WILLIAM BYRON ? NO. 24 VALVOLINE CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
DATE: MARCH 12, 2023
TRACK: PHOENIX RACEWAY
SPECS: 1-MILE OVAL
RANK: 4th (-10 POINTS)
RECAPPING THE RACE
Kicking off NASCAR Cup Series practice on Friday and qualifying on Saturday, William Byron powered his No. 24 Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to a third-place starting position at Phoenix Raceway. However, when the green flag waved, Byron made quick work to pick up where he left off last weekend, taking the lead on lap 2. Liking the handling of his race car, the 25-year-old driver extended his lead throughout the long green-flag run. As the laps wound down in the opening stage, Byron was able to maintain his lead on the way to capturing the stage one win. Under the stage break, crew chief Rudy Fugle made the call for his driver to come down pit road for four tires and fuel, coming off pit road in second.
Lining up on the outside of the front row for the start of stage two, Byron tried to re-take the top spot but ultimately fell into the second position. As the run went on, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native kept within striking distance of the leader, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kyle Larson. With green-flag pit stops kicking off part way through the stage, Fugle called the No. 24 down pit road on lap 129 for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Byron cycled back to second once pit stops were completed before the caution came out on lap 138. Byron came back down pit road for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to the Valvoline Chevy after needing more front turn. Byron once again restarted from the second position and maintained that spot until the end of stage two, 41 laps later, collecting stage points. Still needing more help with his “front turn in dirty air,” Byron came down pit road for four tires, fuel and both an air pressure and chassis adjustment.
Lining up for the final stage, Byron selected the low lane, putting himself third for the restart with 118 laps remaining. Despite keeping the leaders in his sights, Byron settled into the third position as they navigated lap traffic throughout the run. With the handling of his No. 24 Valvoline Chevy swinging to the loose side, Byron came down pit road under green on lap 244 for four tires, fuel and both an air pressure and chassis adjustment. Once green-flag pit stops cycled through, Byron was scored in fourth, trying to make up ground in the remaining 40 laps. Continuing to maintain fourth, the caution came out on lap 303 that changed the complexity of the race. Fugle made the call for his driver to come down pit road for two right side tires and fuel, helping Byron jump up to the second position for the ensuing restart. Going back green with three laps to go, Byron did his best to take the lead but had to settle for second as the yellow flag waved again. With the chance to reset, Byron once again chose the high lane, restarting on the front row for the first attempt at overtime. Getting a great launch, and a push from the car behind, Byron maneuvered his way to the lead before taking the white flag and never looking back, scoring the win. This was not only Byron’s second win of the 2023 season but the first time in his Cup Series career that he has scored back-to-back wins.
Hendrick Motorsports had another stout weekend to wrap up the West Coast swing, capturing four top-10 finishes. Byron scored back-to-back wins, taking the checkered flag Sunday at Phoenix Raceway. Teammate Larson scored another top-five finish, crossing the stripe in fourth. Alex Bowman finished ninth, and in the process, took the driver points lead. While Josh Berry, who is filling in for the injured Chase Elliott, scored his first Cup Series top 10 in the 10th position.
QUOTING THE No. 24 TEAM:
On the two-tire call from crew chief Rudy Fugle: "I owe the last couple of weeks to him. He's done a really good job strategy-wise, and execution-wise we've done a good job to put ourselves in those positions on the front row with a shot at the end. Thanks to everybody back at Hendrick Motorsports putting together great cars and just doing a great job. It's a big credit to them, the engine shop, Mr. (Rick) Hendrick and everybody. It's cool to have Valvoline back on the car with a really historic-looking paint scheme, so it's nice to get into Victory Lane."
More on the win: "Thanks to Valvoline and all the sponsors we have. It's a great day for us. We weren't the best car at times. We were really good at the beginning, and it was nice to see it come back our way. It definitely was a top-four car. Rudy made a great decision there and a great pit stop. Execution... that's what we've been good at."
Importance of late pit stops the last two weeks and get on the front row for restarts: "It's big. You've got to have a chance there on the front row to really have clean air on your nose and make the right moves. We were able to get on the front row there and stay on the outside of Kyle the second time and have a good enough restart. Those green-white-checkers, you can either wreck or win. We've been on the good side of them for a couple of weeks."
Momentum of two wins in a row: "It's great. This team has been working really hard. We didn't want to stop last week, and we just wanted to keep it going. We have more work to do but hopefully this week is a little bit calmer and we can relax a little bit."
THE NEXT RACE
TRACK: ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY
DATE: SUNDAY, MARCH 19, 2023
TIME: 3:00 P.M. ET
TUNE-IN: FOX, SIRIUSXM, PRN