Knaus made the call for further adjustments to keep the No. 24 turning in the corner, along with the call for four tires and fuel during the stage break.
Once again picking up a couple positions on pit road, Byron lined up fifth for the start of the final stage with 161 laps left in the 367-lap event. After restarting in the bottom lane and slipping back to 10th, Byron was able to fight his way back up to seventh during the longest green flag run of the race. With the race remaining green, Knaus called his driver down pit road under green on lap 254 for four tires and fuel. As green-flag pit stops continued to cycle through, Byron was scored back within the top-five with only 100 laps left in the Southern 500. However, as Byron continued to battle for position within the top five, he was collected in an on-track incident on Lap 276. Sustaining front end damage to the No. 24 Hendrick Autoguard/City Chevrolet Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Knaus called Byron down pit road multiple times to not only fix the damage but also change four tires and top off on fuel. Able to remain on the lead lap, Byron restarted in the 21st position with 86 laps left at Darlington Raceway. Working his way back to the 15th position, Byron radioed that his Chevy was “too loose again.” Going a lap down to the leaders with 46 laps left, Knaus called the No. 24 down pit road under green for four tires, fuel and a round of adjustments. As the final green-flag pit stops cycled through as the laps wound down, Byron found himself just inside the top-20 trying to remain only one lap down to the leaders. With the race going green until the end, Byron couldn’t hold off fresher tries behind him, relegating him to a 21st-place finish when the checkered flag waved.