NO. 24 HERTZ CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
Date: June 23, 2019
Race #16: Sonoma Raceway
Track Specs: 2.52-mile road course/ 90 laps / 226.8 miles
Standings (from leader): 14th (-224)
RECAPPING THE RACE: Starting on the front row for the seventh time in 2019, William Byron dominated the first stage of Sunday’s race at Sonoma Raceway, collecting his first NASCAR Cup Series stage win. However, as the race progressed, Byron battled a tight handling No. 24 Hertz Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 resulting in a 19th-place finish.
Despite never making a mock qualifying run during Friday’s practice sessions, Byron nearly captured his fourth pole award of the season during qualifying, missing it by just 0.043 seconds. However, when the green flag dropped on the 90-lap event Sunday afternoon, Byron grabbed the lead immediately and quickly set sail. Silent on the radio for the majority of Stage One, Byron’s Hertz Chevy paced the field for the entire initial stage, leading 21 laps en route to his first stage win in the Cup Series and earning both crucial stage points as well as a Playoff point. During the stage break, crew chief Chad Knaus called the No. 24 down pit road for four tires and fuel. However, with a good portion of the field short pitting during the first stage, Byron was mired back in traffic after the pit stop, lining up 18th for the start of Stage Two.
Trying to make up as much track position as possible, Byron worked through traffic quickly making his way back to 12th by Lap 30. Still remaining quiet on the radio as his spotters helped him navigate traffic, Byron continued his climb through the field as green flag pit stops began to cycle through once again. Electing to collect as many points as possible during the second stage, the No. 24 team did not short pit allowing Byron to cross the line third at the conclusion of the stage. Under the caution, Byron reported that his Hertz Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 fired off good but got tight as the run ensued while stuck in traffic. Continuing to utilize a different pit strategy, Byron pit for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment before lining up in the 24th position for the final stage of the race.
Once again trying to make up as much track position as possible, Byron worked his way back into the top-15 running order in under 20 laps. Needing to pit one final time before the end of the race, Knaus made the call to bring the No. 24 Hertz Chevy down pit road under green on Lap 60 for four fresh tires, fuel and another minor adjustment. As the rest of the field cycled through green-flag pit stops, Byron found himself back within the top 10 with 20 laps remaining. Unfortunately as the laps continued to wind down, the handling of Byron’s machine swung to the tight side as the tires began to wear out during the longest green-flag run of the race. Trying to maintain as much track position as possible despite fighting handling woes, Byron slid back in traffic before ultimately crossing the finish line in the 19th-position, a track-best for the sophomore driver.
Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson crossed the finish line first out of the four-car contingent, finishing 12th. Alex Bowman finished the race in the 14th position, followed by Byron in 19th and Chase Elliott in 37th after a blown motor ended his race early.