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      William Byron registers stage win at Talladega before late-race incident

      © 2019 John K Harrelson / NKP


      Start: 3rd
       -27 points from cutoff

      Qualifying third in an all-Hendrick Motorsports top four at Talladega Superspeedway, William Byron battled his way to the Stage 1 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 1. 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 1, 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 2. 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 2, 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.

      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.”

      © 2019 Nigel Kinrade / NKP


      Start: 2nd
      -18 points from cutoff

      Alex Bowman was leading the race when the No. 88 Nationwide Amazon Echo Auto Chevrolet was involved in an on-track incident, leaving the team with a 37th-place finish in the rain-delayed 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. At the start of the 188-lap event on Sunday, Bowman rolled off second after Hendrick Motorsports drivers swept the top four positions in qualifying. The Chevrolet teammates were sticking together and were strategic in the lane choices throughout the majority of Stage 1. On Lap 14, Bowman radioed to crew chief Greg Ives that his car was free. Ives called the driver to pit road for fuel and adjustments on Lap 32.

      The 26-year-old driver relayed to the team that his car’s balance was improving, and he was running in the 11th position on Lap 49. Just six laps later the driver was running third. At the end of the stage, Bowman crossed the line third, earning valuable stage points. As the stage was ending, drivers began to report rain on track. NASCAR brought the drivers down pit road and the weather ultimately ended the day at Talladega Superspeedway and the race resumed on Monday.

      © 2019 John K Harrelson / NKP

      After returning to the track a day later, the No. 88 Nationwide Amazon Echo Auto team began the day by coming down pit road for four tires and fuel before the green flag for the start of Stage 2. Bowman had the bottom lane on the restart but a few laps later he got shuffled to the middle lane with the field three-wide on track. The No. 88 machine fell back to 18th by Lap 67. As the race progressed, Bowman moved up into the outside lane at Lap 70. The outside lane had the momentum and Bowman was running second on Lap 78 to teammate Chase Elliott. Bowman raced inside the top seven during the next twenty laps on track.

      With 20 laps to go in Stage 2, the Chevrolet teams came to pit road for fuel under green flag conditions. Once the green flag pit stops cycled through, Bowman was in the third position. Unfortunately, he was shuffled back to 12th with 11 laps to go in the stage. Knowing that stage points were on the line, Bowman created a lane in the middle and fought his way up to the fifth position with seven laps to go in the stage. With four laps to go, the Nationwide Amazon Echo Auto machine was leading the field. Unfortunately, with just two laps to go in the stage, Bowman’s machine made contact with a competitor on track and ultimately ended the team’s day. The team was relegated to a 37th-place finish at the conclusion of the even.

      Bowman sits ninth in the NASCAR playoff standings following today’s race, now 18 markers out of the eighth position. The series heads to Kansas Speedway for Sunday’s cut off race in the Round of 12.

      Alex Bowman: “I got shoved way out there. I knew the No. 22 (Joey Logano) was coming and I just tried to move down just a little bit. As soon as he touched me, it just turned it sideways. They just had a bigger run than I realized. I should have let them go and shouldn’t have thrown a block. I apologize to all the cars that got torn up, that’s on me. Talladega happens. I hate it for all of our sponsors. The spoilers are so big now, that even though they are clear, the cars shake so much you really can’t see. At least I couldn’t. My mirrors are super shaky and trying to look through a thing of lexan is tough. Just didn’t do a very good job of judging it and that’s on me.”

      Via Hendrick Motorsports