After securing a 14th-place qualifying effort during Saturday’s condensed practice and qualifying session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, William Byron wasted no time making up track position when the green flag flew for Sunday afternoon’s race. Within the first ten laps, Byron had piloted the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 inside the top-10 running order and continued to climb through the field, reaching eighth by the time the competition caution came out on Lap 30. Firing off a little on the tight side, crew chief Rudy Fugle called his driver down pit road under the caution for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Lining up seventh for the ensuing restart, Byron quickly jumped up within the top five until the caution came out on Lap 65. Still fighting a tight Chevy, Byron came back down pit road for four tires, fuel and another air pressure adjustment. Restarting from the fifth position with 12 laps to go in the opening stage, Byron powered his way to the front of the field, taking the lead on Lap 70. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native continued to pace the field until Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman passed him with three laps remaining in the stage, still scoring crucial stage points with his second-place finish in Stage One. Now a little too free on that last run, Byron came down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment during the stage break.
Going green for Stage Two, Byron restarted from the seventh position after varying pit strategies played out under the stage break. However, he quickly moved his way back inside the top-five, reaching third before the caution came out on Lap 105. Once again coming down pit road for four tires and fuel, Byron elected to take the low lane or the restart, lining up in seventh. With a string of multiple cautions taking place in the closing laps of the second stage, Byron once again showed speed racing his way to a fourth-place finish in Stage Two. Under the stage break, Byron hit pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment but a slight hang out on the right front tires cost him a few positions on pit road.
Restarting from 12th for the start of the final stage, Byron wasted no time once again maneuvering his way through traffic, reaching the top-five running order with 87 laps to go. However on Lap 203, Byron radioed to his Axalta team that he had hit the wall. Able to maintain his previous pace with limited right rear damage, Byron remained on track until Fugle called him down pit road under green on Lap 217 for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Before green-flag pit stops could fully cycle through, the caution flag came out trapping Byron the first car one lap down in ninth. Receiving the ‘lucky dog,’ Byron cycled back to the lead lap and lined up eighth for the upcoming restart. The driver of the No. 24 quickly rejoined the top-five and maintained the fifth position as the laps wound down. However, with two laps left in Sunday’s race, the caution came out setting the field up for an overtime finish in Las Vegas. With no sticker tires left and a two-lap dash to the finish, Fugle made the call for two right side tires for the Axalta Chevy, putting Byron in third for the overtime restart. Byron did what he could to contend for the lead, but ultimately had to lift off the throttle to avoid another car, leaving him with a fifth-place finish – a track-best for Byron at the 1.5-mile west coast facility.
QUOTING WILLIAM BYRON
“Yeah, you know we had a good run. Congrats to Alex (Bowman). You know we needed a good run. We’ve had a rough couple weeks. We’ve had speed everywhere, but just not the finishes. Thanks to Axalta, Chevrolet, Liberty University, everybody on this car. Great to get a top five, obviously we want a win and I felt like there were times in this race that we had potential, but we just have to clean up some of the little things. We’ve got to clean up some of those things on pit road and get a little better and I think we will have a shot to win.”
THE NEXT RACE
TRACK: PHOENIX RACEWAY
DATE: SUNDAY, MARCH 13, 2022
TIME: 3:30 P.M. ET