NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
Date: July 13, 2019
Race #19: Kentucky Speedway
Track Specs: 1.5-mile oval/ 267 laps / 400.5 miles
Standings (from leader): 12th (-229)
RECAPPING THE RACE:
Qualifying twelfth for Saturday night’s race at Kentucky Speedway, William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 looked poised to contend for his first win before a late-race penalty relinquished him deep within the field, forcing him to fight his way back to an 18th-place finish.
Knowing that track position and pit strategy would play a big role racing under the lights at the 1.5-mile oval, Byron fought hard to try crack the top-10 running order as quickly as possible when the green flag dropped. However, fighting a tight Axalta Chevy, Byron was able to come to pit road under the first caution of the race on Lap 48 for two right side tires and to top-off on fuel before lining up ninth for the ensuing restart. Two quick cautions though, coming within a couple laps of each other, made forward progress difficult for the sophomore driver, but Byron was able to cross the line in the 12th position at the end of Stage One. Still fighting a tight Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Byron came to pit road under the stage break for four fresh tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to help loosen the No. 24 machine up.
With varying pit strategy playing out, Byron was scored 25th for the start of Stage Two on Lap 87. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native began methodically working his way through traffic, making his way back to the top 10 with only 20 laps remaining in the second stage. Continuing to make up ground as green-flag pit stops cycled through, Byron ultimately gave up the second position on Lap 150 to pit under green for four fresh tires and fuel. As the final laps of Stage Two wound down with green-flag pit stops cycling through, Byron crossed the stripe in 15th-place.
Crew chief Chad Knaus elected to keep the No. 24 on track under the stage break, and with pit strategy once again playing a factor, Byron lined up fourth for the start of the final stage of the race. Jumping into the second position when the field went back green on Lap 167, Byron was all over the leader’s back bumper, searching for a line to get around him and take over the top spot. However, a caution just 13 laps later slowed his momentum. Lining up on the inside lane, now in second, when the field went back green on Lap 185, a slow restart by the leader and contact from behind forced Byron in front of the lead car and ultimately called for a restart violation. Having to serve a pass-through penalty under green for the incident, Byron rejoined the field as the last car on the lead lap in 23rd. Remaining calm, Byron worked to make up as much ground as possible as the laps clicked away and green-flag pit stops cycled began to cycle through once again. Hitting pit road himself for four tires and fuel under green on Lap 218, Byron rejoined the field to continue his march to salvage as much track position as possible. Contact from the No. 19 though slowed Byron’s momentum dropping him back to the 30th position with 40 laps remaining. As competitors continued to make their pit stops, Byron worked his way through traffic, finding himself 18th just 20 laps later. However, with three laps remaining, the caution came out setting up NASCAR overtime. Unfortunately trapped one lap down, Byron wasn’t able to advance his position in the green-white-checkered shootout, crossing the finish line with a hard-fought 18th-place finish at Kentucky Speedway.
Chase Elliott led the Hendrick Motorsports drivers to the finish line Saturday night, collecting a 15th-place finish, followed closely behind by Alex Bowman in 17th and Byron in 18th. Jimmie Johnson came home with a 30th-place finish after trouble earlier in the race.