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      William Byron battles to 12th-place finish at rain-shortened Darlington race

      WILLIAM BYRON

      Start: 34th
      Finish: 12th

      Using the results of Sunday night’s race at Darlington Raceway to set the field for Wednesday night’s race, William Byron rolled off 34th in the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE despite a slight delay for rain. Fighting to gain track position throughout the first two stages, Byron raced his way to score stage points after a sixth-place finish in Stage 2. With the threat of rain looming during the final stage, pit strategy came into play. Ultimately though, when the caution came out with 25 laps to go, the rain began to fall ending the race early, leaving Byron with a solid 12th-place finish.

      With the lineup for Wednesday night’s race coming from the last race’s results, Byron began the race from the 34th position. After rain delayed the start of the race, when the field finally went green, the 22-year-old driver immediately went to work trying to make up as much track position as possible. Making it to the 18th position by Lap 25 when the competition caution came out, Byron came down pit road for four tires, fuel and a slight air pressure adjustment to try loosening up his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. Restarting 22nd due to varying pit strategy, Byron utilized the rest of Stage 1 to move up to the 18th position when the green-checkered flag flew. Still fighting a tight Axalta Chevy, crew chief Chad Knaus called the No. 24 down pit road for four tires, fuel, and a round of chassis and air pressure adjustments.

      Lining up 16th for the start of Stage 2, Byron moved up four positions before the caution flag was displayed on Lap 72. With split pit strategy throughout the field, Knaus once again called Byron down pit road, this time for just four tires and fuel. Restarting 17th, Byron continued to fight the handling of his Chevy back in traffic with “dirty air.” When the caution came out 10 laps later, Byron remained on track while those who previously did not pit during the last caution had their vehicles serviced. With 39 laps left until the stage break, Byron restarted third and maintained that position until he began fighting a tight-handling No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. Slipping back one position, the yellow flag was displayed on Lap 106, allowing Byron to come to the attention of his team for fresh tires and chassis adjustments. Restarting in sixth for the remaining 12 laps of Stage 2 and weather in the area threatening, Byron maintained that position, scoring stage points in the process. Fighting a now “loose on entry” No. 24, Byron came down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment before the final stage.

      With rain looming and the race past the halfway mark and deemed official, intensity in the field ramped up. Dropping to 17th on the restart, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native reset and began to work his way back thorough the field. Making it up to the 13th position as a long green-flag run ensued, Knaus called Byron down pit road under green on Lap 176. After getting four tires and fuel, Byron rejoined the field as the caution flag came out, catching him and the majority of the rest of the field one lap down due to green-flag pit stops not fully cycling through. Electing to take the wave around under the caution to get back on the lead lap, Byron restarted 20th with 42 laps left. When the caution came out six laps later, Byron came back down pit road for fresh tires and adjustments to aid in a still tight Axalta Chevy. Lining up 16th, Byron had a stellar restart, jumping up to 12th as the yellow was displayed once again just one lap later. However, this time the rain finally came, ending the race at Darlington Raceway early and leaving Byron with a 12th-place finish.

      Jimmie Johnson crossed the finish line as the highest finishing Hendrick Motorsports car in the eighth position with Byron following a few positions behind in 12th. Alex Bowman scored an 18th-place finish and Chase Elliott was credited with 38th after his on-track incident.

      William Byron: “It was a solid night for us. We really just needed a decent result. We’ve had a tough stretch of races with a multitude of things go bad that were really out of our control. Today was good just to be able to put together a solid result. Obviously having to start in the back was a detriment with a short race and short runs. Our pit stall was difficult too, having to go around the No.14 who ran really well all night and the No.42 was in front of us. So we had a tough time on pit road there. Overall it was solid and we got some stage points in Stage Two. We got trapped a lap down in that green-flag sequence which was tough. We rallied though and finished 12th. We’ll take it. Definitely not where we want to be but at least we could put a number up there and go into Charlotte.”

      ALEX BOWMAN

      Start: 19th
      Finish: 18th

      After Sunday’s event at Darlington Raceway, the field was inverted for Wednesday night’s race and Alex Bowman rolled off 19th. Three laps into the race the caution was shown and the ChevyGoods.com / NOCO driver reported that his car was tight in Turns 3 and 4, but better overall through the bumps. Crew chief Greg Ives elected to remain on track and Bowman restarted 14th on Lap 7. The caution flag was shown four laps later for an incident on the backstretch. Bowman once again reported that his car was tight but knowing that the competition caution would be coming out at Lap 25 Ives kept the team on track under this yellow.

      On Lap 14, the No. 88 team restarted 12th and just two laps later was inside the top 10. When the competition caution came out, Bowman was scored in the sixth position and reporting that he needed to turn better in the corner. Under the yellow, Ives called the driver to pit road for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. Bowman restarted sixth on Lap 33 and on Lap 41, he made the pass for the third position on track. On Lap 48, the driver made contact with the outside wall and spotter Kevin Hamlin relayed that it was a little more damage than what the team had on Sunday.

      At the conclusion of Stage 1, Bowman crossed the line fourth and relayed to the team that his car was tight. Under the yellow, the team visited pit road for four tires, fuel and some right-side damage repairs. After the quick stop, the team restarted fourth on Lap 68 and two laps later was scored in second. The caution flag was shown on Lap 72 and Bowman reported that his second-place car was ‘pretty good.’ Ives radioed to the team that they would remain on track and restart second on Lap 76.

      Shortly after the green flag was shown, Bowman reported that his car was too free while running in the third position. Under caution at Lap 82, the 27-year-old driver visited pit road for four tires and fuel. Due to a few lead lap cars remaining on track, Bowman restarted 12th on Lap 86. Around Lap 102, the driver radioed in that his car was still tight, but he was able to maneuver on track and was up to sixth. The seventh caution of the evening was shown on Lap 107 and Ives called Bowman to pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment to help free up the car. The driver restarted fifth on Lap 112 and at the end of Stage 2 was scored in eighth.

      Under the yellow for the stage end, Bowman visited pit road for four tires, fuel and an adjustment to help the car turn better while not losing rear grip. The team restarted ninth on Lap 132. While running 12th with 58 laps remaining, Ives radioed to the driver that when they pit they will plan to free up the car. With 53 laps to go, Bowman made his scheduled green flag stop for four tires, fuel and an adjustment. The caution was shown with 49 laps to go, forcing the No. 88 ChevyGoods.com / NOCO team to take the wave around.

      Bowman restarted 14th on Lap 186 and with 35 laps to go, the caution was shown for an incident in Turn 3. The Chevrolet driver radioed to the team that his car was tight on the bottom, but pretty good at the top. Ives elected to put four fresh tires on and add fuel. During the stop, the team was faced with a few issues, so Ives chose to make additional repairs to the sides of the car while on pit road. On Lap 199, Bowman restarted 21st. With rain in the area, NASCAR called drivers to pit road with 20 laps to go and the red flag was displayed. The race ultimately ended due to weather and Bowman was scored with an 18th-place finish.

      Alex Bowman: “Not the day we wanted. At least not the finish we wanted. Just didn’t go our way there at the end. Definitely some differences from Sunday to now. We struggled to get the balance where we needed to get it with the car. It was much better through the bumps. Bummed out about that, but we will move on to Charlotte and be strong there.”

      Via Hendrick Motorsports