NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
Date: November 3, 2019
Race #34: Texas Motor Speedway
Track Specs: 1.5-mile oval/ 334 laps / 501 miles
Standings (from leader): 10th (-1886)
RECAPPING THE RACE: Rolling off 18th in the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Texas Motor Speedway, William Byron raced his way to the front of the field and was in position to collect another top-five finish until an untimely late race caution threw a wrench in pit strategy Sunday night. Forced to try fight for a lap back and to regain track position, Byron ultimately was relinquished to a 17th-place finish.
When the green flag waved Sunday afternoon, Byron quickly began making his way through the field from his 18th starting position. With two cautions within the first 20 laps and varying pit strategy playing out early on, Byron was able to pilot the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 inside the top 10 before the third caution of the race on Lap 44. Utilizing pit strategy as well, crew chief Chad Knaus called the sophomore Cup Series driver down pit road for a fuel-only stop with minor adjustments. Lining up 12th for the restart, Byron continued his march to the front, finding himself within the top five despite three back-to-back cautions. Hitting pit road under the yellow with less than 10 laps to go in Stage One Byron received four tires and fuel. Restarting deep in traffic from the 21st position, another quick caution just two laps later allowed Byron to come back down pit road after reporting that it felt like a right-side tire may be low. Mired back in 26th for a one-lap dash to end the stage, Byron ultimately crossed the finish line in the 18th position.
Since he was on pit road right before the stage end, Byron remained on track under the stage break, restarting ninth when some of the leaders elected to pit. With an ensuing long green flag run, Byron methodically worked his way into the top five just past the halfway point of Stage Two before taking over the lead on Lap 149. Three laps later, the driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 came to pit road under green for four tires and fuel before rejoining the field. As green-flag pit stops cycled through, Byron settled into the tenth position as the stage came to an end.
Continuing to stick to the planned pit strategy, Byron did not pit under the stage break and took over the lead for the start of the final stage. Electing to take the outside lane when the green flag was displayed, Byron battled hard for the lead but got edged out at the line as the caution flag was displayed. Lining up again on the front row when the field went back to green, but this time on the bottom, Byron tried to regain the lead but his momentum was slowed dropping him back to third. As the run continued, Byron reported that his Axalta Chevy was a bit tight in Turns 1 and 2. Knaus called the No. 24 down pit road under green on Lap 224 for a scheduled pit stop for left side tires and fuel. By coming to pit road as soon as the pit window opened, Byron rejoined the field in 23rd one lap down. However, an untimely caution on Lap 243 forced Knaus and the No. 24 team to redo their strategy. Still scored one lap down due to the field not fully cycling through green-flag pit stops, Byron elected not to pit and take the wave around instead to rejoin the lead lap cars. Scored 20th, Byron restarted at the tail of the field with under 90 laps remaining. Picking up two positions early once the field went back racing, Byron quickly reported that his Axalta Chevy was now extremely tight being back in “dirty air.” With the entire field still needing to pit one final time, Knaus made the call for the No. 24 to come down pit road under green on Lap 290 for two right side tires and fuel to hopefully allow Byron to make up further track position. Scored 21st two laps down after the pit stop, Byron worked his way through traffic to make up one lap, and to then pick up positions as the rest of the field began their pit stops. Ultimately Byron worked his way up to 16th the first car one lap down with 20 laps remaining should the caution come out. Continuing to fight for positions, a car with fresher tires was able to get around Byron in the closing laps before he ultimately took the checkered flag in the 17th position.