NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
Date: March 10, 2019
Race #4: ISM Raceway
Track Specs: 1-mile oval / 312 laps / 312 miles
Standings (from leader): 18th (-95)
RECAPPING THE RACE:
Qualifying a track-best seventh and collecting stage points early on during Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at ISM Raceway, Byron wasn’t able to get the finish he hoped for when a loose wheel on his No.24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 late in the race forced him to make a green-flag pit stop, leaving him with a 24th-place finish.
The 21-year-old driver continued his trend of making improvements each weekend when he secured a seventh-place starting spot during Friday’s qualifying session, bettering his previous effort of 11th last spring. When the green flag flew Sunday afternoon, Byron quickly moved up within the top-five running order, where he remained until lap 30 when he began fighting a tight Axalta Chevy. Sliding back to ninth, Byron was able to come to pit road for needed adjustments after the first caution of the race came out on lap 38. Coming to the attention of his No. 24 team, Byron got four tires, fuel and adjustments before returning to the track and lining up 11th for the ensuing restart on lap 45. However, just 26 laps later, the caution came back out. Crew chief Chad Knaus made the call for Byron not to pit, allowing the driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to line up seventh on the restart when some of the leaders elected to come down pit road. With a four-lap shootout to the finish of Stage One, Byron took the green-checkered flag from the eighth position, collecting valuable stage points along the way.
Byron came to pit road under the stage break for four fresh tires, fuel and a round of adjustments to help aid with his tight issues he was still fighting. Lining up 22nd for the start of Stage Two after pit strategy among the leaders, Byron reported just 10 laps into the run that he was still just too tight to turn the Axalta Chevy like he would want to. With the majority of Stage Two going green, Byron tried to fend off the leaders from going a lap down, but ultimately was overtaken with a handful of laps remaining in the stage. The caution came out of on lap 148 for teammate Alex Bowman who suffered a flat tire, ending the stage under yellow and leaving Byron still one lap down. Byron brought the No. 24 Axalta machine down pit road under the stage break for four tires, fuel and more adjustments.
Restarting 20th on lap 157, the first car one lap down, Byron was in a three-wide battle when the caution came out just two laps later, but unfortunately was edged out on being the beneficiary of getting his lap back. When the field went back green on lap 166, Byron quickly positioned himself the first car one lap down and maintained that position until the yellow was displayed again 28 laps later. Getting his lap back, Byron came to pit road under the caution for four tires, fuel and asked for slight adjustments to tighten the No. 24 back up after being too loose the last run. Scored 19th for the restart, Byron was able to work his way into the top-15 running order by the time the caution came out on lap 219. Knaus made the call to put on four tires, fuel and another round of adjustments while reminding his driver to save fuel to make it to the end of the race. Lining up in the 18th position for the restart, Byron was able to gain two spots before the caution came out just one lap later. Now just outside the top-15, Byron once again grabbed positions on the restart, making it up to 13th before another quick yellow-flag. Told he was good on fuel and not to pit to top off, Byron restarted 11th on lap 239. As the laps began to wind down, Byron was running 13th when he radioed to his team on lap 277 that felt a slight vibration. Within two laps though, the vibration worsened and the driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 hit pit road under green for four tires and a splash of fuel. Byron returned to the track two laps down in the 24th position where he ran for the remaining 31 laps of Sunday’s race before crossing the finish line.
Jimmie Johnson was the highest finishing Hendrick Motorsports driver from Sunday’s race with an eighth-place finish, followed by Chase Elliott in 14th, while Bowman’s day had ended early after an incident in the race left him 35th.
QUOTING WILLIAM BYRON:
“We had a loose wheel during that last run and that ended our chances of a solid day. I appreciate all the effort from the No. 24 Axalta team and everyone at Team Hendrick. We were going to salvage a decent finish after having to fight back from a lap down before that happened. It was just too late in the race for something like that to happen and be able to recover from it at all.”