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      William Byron nabs top-15 finish in first Pocono race of doubleheader

      © 2020 John Harrelson / NKP

      WILLIAM BYRON

      Start: 16th
      Finish: 14th

      Rain once again played a factor on race day for the first of two races at Pocono Raceway. Once the track was finally dry Saturday afternoon, William Byron rolled off 16th in the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. The 22-year-old driver was running within the top five by the halfway point, but an ill-timed restart before the end of Stage 2 changed the No. 24 team’s strategy due to lost momentum. Starting deep in the field for the final stage, Byron methodically worked his way through traffic, crossing the finish line in the 14th position.

      After a slight rain delay, Byron rolled off 16th due to a random draw. Fighting a tight No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, he maintained his 16th position until the competition caution on Lap 12 when crew chief Chad Knaus could make adjustments. Coming to the attention of his Axalta crew under the yellow, Knaus made the call for two right-side tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Restarting 16th, Byron was able to pick up five positions in the final nine laps of Stage 1, finishing 11th. Electing to keep track position, Byron remained on track under the stage break, lining up eighth for the next stage.

      Despite still fighting a snug Axalta Chevy, Byron was able to make his way into the top-five running order and maintained that spot until green-flag pit stops began. On Lap 60, Knaus radioed for Byron to give up the fourth position to make his pit stop for four tires, fuel and both an air pressure and chassis adjustment. Rejoining the field in 24th with pit stops still needing to cycle through, the caution came out with just over 10 laps to go in Stage 2. Electing not to pit after only running two laps since his previous pit stop, Byron gained track position, moving up to the ninth position for the next restart. However, pinned in the bottom lane, Byron had trouble accelerating and lost momentum when the field went back green, dropping him to the 19th position by the time the yellow was displayed again on Lap 72. Needing help on the exit of the corners, Byron came down pit road under the caution for four tires, fuel, and a chassis adjustment. Restarting 25th for a two-lap dash to the stage finish, Byron maintained his running position and came back down pit road under the stage break for four tires and to top off on fuel.

      Lining up 26th for the start of the final stage, Byron worked his way inside the top 20, reaching the 17th position before green-flag pit stops began taking place among the leaders. Looking to make up further track position, Knaus called Byron down pit road on Lap 91 for a splash of fuel only to make it to the end of the race. As the laps wound down and varying pit strategy continued throughout the field, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native worked his way back inside the top 15 with a handful of laps remaining. Coming to the checkered flag, Byron was able to grab one final position, scoring a 14th-place finish in Saturday’s race at Pocono Raceway.

      Byron was the highest finishing Hendrick Motorsports car in Saturday afternoon’s race, racing to a 14th-place finish. Jimmie Johnson was the next highest teammate in 21st, followed by Chase Elliott in 25th. Alex Bowman crossed the stripe in the 27th position after suffering a flat tire late in the race.

      William Byron: “We struggled today. We had a hard time making speed and tried to salvage what we could there at the end. We started gaining more speed as the car tightened up by the end of the race. We’ll make some changes for tomorrow and see what we can do then.”

      © 2020 John Harrelson / NKP

      ALEX BOWMAN

      Start: 10th
      Finish: 27th

      Following a random draw, Alex Bowman and the No. 88 ChevyGoods.com/ Adam’s Polishes team started 10th for the 325-mile event on Saturday at Pocono Raceway. With the competition caution at Lap 12, Bowman was running seventh and reporting that he was free on entry. Crew chief Greg Ives made the call under the yellow to remain on track. Bowman restarted seventh on Lap 17. The caution flag came out before the field made one lap and Bowman was in 10th when the yellow was shown. Ives, again, kept the 27-year-old driver out on track.

      Bowman restarted 10th on Lap 20. With three laps to go in the stage, Bowman remained focused out front. At the conclusion of Stage 1, the No. 88 machine crossed the line ninth. Playing around with some strategy calls, Ives decided to keep Bowman out on track and not pit. The driver restarted seventh on Lap 31. On Lap 42, Bowman radioed to the ChevyGoods.com/Adam’s Polishes team that his car was cycling tight while running in the sixth position.

      On Lap 45, Ives called Bowman to pit road for a scheduled green flag stop for four tires and fuel. Five laps after making his stop, the driver radioed to the team that his car was too free to take off. With 17 laps to go in the stage, Bowman was scored in the 29th position. The caution flag was shown on Lap 64 and Bowman was in the 22nd position. Ives, once again, kept Bowman out on track and the team restarted seventh on Lap 70. One lap after taking the green flag, the caution was shown, and Bowman was in eighth. The Tucson, Arizona, native radioed to the team that his car was cycling tight on that run.

      The ChevyGoods.com team restarted eighth on Lap 76 and Bowman finished Stage 2 in the sixth position. Ives kept Bowman on track following the stage and the team was set to restart fifth on Lap 82. Just eight laps after taking the green flag, Ives called the team to pit road for a scheduled green-flag stop. Pitting from the fifth position on Lap 90, Bowman’s car got fresh tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment.

      With 30 laps to go in the 325-mile event, Bowman was in the 19th position after making his green-flag stop. On Lap 103, Bowman radioed to the team to relay that his right side scraped the wall. The driver remained on track and was 17th and just three laps later was 12th. With 16 laps to go, Bowman got bumped by the No. 2 car and suffered a right rear tire going down. The driver was able to bring the car to pit road to get new right-side tires.

      Bowman was scored in the 28th position with three laps remaining and would advance one position to finish the event 27th. Following Saturday’s event, the No. 88 team will be going to a back up car for Sunday’s race.

      Alex Bowman: “That is not the way we wanted to end the race. We had a good run going and were going to end up top 10. The No. 2 got into us there at the end and we cut a tire. Definitely don’t have the finish to show how our day was going, but we will be back tomorrow with a new car.”

      Via Hendrick Motorsports