Starting Sunday’s race at Sonoma Raceway from third due to the qualifying metric, William Byron fought the handling of his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE early on in the event. Leading laps during Stage Two and poised to secure a top-10 finish, Byron was collected in an on-track incident with 14 laps to go, leaving him with a 35th-place finish at the North California track.
Rolling off from the third position, Byron maintained his position, before dropping back to fourth. Crew chief Rudy Fugle called the driver of the No. 24 down pit road on Lap 9, just before the competition caution, for four tires and an air pressure adjustment. One lap later when the caution came out and the majority of the field came down pit road, Byron remained on track. Lining up third for the ensuing restart, Byron reported that the rear end of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE felt like it was floating making it hard to turn in the downhill corners like he wanted. Slipping back to eighth as the run continued, Fugle once again made the strategy call to come down pit road under green with two to go in Stage One for four tires, fuel and both an air pressure and chassis adjustment. Returning to the track for the final two laps, Byron ultimately finished Stage One in the 32nd position due to pit strategy.
Electing not to pit under the stage break, Byron restarted from the ninth position for the start of the second stage. Taking advantage of fresher tires, Byron methodically worked his way through traffic before taking over the lead on Lap 28. Continuing to pace the field until the caution came out five laps later, Byron hit pit road under the yellow for four tires and fuel. With varying pit strategy taking place once again, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native restarted 15th but was able to work his way up to sixth by the conclusion of Stage Two. Fugle made the decision to once again not have the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE come down pit road under the stage break, lining him up in third for the restart.
Running in the top three for the start of the final stage, Byron reported that his tires were beginning to lose grip as he lost positions to those with fresher tires. Falling back to 13th, Fugle made the call for his driver to come down pit road under green on Lap 53 for four tires and fuel. Returning to the track in 23rd, Byron took advantage of his fresher tires, moving within the top-15 running order with 25 laps to go. As the leaders began to make their pit stops, Byron continued his forward progression, reaching ninth by the time the yellow flag was displayed on Lap 72. Fighting a now tight No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, Fugle called his driver down pit road for four tires, fuel and both an air pressure and a chassis adjustment. Restarting 14th due to varying pit strategy, Byron was fighting to re-enter the top 10 when he was collected in an on-track incident on Lap 78. Sustaining to much front end damage, Byron’s day ended early, resulting in a 35th-place finish.
QUOTING WILLIAM BYRON
“I was trying to roll the outside of the No. 43 (Erik Jones) and the No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) was in front of me. I thought he was going to run the bottom and obviously somebody spun in front of him and caused a big pileup. At that point, you’re just a passenger. You’re obviously going to knock the radiator in and be done for the day.”
“It stinks, but we were struggling all day to be honest. So, we have to go back and work on that. Definitely learned some lessons. Thanks to Axalta, Chevrolet and everyone. We’ll re-group. It was really the first bad weekend of the year, so we’ll re-group from it.”
THE NEXT RACE
TRACK: TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
DATE: SUNDAY, JUNE 13, 2021
TIME: 3:00 P.M. ET
TUNE-IN: FS1, SIRIUSXM, PRN RADIO