The No. 88 Axalta Camaro ZL1 rolled off 17th for Sunday’s Go Bowling at the Glen event at Watkins Glen International. Six laps into the 90-lap event, driver Alex Bowman radioed to the team that his car was a little tight while running in the 14th position. With 10 laps to go in Stage 1, the Axalta machine was scored 17th and was tight in the right turns. Crew chief Greg Ives radioed to Bowman with four laps to go in the stage to hit pit road for a scheduled green flag pit stop. The Axalta team changed four tires, added fuel and made a track-bar adjustment to help the Chevrolet’s handling. At the conclusion of Stage 1, Bowman crossed the line 31st.
Under the stage-ending caution, Bowman radioed to Ives that his car felt pretty good after the fresh tires and the adjustment. Ives elected to keep the Axalta machine out on track under the yellow. When Stage 2 went green, Bowman was scored in the fourth position. The caution flag was shown on Lap 32 for possible fluid on the racing surface and Bowman radioed in that his car was really tight in traffic. Ives chose to keep the 26-year-old driver out on track and was set to restart from the fifth position on Lap 36. Two laps later the caution flag was shown once again, ultimately ending Stage 2 under yellow flag conditions. The Axalta machine earned stage points with his seventh-place finish in the stage.
Following the stage, Bowman reported that his car was really tight through Turn 11 and loose in the carousel. Knowing that fuel mileage could come into play, Ives kept the Axalta machine on course under the yellow. When the field took the green flag on Lap 43, Bowman was scored in the seventh position. On Lap 50, Bowman was scored in the eighth position and was quiet on the radio. Ives made the call for a green flag pit stop just eight laps later and Bowman came down pit road for four tires, fuel and another small adjustment to help the car’s handling.
The caution flag was shown on Lap 61 for a car turned around on course. Ives made the call to remain on track and Bowman was set to restart 15th on Lap 64. With 15 laps remaining, the Axalta Chevrolet was scored in the 13th position. A competitor was able to get around Bowman with two laps to go in the race, putting the driver in the 14th position when the checkered flag waved at Lap 90. The Axalta team remains 11th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings, now 228 markers behind the leader.
Alex Bowman: “We had a pretty decent weekend with our Axalta machine. We didn’t have a great starting position for today’s race but with some strategy calls, Greg and the guys got me up toward the front. Clean air was a big component in today’s race, as I was getting tight in traffic. We will take this finish and move on to Michigan next weekend. Congrats to Chase and the No. 9 team for bringing home the win.”
Qualifying on the front row for the eighth time during the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season, William Byron started Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen International from the second position. Running solidly within the top-five running order throughout Stage 1, an incident under the stage break left Byron with major front-end damage. After extensive repairs throughout the race to the No. 24 Hendrick Autoguard Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Byron was able to fight through the adversity to finish 21st.
Showing speed throughout the day Saturday at the 2.54-mile road course, Byron completed the Hendrick Motorsports front-row sweep during qualifying, lining up second next to teammate Chase Elliott when the green flag dropped Sunday afternoon. Running within the top-five throughout the first 20-lap stage, Byron was able to secure valuable stage points with his fifth-place finish in Stage 1. However, contact with a competitor in the final green-flag laps, as well as under the stage break, left the No. 24 with extensive damage to the front nose of the Hendrick Autoguard Chevy. Coming to pit road under the caution for a lengthy stop, the No. 24 team was able to get Byron back on track and meet minimum speed for the start of Stage 2.
Restarting at the tail end of the field, Byron was able to work his way through traffic to the 28th position but reported that his No. 24 Hendrick Autoguard Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was overheating. Remaining on track and trying to manage the situation as best as possible, the caution came out on Lap 34 allowing Byron to come to pit road for more damage repair. Pitting multiple times under the yellow, including for four tires and fuel, Byron restarted at the tail end of the field for the final four laps in Stage 2. As the stage came to a close, the sophomore driver radioed to the Hendrick Autoguard team that his temps were continuing to rise forcing the No. 24 team to come up with another plan for further repairs. Coming to pit road multiple times again, Byron rejoined the field before going back green in the 36th position but still on the lead lap.
Only a few laps into the final stage, Byron reported that his temps were finally beginning to drop and that he liked the handling of his Chevy. With the laps winding down, Byron went to work making up track position as quickly as possible, knocking on the door of the top-20 running order just past the halfway mark in the 90-lap race. As pit strategy began to play out throughout the field, Byron worked his way as high as the sixth position before crew chief Chad Knaus called the 21-year-old down pit road under green on Lap 61 for fuel only. As pit stops were continuing to cycle through, the yellow flag was displayed shortly thereafter. At the time of the caution Byron was scored 18th but with varying strategies continuing to play out, Byron found himself 11th for the ensuing restart with 25 laps left. However, as the final run remained green, Byron’s older tires became a factor compared to those running around him. In the closing laps Byron was forced to relinquish a few positions due to the worn tires before ultimately crossing the finish line in the 21st position.
Elliott put on a dominating performance after starting from the pole, winning both stages before going on to capture back-to-back wins at Watkins Glen International. Teammate Alex Bowman crossed the finish line next in the 14th position, followed by Jimmie Johnson in 19th and Byron in 21st.