NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1 1LE
Date: July 23, 2020
Race #19: Kansas Speedway
Track Specs: 1.5-mile speedway / 267 laps / 400.5 miles
Playoff Standings (from the Playoff cutoff): 16th (+10)
RECAPPING THE RACE:
Rolling off from the 15th position for Thursday night’s race by virtue of a random draw, William Byron fought an ill-handling No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE early on at Kansas Speedway. However, as the race shifted into the nighttime and the team continued to make adjustments, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native took over the lead with under 50 laps to go in the 267-lap event. With fuel strategy playing a factor, as well as a couple late-race restarts, Byron ultimately crossed the finish line in the 10th position – his sixth top-10 result of the season – moving himself back inside the playoff cutline.
Starting 15th for the mid-week race at Kansas Speedway, Byron fought a loose No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE as soon as the green-flag flew. Slipping back to the 20th position, Byron was able to maintain that position until the competition caution came out on Lap 25. Interim crew chief Keith Rodden called the 22-year-old down pit road for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment, putting him in the 18th position for the ensuing restart. As the run continued, Byron reported that his car continued to get more loose, reaching a six out of 10 level. With the rest of Stage One being run under green-flag conditions, Byron battled to stay on the lead lap, finishing the stage in the 23rd position. Coming down pit road under the stage break, the Axalta team went to work making multiple adjustments as well as getting their driver four fresh tires and fuel. However, an uncontrolled tire penalty forced Byron to line up at the tail end of the field for the restart.
Scored 24th for the start of Stage Two, the third-year-driver radioed early on that the handling of his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was better this run, progressing up to the 21st position by the time the caution came out on Lap 100. Needing to gain track position, Rodden made the call for the No. 24 to come down pit road for two right side tires and fuel only, moving Byron up to the seventh position for the restart. However, with the handling of the Axalta Chevy still on the loose-side, cars who took four tires were able to maneuver around Byron as the run ensued as he searched for different lines to run to aid in his handling. Slipping back to the 18th position, a caution on Lap 143 allowed Byron to come back down pit road for four tires, fuel and both an air pressure and chassis adjustment. Restarting 13th with under 15 to go in the stage, Byron’s car still fired off too loose before eventually finishing the stage in the 20th position. Returning to the attention of his team on pit road, Byron pit for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment before the start of the final stage.
Lining up 16th for the start of the final stage, Byron was able to maneuver his way unscathed through a couple on-track incidents in front of him. Coming down pit road for four fresh tires and fuel after possibly running over debris, the driver of the No. 24 restarted 22nd with 85 laps remaining. Once again dodging another on-track incident, Byron continued his march to the front when the field went back green, racing his way to the 13th position by the time the yellow flag was displayed again, this time on Lap 195. Making a bold strategy call to get clean air, Rodden elected for Byron to remain on the track, assuming the lead when the rest of the field came down pit road. Going back green on Lap 200, Byron maintained the lead until the No. 2 passed him six laps later. Less than 15 laps after that though Byron passed the No. 2 to regain the top spot. With fuel strategy playing a factor, the No. 24 continued to pace the field, preparing for a potential green-flag gas-and-go pit stop in the closing laps. However, the caution came out on Lap 235, putting everyone on the same pit cycle. Knowing that fresh air was important, Rodden called the Axalta Chevy down pit road for two right side tires and fuel, allowing Byron to remain the leader for the restart. Lining up alongside teammate Alex Bowman, the two drivers battled hard before the No. 88 ultimately took the lead just as the caution came out, setting up another restart. Once again lining up on the front row with Bowman for the restart with 21 laps to go, Byron fought to regain the lead, but without drafting help he lost momentum dropping back to just outside the top five. Now fighting the handling of his car in traffic, Byron fought to maintain his top-10 running position, crossing the finish line in the 10th position Thursday night in the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE.
QUOTING WILLIAM BYRON:
“It was a solid finish for us. We needed that for sure for the playoffs. We started the race way off. We were really loose – just really struggling. The guys, Keith (Rodden, filling in as Crew Chief) and everybody on the team made a lot of great adjustments throughout the race. It really got us in a position where we could attack. As soon as we got probably 10 laps on our tires, the car felt pretty good. We just stayed out there on no tires, really ran there with the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and was able to pass him back for the lead. I thought we were looking really good. Unfortunately, the two tires didn’t really work out for us there at the end. I think we just had too many laps on the left side and struggled there. But overall, I was really happy with probably 40 to go in the race. I thought we were in a really good position leading the race. We’ll take a top-10 with what we had there at the end and move forward to the next race. I’m looking forward to it.”