NO. 24 UNIFIRST CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
Date: October 20, 2019
Race #32: Kansas Speedway
Track Specs: 1.5-mile speedway/ 267 laps / 400.5 miles
Standings (from leader): 10th (-1865)
RECAPPING THE RACE:
Heading into the last race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 12, William Byron started off the weekend qualifying 25th at Kansas Speedway in the No. 24 UniFirst Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. However, once the green flag dropped for Sunday’s race, Byron quickly worked his way through the field and found himself in contention for the win as the laps wound down. With two attempts at overtime, Byron fought to a Cup Series track-best fifth-place finish, but came up just short on advancing on to the next round of the Playoffs.
Despite qualifying 25th Saturday afternoon at the mile-and-a-half track, Byron was confident of the race speed the No. 24 team worked on during practice the day before. Methodically maneuvering through traffic when the green flag was displayed for the start of the 267-lap race, Byron was inside the top-10 running order halfway through Stage One. As the race continued to go green the leaders began to make pit stops, cycling Byron to the lead until crew chief Chad Knaus called him down pit road under green as well on Lap 50 for four tires and fuel. As pit stops cycled through, Byron was scored seventh when the caution came out on Lap 76. Knaus called the sophomore driver back down pit road for four fresh tires and fuel. Lining up 10th for a two-lap dash to the end of Stage One, Byron went on to finish the stage in the 11th position, fighting a loose No. 24 UniFirst Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
Electing not to pit under the stage break, Byron started Stage Two from the seventh position and grabbed sixth place before the yellow flag was displayed on Lap 117. Running a bit tighter that last stint, Byron came down pit road for four tires and fuel before restarting from the seventh position when the field got the green flag with 40 laps remaining in Stage Two. Continuing his march to the front, Byron worked his way within the top-five running order, securing a fourth-place finish in Stage Two. Coming to the attention of his UniFirst crew, it was another four tire stop for Byron with minor adjustments to hopefully help him gain some side bite to his Chevy.
Restarting sixth for the final stretch of the race, Byron once again began making up ground as a long green flag run ensued, running up to fourth. However, as the run continued, Byron reported that his No. 24 UniFirst Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was getting too tight with the current set of tires. Once within their fuel window to make it to the end of the race, Knaus called his driver down pit road under green on Lap 215 for four tires, fuel and another round of adjustments. Once green flag pit stops cycled through completely, Byron was scored fifth and was trying to run down those in front of him. However, a caution with 13 laps remaining changed the complexion of the race. Coming to pit road under the caution for four tires, fuel and adjustments, Byron lined up seventh for the upcoming restart with 10 laps to go. Battling to make it within the top-five, the yellow came out with a handful of laps remaining, setting up the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish. Finding himself fifth just before taking the white flag, the yellow was displayed once again, lining the field up for the second attempt at overtime. Once again trying to reach the front of the field when the field took the green, Byron’s momentum was slowed but he was able to hold on to score his best Cup Series finish at Kansas Speedway of fifth, his fourth top-five finish in 2019. Unfortunately though, the fifth-place finish wasn’t enough to help Byron advance on to the next round of the NASCAR Playoffs.
Chase Elliott was the highest finishing Hendrick Motorsports car crossing the finish line in the second position and advancing on to the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Playoffs. Byron crossed the stripe next in fifth, followed by teammates Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman in 10th and 11th.
QUOTING WILLIAM BYRON:
“It’s just a bummer. But we had a great run today and we can take pride in that, for sure. We had a great car, one of the best cars we’ve had on a 1.5-mile track. It was fun, but we just needed to win and we couldn’t do that. But it is what it is. It was a great day for us overall, we’ll move onto the next couple of weeks and keep fighting. If we can go out and win, that’s all that really matters now.”
YOU SAID YOUR GOAL WAS TO BE 12TH IN POINTS. NOW, YOU GUYS CAN GET 9TH. IS THAT STILL A FOCUS?
“Yeah, absolutely I think so. I think we can still further our position in points, which is awesome. Really, for us to make that next step, we have to compete for wins. We’re getting close, we’re running in the top-five and that’s great. We just have to make that next step and I think we’re really close.”
CONSIDERING WHERE YOU WERE THIS TIME LAST YEAR, YOU HAVE TO BE MOST IMPROVED DRIVER.
“Yeah, last year was no fun and this year has come a long way for me and my team. It’s been a lot of fun. Last year, I blew up here 60 laps in. This year, finishing fifth is great. We came close and I think we could have finished second or third. But overall it was a great day.”