NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
Date: October 14, 2019
Race #31: Talladega Superspeedway
Track Specs: 2.66-mile superspeedway/ 188 laps / 500.8 miles
Standings (from leader): 12th (-65)
RECAPPING THE RACE:
Qualifying third in an all-Hendrick Motorsports top-four at Talladega Superspeedway, William Byron battled his way to the Stage One win Sunday afternoon. However, rain postponed the race until Monday, where the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was in contention for the win until being collected in an on-track incident with 26 laps remaining, relinquishing him to a 33rd-place finish.
Despite starting from the third position, Byron fell back in traffic early on in the 188-lap race, getting a feel for the handling of his Axalta Chevy. Reporting that he was struggling to keep his momentum built up, crew chief Chad Knaus called the No. 24 down pit road under green on Lap 35 for enough fuel to make it to the end of Stage One. However, just a handful of laps later, the caution was displayed for a stalled vehicle on track, allowing Byron to come down pit road for four tires and to top off on fuel. Lining up in the 28th position with 15 laps remaining until the first stage break, Byron began maneuvering his way to the front of the field. After 10 laps, the sophomore driver took over the lead and continued to maintain the position until the conclusion of Stage One, picking up his second career Cup stage win and crucial points. As the field slowed, weather rolled into the area and rain forced the race to be postponed.
When engines were re-fired on Monday, Knaus called his driver down pit road for four tires and fuel before lining up in the second position for the start of Stage Two. Running within the top-15 for the opening laps of the stage, Byron came to pit road under green on Lap 89 with his teammates for fuel only once again. Scored just outside the top-10 with 15 laps remaining in Stage Two, Byron reported that he had a slight vibration but nothing significant. However, with only a couple of laps until the stage break, Byron narrowly avoided being collected in a large incident that started at the front of the field. The second stage then ended under yellow flag conditions with Byron once again picking up stage points from the eighth position. Reporting that the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was progressively getting looser during the last run, Byron came to pit road under the stage break for four tires, fuel and minor adjustments.
After a great stop by the Axalta crew, Byron lined up in the third position for the start of the final stage of the race. After leading a couple laps, Byron was shuffled back to the eighth position, searching for drafting partners. However, the caution was displayed on Lap 123 allowing Knaus to call his 21-year-old driver back down pit road to top off on fuel and then once again under caution on Lap 133, but this time for four tires as well as fuel. Lining up 16th with 51 laps to go at the 2.66-mile superspeedway, Byron began working his way back through the field utilizing the bottom lane and reaching third before the caution would once again be displayed, this time on Lap 154. Coming to pit road for fuel-only, Byron won the race off pit road, giving him the lead with 31 laps left in the race. Maintaining the bottom lane, Byron swapped positions back-and-forth with the high lane until an untimely push from behind turned the No. 24 around and collected others with him. The incident ended Byron’s day early, leaving him with a 33rd-place finish in the second race of the Round of 12.
Chase Elliott was able to cross the finish line in the eighth position despite sustaining damage early on in the race. Byron was the next highest finishing Hendrick Motorsports car in 33rd with Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson finishing 37th and 38th respectively after being collected in an incident on Lap 106.
QUOTING WILLIAM BYRON:
“I don’t really know, the push from Kurt (Busch) just turned me to the inside first. I don’t know what to do different there to get the push better. Just unfortunate for us. We had a really good run going. I felt like we were going to at least finish pretty solid. Our car was good, just trying to bide our time. Just unfortunate, for sure.”