With weather in the mix throughout most of Friday, William Byron and the No. 24 Liberty University team were able to get on track for one practice session and qualifying later that night, tentatively holding a 19th-place starting position before technical inspection. However with other teams having issues clearing tech Saturday morning, Byron’s starting position improved to 13th, which he was able to maintain during a solid run in Saturday night’s race at Richmond Raceway.
When the green flag dropped for the 400-lap event, Byron jumped up to the 11th position before settling back in 13th, fighting a Chevrolet Camaro that was tight in the center of the corners. Coming to pit road during the competition caution on Lap 40 and then again during the Stage 1 break on Lap 100, both times the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 got four tires, fuel and adjustments with Byron ultimately lining up 12th for the start of Stage 2.
“We really needed to have a night like that though, no real mistakes, no battling back from issues, just a consistent night.”William Byron
Running just outside the top 10 but still fighting a car that wouldn’t turn the way he needed it to, Byron was able to come to pit road for further adjustments and another four-tire stop on Lap 129 when the caution came out. Going back green with 65 laps left in the stage, Byron continued to hold strong and finished Stage 2 in the 12th position but let crew chief Chad Knaus that he got even tighter on that green-flag run. Under the stage break, Byron came to pit road for four fresh tires and more adjustments, but issues at the front of the car slowed the stop and faced Byron with restarting in 16th.
Moving back within the top 15 running order immediately on the restart, Byron’s forward momentum was halted when his Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 got even tighter than in the previous runs. However, when the caution came out on Lap 244, the No. 24 pit crew was able to redeem themselves, picking up three spots on pit road for Byron, lining him up 12th for the restart. As the laps began to wind down and pit strategy began to pick up with 100 laps remaining, crew chief Chad Knaus made the call shortly thereafter for Byron to hit pit road under green on Lap 317 for what would be his final pit stop of the night. Once green-flag pit stops cycled through and air pressure was starting to come in from his four fresh tires, Byron was able to maintain his 13th position and continued to do so for the rest for the race Saturday night.
Leading the Hendrick Motorsports brigade this weekend at Richmond Raceway was Jimmie Johnson crossing the finish line in 12th, followed by Byron in 13th, Chase Elliott in 15th and Alex Bowman in 17th.
William Byron: “Tonight’s race was a decent race for us. We really needed to have a night like that though, no real mistakes, no battling back from issues, just a consistent night. We were just too tight all race though for the most part to really make up much more ground like we would have liked, but with the limited track time, we’ll take these kind of races. Now it’s time for the off weekend and then back at it for Talladega.”
Alex Bowman and the No. 88 Nationwide team rolled off 12th at the start of the event. At the initial start to the race, Bowman got shuffled back a few spots and by Lap 12 was running in the 16th position. On Lap 20, the driver radioed to the team that his Camaro ZL1 was tight in the center and he had a little bit of brake shake. The competition caution was shown 20 laps later and crew chief Greg Ives told the driver that the team would be making adjustments on the first stop to free up the Nationwide machine. While under the caution, the team brought Bowman to pit road for four tires, fuel and an adjustment to free up Bowman’s ride. After a quick stop by the Nationwide pit crew, Bowman restarted 11th.
By Lap 50, the 25-year-old driver was running inside the top 10 and was quiet on the radio. The driver maintained his position through the rest of Stage 1, before ending the stage one spot shy of 10th. Bowman reported that his car was still tight in the center, but a little free into the turn. Ives told the driver that the lap times on the previous run were comparable to the leaders. The Nationwide Camaro ZL1 came to pit road following the stage for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. The team once again gained spots on pit road and Bowman restarted 10th. Less than 20 laps after taking the green flag for Stage 2, Bowman had advanced two positions and was running in the eighth position. The caution flag was shown on Lap 127 and Bowman relayed that his car was still tight in the center.
Following a pit stop under the caution for four tires, fuel and a track-bar adjustment, Bowman was set to restart seventh. While under the yellow flag, Bowman reported that he may be experiencing a power steering issue but told the team he would keep them updated. With 30 laps to go in the stage, Bowman was scored outside of the top 15. The driver held on inside the top 20 and finished 18th at the conclusion of Stage 2. While under the stage-ending yellow, Ives called the Nationwide machine to pit road for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment to help the car’s handling.
Bowman rolled off 15th for the final 200 laps of the 300-mile event. Shortly after taking the green, the driver settled into the 14th position with 138 laps to go. He remained inside the top 20 while green flag pit stops began with less than 90 laps to go in the race. Bowman hit pit road for his final green flag stop of the night on Lap 321 for four tires and fuel. After pit stops cycled through, the Nationwide machine was scored in the 19th position. Bowman had his sights set on the Lucky Dog competitor in front of him, ultimately taking the position on Lap 358. The remainder of the event ran under green flag conditions and the driver crossed the line at the end in the 17th position.
Alex Bowman: “Tonight just wasn’t what we wanted. We battled a tight car in the beginning and Greg (Ives) and the Nationwide team made adjustments all night to help that. We had some sort of power steering issue that we had to battle. This isn’t where we wanted to end up tonight, but we will take the off week and come back strong in Talladega.”
The Cup Series has the upcoming weekend off from racing and will be back on track in Talladega on April 28.