NO. 24 HENDRICK AUTOGUARD CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
Date: June 2, 2019
Race #14: Pocono Raceway
Track Specs: 2.5-mile speedway/ 160 laps / 400 miles
Standings (from leader): 14th (-207)
RECAPPING THE RACE:
Collecting back-to back NASCAR Cup Series pole awards, and his third pole of the 2019 season, William Byron led the field to green for Sunday’s 400-mile event at Pocono Raceway. Jumping out to an early lead, Byron’s No. 24 Hendrick Autoguard Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 paced the field until the competition caution came out on Lap 21. Coming to pit road for four tires, fuel and minor adjustments, Byron returned to the track in sixth place for the restart after the first five cars only took two tires. Before the end of Stage One, Byron fought his way back to the second position and was chasing down the leaders but ultimately ran out of time, but still collected valuable second-place stage points in the opening leg of the race. The sophomore driver came down pit road under the stage break for another routine four tire stop with minor adjustments to a Hendrick Autoguard Chevy that was just a bit loose in Turns 1 and 3.
With some cars electing to pit before the end of the previous stage, Byron lined up behind them for the start of Stage Two, restarting from the eighth position. However, just three laps into the run the caution came back out. Crew chief Chad Knaus made the call for Byron to come down pit road to top off on fuel but was told to “save aggressively.” Lining up 15th for the restart, Byron tried to gain some of those positions back but two more quick cautions stalled his forward progress. Finding himself 12th on the Lap 73 restart, Byron initially radioed to the crew that he felt like he had a flat tire. Staying on track to assess the situation, Byron ultimately decided to not pit and chalked it up to tire buildup that collected under the previous caution. As the laps in the second stage began to wind down, Byron methodically worked his way through traffic, making it back within the top 10 with just under 10 laps remaining. As some teams elected to pit under green before the stage ended again, the No. 24 team opted to stay out collecting crucial stage points after crossing the line third to end Stage Two. Byron brought his Chevy down pit road under the caution for four tires, fuel and an adjustment to try help with the car’s handling in “dirty air.” The Hendrick Autoguard team had another solid stop, allowing Byron to start the final stage from 12th, the first car with four fresh tires.
Taking the green on Lap 106, Byron was fighting for positions when we scrubbed the wall with the right side. Losing momentum, Byron dropped to 19th and assessed any possible damage to his Hendrick Autoguard Chevy. After getting a good look at the right side, Knaus and the No. 24 team gave Byron the green light to stay on track and work on gaining as much track position back as possible. As a long green-flag run ensued, Byron began meticulously working his way through traffic, and as green-flag stops began Byron found himself back within the top-five running order with under 40 laps to go. Taking over the lead on Lap 134, Byron held down the top spot until he made his green-flag pit stop on Lap 136 for fuel only. Returning to the track in the 12th position, Byron gained one position before the final caution of the race came out on Lap 148. Coming down pit road one final time, Knaus made the call for two right side tires and a splash of fuel, setting Byron up to restart 12th with nine laps to go. As the laps counted down, Byron raced to the ninth position by the time the checkered flag was displayed, collecting back-to-back top-10 finishes as well as his third top-10 finish in the last four races.
Byron’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott came home with a top-five finish - in fourth - at the “Tricky Triangle,” followed by Byron in ninth. Teammate Alex Bowman crossed the line in the 15th position and Jimmie Johnson came home 19th.
QUOTING WILLIAM BYRON:
“We had some really good parts of today’s race. We went for the points today, which with the way the strategy was, it was hard to get back up at the front. But we got a lot of points today, which was our plan and that’s great. I know it doesn’t sound good, but we had really good stages and really good runs today. We were able to go from 12th to 9th on that last restart and we finished with a top 10, so hopefully we can go to Michigan and be able to improve on that even more. We were definitely as fast as anyone at the start of the race. It just took us a long time to get by guys and that was just something that kind of was a hindrance. But overall the guys did a great job on the car and this was a solid day. We’ve had two solid races in a row now and that’s great for us. Another pole is obviously awesome to get; I just have to work on some things and clean it all up. After that I think we’ll be really close to that first win.”