NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
Date: May 6, 2019
Race #11: Dover International Speedway
Track Specs: 1-mile oval / 400 laps / 400 miles
Standings (from leader): 19th (-200)
RECAPPING THE RACE:
After rain postponed the Gander RV 400 at Dover International Speedway, the NASCAR Cup Series took to the concrete-mile oval Monday afternoon. Rolling off a track-best second for the 400-lap race, Byron’s No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 showed speed all race long before he ultimately secured a track-best eighth-place finish.
Participating in single-car qualifying for the first time in his NASCAR career, Byron held the track record and top position during qualifying on Friday for most of the session until teammate Chase Elliott edged him out for the pole award with a handful of cars remaining. His second-place qualifying however marked a track-best for Byron at Dover in the Cup Series as well as his fourth front row starting position of the 2019 season, including all four Hendrick Motorsports front-row sweeps.
When the 37-car field was finally able to take the green flag on Monday afternoon after rain washed out Sunday’s on-track activities, Byron ran within the top five until the competition caution on Lap 40. Reporting that the No. 24 Axalta Chevy was extremely loose during that run, Byron came to pit road to the attention of his team for four tires, fuel and adjustments. Lining up ninth for the restart on Lap 46, Byron moved up to the seventh position, but fell back to eighth as the caution flag flew on Lap 107. Still reporting that his Chevy was too loose, crew chief Chad Knaus called for a two-tire pit stop to help with Byron’s handling as well as gain him valuable track position. Restarting on the inside of the front row with 10 laps remaining in Stage One, Byron slid back to sixth fighting a now tight Axalta Chevy, when the caution was displayed again just seven laps later. With a one-lap shootout to the conclusion of the first stage, Byron was able to maintain his sixth-place position, securing valuable stage points. Knaus called the sophomore driver back down pit road, this time under the stage break, for another four tire stop with fuel and adjustments. However, with varying pit strategy among the leaders, Byron found himself mired back in 25th for the start of Stage Two.
Trying to make up as much ground as possible, Byron methodically began working his way through traffic making it up to 17th before green-flag pit stops began just past the halfway in Stage Two. Taking advantage of being slightly off on pit sequence, Byron remained on track throughout green-flag stops ultimately taking over the lead on Lap 184 before giving it up just four laps later for his own green-flag pit stop. Getting four tires and fuel under green, Byron returned to the track in the 17th-position with just under 50 laps remaining in the stage. As the green-checkered flag was displayed to signal the end of Stage Two, Byron crossed the line in 15th, once again fighting a loose Chevy throughout the final run. Coming to pit road for four tires, fuel and minor adjustments to the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Byron lined up 15th for the start of the final stage with 150 laps remaining.
Still having to maneuver through traffic, Byron improved to the 14th position before the caution came out on Lap 266. Byron came to the attention of the No. 24 team for four tires and fuel before restarting 13th with 131 laps left at the track nicknamed the “Monster Mile.” When the field went back to green-flag racing, Byron once again began picking up positions one-by-one, making his way up to the eighth spot before green-flag pitstops began once again. Knaus called the No. 24 down pit road on Lap 321 for the final four tire stop of the day and enough fuel to make it to the end of the race. As pit stops cycled through with the final 79 laps going green, Byron was able to continue making a march to the front, scoring a track-best eighth-place finish when the checkered flag waved, his second top-10 finish of the season.
After all four Hendrick Motorsports cars led laps during Monday’s race, teammate Alex Bowman was the first of the Hendrick Motorsports drivers to cross the finish line in the second position, followed by Elliott in fifth, Byron in eighth and Jimmie Johnson in 14th.
QUOTING WILLIAM BYRON:
“It may not have seemed like it but this was a tough race for us today. We started up front and ran within the top seven or eight positions, collecting stage points. I had to start at the back there with the 22 after Stage One and it really took us all the way until about 50 laps to go to get back into the top 10. It was tough but the car was really fast and I’m super proud of the guys for that. We made a lot of progress and good adjustments throughout the race. It was just a grinding race that was hard to pass, but I was able to move to the top and make some moves. I’m proud of this Axalta team. It’s definitely a step in the right direction for us.”