Driver standings: 13th
Alex Bowman and the No. 88 Axalta team rolled off 16th for Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Just 11 laps into the 325-lap event, Bowman came over the radio to report that he needed his Axalta Chevrolet to cut the center better. By Lap 15, the Axalta machine was running in the 18thh position and the team was formulating a plan for the first pit stop of the day.
On Lap 29, Bowman radioed to crew chief Greg Ives that his car took off tight but was starting to come to him. The competition caution was shown on Lap 35 and Bowman visited pit road. The Axalta team took a big swing at it on the stop, changing four tires, adding fuel and making multiple adjustments. The field went back green on Lap 40. The Axalta machine was running in the 15thh position on Lap 55 and just five laps later the driver reported that those adjustments took the back of the car out of the track.
With three laps to go in Stage One, Bowman was running in the 18th position and told the team that the front of his car still didn’t cut well. Under the stage-ending caution, the Axalta Camaro ZL1 came to pit road for another four tire stop and the team made a wedge and air pressure adjustment to help the car’s handling. Bowman restarted 19thh when the field took the green flag for Stage Two.
Shortly after the start of the stage, Bowman had advanced three positions and was running 16th. On Lap 114, Bowman radioed to Ives that his car took off pretty good on that restart, but he was a little edgy free at the bottom. The Arizona native also noted that when he ran the top, he got tight in the center and it would snap on exit. On Lap 127, Ives called Bowman to pit road for a scheduled green flag pit stop for four tires and fuel. Just 20 laps later, the Axalta machine was running in the 12thh position and the driver was quiet on the radio.
On Lap 156, the 25-year-old reported that he needed to cut the front more, but that he couldn’t give up the rear grip to do that. At the conclusion of Stage Two, Bowman was scored in the 17th position and reported that his Camaro ZL1 was still tight. Ives brought the Chevrolet to pit road for four tires, fuel, an air pressure and wedge adjustment. Bowman started the final stage in the 19thh position and with 136 laps to go, the driver reported that the car was the best it had been all day. Ives called Bowman to pit road on Lap 220 for four tires, fuel and another air pressure and wedge adjustment. As Bowman was leaving pit road, the caution came out and the Axalta team was scored one lap down.
The Axalta team took the wave around and took the green flag on Lap 227. On Lap 242, Bowman relayed to the team that his car was a little too free after those adjustments. The Axalta Camaro ZL1 running in the 21st position on Lap 250 and 20 laps later the team visited pit road for a scheduled green flag stop. Unfortunately, while on pit road, the caution flag was again shown on Lap 274 and the team was scored one lap down. Under caution, the No. 88 team took the wave around and restarted 21stt.
With 20 laps to go, Bowman was scored in the 17th position. The Axalta driver would advance two positions by the conclusion of the 500.5-mile event to finish 15th. Bowman is currently 13th in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, 30 markers behind the leader.
Quoting Alex Bowman:
“It was a rough day in Atlanta. I think we learned some things, but far from where we want to be. We made gains throughout the race on pit road, but also got caught on pit road when a caution would come out. There was really nothing that we could do to predict that. Greg (Ives, crew chief) and the Axalta team made some good adjustments and got the car better at the end. We will go back to the shop this week and get prepared for Vegas next week.”
Driver standings: 18th
Making his second NASCAR Cup Series start at Atlanta Motor Speedway, William Byron bettered his previous showing from 2018 at the 1.54-mile weathered oval by qualifying and racing to a 17th-place finish in his No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
Rolling off 17th for Sunday’s 325-lap event, Byron raced his way to the 13th position early on but slipped back to 19th when he reported that his Liberty University Chevy swung to an eight-out-of-10 tight. Crew chief Chad Knaus called the 21-year-old down pit road during the competition caution on Lap 35 for four tires, fuel and a round of adjustments to try loosen up the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Restarting 23rd, Byron slowly began working his way through the field making his way up to 15th by the conclusion of Stage One.
During the stage break, Byron reported that the adjustments the No. 24 team made on the last pit stop helped but he needed a bit more to help his handling. Hitting pit road for four tires, fuel and another set of adjustments, Byron’s crew clicked off a fast pit stop, gaining positions on pit road for the Liberty University Chevy, lining him up in the 13th position for the ensuing restart. However, with a lack of grip restarting on the bottom lane, Byron lost a few positions initially but was able to maintain a top-20 running position until green-flag pit stops on Lap 127. Now fighting a Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that was too loose, Byron came in for four tires, fuel and a slight chassis adjustment, returning to the track in 13th. As the laps in Stage Two wound down Byron maintained his position within the top-20 as the No. 24 Liberty University machine once again swung to the loose side, crossing the line to finish the stage in 19th place.
After coming to pit road under the stage break for a routine four-tire stop and adjustments, Byron restarted the final segment from the 15th position. Dropping back to just outside the top-20, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native reported that his Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 would start off way too loose but would then swing to the tight side 15 laps into a run. Coming to pit road under green on Lap 222 for four fresh tires and fuel, the caution came out, putting Byron one lap down as the No. 24 team finished his pit stop before he returned to the field. With the rest of the leaders still needing to pit, Byron was able to take the wave-around to remain on the lead lap.
Restarting 22nd with less than 100 laps remaining in the race, Byron maintained his position until green-flag pit stops began cycling through. Knaus called the No. 24 to pit road for four tires, fuel and chassis adjustments to aid Byron’s Chevy that was still too loose to turn to his liking. While the leaders were still cycling through green-flag pit stops, another ill-timed caution came out, this time on Lap 274, catching Byron a lap down. Once again though, Byron was able to take the wave-around, returning to the lead lap and lining up 17th for the final restart of the event. For the remaining 43 laps of the race Byron held his ground, crossing the finish line in the 17th position.
Alex Bowman led the Hendrick Motorsports brigade at Atlanta Motor Speedway finishing just ahead of Byron in 15th. Chase Elliott crossed the finish line in 19th and Jimmie Johnson in 24th.
Quoting William Byron:
“We already knew this weekend was going to be one filled with a lot of questions since it was the first race using the new aero package. It was just a struggle to find a balance that suited the Liberty University Chevy throughout a green-flag run today. We would start too loose, then after 15 laps it would be neutral before swinging tight near the end of the run. I just needed more front grip to be able to turn like I would want. It’s only the first race with this new package though, and I know Chad (Knaus) and the No. 24 team will continue to put in hard work to get us where we want to be.”