NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
Date: Feb. 17, 2019
Track: Daytona International Speedway
Track Specs: 2.5-mile oval / 200 laps / 500 miles
Standings (from leader): 18th (-27)
RECAPPING THE RACE:
Leading the field to green Sunday afternoon in his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the Daytona 500, Byron led a race-best 44 laps and was sitting within striking distance of his first career NASCAR Cup Series win until an incident on the first attempt of a green-white-checkered finished ended his night with a 21st-place finish.
Jumping out to the lead the opening laps of the 200-lap race, Byron maintained a spot within the top-five running order despite some shuffling around within the pack. While running third, the first caution of the day came out on lap 22 immediately following green flag pit stops amongst some of the other leaders. Byron reported that his Axalta Chevy was really loose in the top lane and just a bit tight in the bottom lane, so crew chief Chad Knaus made the call to change four tires, fuel and make an adjustment to the Axalta machine. After the pit stop, Byron lined up 18th for the restart halfway through the first stage. Within 10 laps, Byron found himself back within the top five running order trying to pick up his first stage points of the season. Unfortunately, a late stage caution stacked the field up for a seven-lap dash to the green-checkered flag, with Byron getting shuffled back to finish Stage One in the 13th position.
Coming to pit road under the first stage break, Byron stopped for four tires and fuel before returning to the track, lining up 19th for the start of Stage Two. With varying pit strategy occurring again early in the stage, Byron found himself running fourth, a part of six-car breakaway. Continuing to maintain his fourth-place position while maneuvering through lap traffic, Knaus informed the 21-year-old that the No. 24 team would pit with the other leaders, but an untimely incident brought the caution flag out on lap 111 before the lead pack was able to hit pit road.
Byron reported that his Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was starting to get loose when another car was on his bumper, so to aid in his handling, Knaus elected to take four tires, fuel and make a slight chassis adjustment to try tighten the Axalta machine up under the caution. With only five laps remaining in the second stage when the field took the green on lap 122, Byron showed strength, making his way to the front of the pack and fighting for the Stage Two win. Coming up just one position short, in second, Knaus made the strategy call to keep the No. 24 on track under the break, allowing his driver to regain the lead.
Restarting first for the start of the final stage, Byron continued to retain the top position for the next 42 laps until it was time for the leaders to make green flag pit stops. With a late call to hit pit road with the cars behind him, Byron was unable to get slowed down enough to make the commitment cone. Byron stayed out on track, and as he did, those who opted to pit on lap 160 ended up causing an incident on pit road. With the pace slowed, Byron ducked to pit road to make his pit stop under yellow flag conditions, with the No. 24 team opting to go for four tires and fuel. After an issue with the left side during the pit stop, Byron lined up 19th when the field went back to green with just 33 laps to go.
Continuing to show the power of his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Byron was able to make his way back inside the top-five before the yellow flag was displayed on lap 175. Despite restarting fourth, the sophomore driver got shuffled to the back of the pack after getting stuck behind a slowed car in his lane, losing the momentum he had built. The caution came out once again, this time on lap 182, allowing for Byron to come back down pit road, for four fresh tires and fuel before lining up 25th for the final 16 laps of the Daytona 500. After another caution just four laps later, Byron found himself still mired at the back of the pack needing to make up necessary ground. However, as the field went back to green on lap 190, the ‘Big One’ occurred and put the race under a red flag condition. Under the red flag, the No. 24 team made a game plan to repair minimal left-rear damage Byron suffered trying to escape the melee.
After repairs Byron lined up in the 12th position on lap 196, but within two laps he was forced to dodge another on-track incident, barely getting by unscathed. With the field set for a two-lap shootout to the finish, Byron’s No. 24 Axalta Chevy restarted in the high lane in sixth-place. Unfortunately, within a lap back to green, two cars in the bottom lane got together, sending another competitor into Byron’s door, forcing him to end his night early and ultimately credited with a 21st-place finish.
Jimmie Johnson was the highest finisher of the Hendrick Motorsports teammates with a ninth-place finish, while Alex Bowman finished 11th and Chase Elliott finished 17th, closing out the first race weekend of the 2019 season.
QUOTING WILLIAM BYRON:
WALK US THROUGH THE MOST RECENT RACING INCIDENT:
“We were pushing the No. 22 in sixth and made a good recovery after we had some damage from the previous wreck. That kind of hurt us a little bit, but we were able to restart sixth after missing the first wreck and the No. 14 just got hooked right, or got loose right, and slammed me in the door and that hooked me to the left and then I was just part of the meat sandwich after that.”
COULD YOU FEEL THE INTENSITY BUILDING?
“Yeah, for sure. We were really close to the front with about 23 to go and we got stuck behind the No. 20 when his car shut off. We were stuck back in the pack and we got up to 10th or so and missed the wreck before this. I wasn’t really witnessing all the intensity until I was pushing the No. 22. We were in a great spot to contend for the win and just all hell broke loose.”