After weather delayed the beginning of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, when the field was finally able to get racing William Byron rolled off from the 22nd position in the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. Making up ground on the track and on pit road, Byron found himself within the top 10 by the end of Stage 1 and running within the top five during Stage 2. Fighting a tight race car as the 267-lap race came to a close, Byron crossed the finish line in the ninth position, scoring a track-best finish at Homestead as well as his third top-10 finish in the last four races.
Starting from 22nd position after a random draw, Byron gained one position before the caution, and later the red flag, was displayed on Lap 5 for lightning in the area. After the lengthy weather-related delay, Chad Knaus called the No. 24 down pit road for chassis adjustments before the field went back green, preparing for what would now be a night race. Restarting 35th after the pit stop, Byron raced his way up to 26th by the time the yellow was displayed again, this time for the competition caution. Fighting an Axalta Chevy that was tight on entry but loose on exit, Byron came down pit road under the caution for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Lining up 25th the Charlotte, North Carolina, native snagged four more positions before the caution was back out, as well as the red flag, once again for lightning in the area. Once the red flag was withdrawn, Byron came to the attention of his pit crew for four tires and fuel, making up 10 positions after avoiding a collision on pit road. Restarting 15th on Lap 37, Byron methodically worked his way through the field, making it up to the eighth position by the end of Stage 1. Wanting more rear grip for a short run, Byron pitted for four tires, fuel and tape on the nose of his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE.
Gaining two spots on pit road, Byron was scored sixth for the start of Stage 2 on Lap 88. Showing speed when firing off on the restart, the third year Cup Series driver quickly moved inside the top five, ultimately taking over the fourth position. Maintaining the fourth position as a long green-flag run ensued, Knaus called his driver to pit road under green on Lap 121 for four tires, fuel and another air pressure adjustment. Once green-flag pit stops cycled through, Byron regained the fourth position before sliding back to fifth just before the end of Stage 2. Fighting a now loose Axalta Chevy, Byron came to pit road under the stage break for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment.
Restarting fifth for the final stage with just under 100 laps remaining, Byron grabbed the fourth position before the yellow was displayed just three laps later. Coming back down pit road for another four-tire stop with fuel, Byron then lined up sixth but quickly moved back into the fourth position on the restart. However, the handling of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE swung to the tight side as the run continued forcing Byron back to the ninth position. With 50 laps to go and green-flag pit stops beginning to take place, Knaus called the No. 24 down pit road for four tires, fuel and both an air pressure adjustment as well as for tape to be added to the grille. Byron maintained the ninth position once green-flag pit stops cycled through but still fought a tight handling racecar. Continuing to fight until the end, Byron ultimately crossed the finish line in the ninth position at Homestead-Miami Speedway – a track-best finish as well as his third top-10 finish in the last four races.
Chase Elliott was the highest finishing Hendrick Motorsports car and came close to capturing his second win of the season tonight with his second-place finish. Byron also scored a top-10 finish for the organization in the ninth position. Teammate Jimmie Johnson crossed the finish line in the 16th position with Alex Bowman close behind in 18th.
William Byron: “We had a good and solid night and honestly it was nice to be able to run in the top five. We continued to adjust on the car as the race went along there. Hopefully we can continue to string runs together like we had tonight and be able make the right adjustments at the right point in the race to be in contention in the end. We’re getting close to that first win we just need to continue working on a couple things to get faster. On to Talladega.”
Following a random draw, Alex Bowman and the No. 88 LLumar Window Films team rolled off eighth for the 400-mile event on Sunday evening at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The driver of the No. 88 machine maintained the eighth position as he was running two- and three-wide on track at the start of the event. On Lap 4, Bowman was in the 11th position when the caution flag was shown for weather in the area. The field went into a mandatory 30-minute hold for lightning. After a long red-flag period, Bowman was able to restart the engine on Lap 9 and restart from the 11th position.
On Lap 13, Bowman radioed to the LLumar Window Films team that his car was tight in the center and loose off the corner. The caution flag was shown on Lap 21 for an incident on track and Bowman was scored in the 13th position. Crew chief Greg Ives radioed to the driver to bring his car to pit road for four tires, fuel and a wedge and air pressure adjustment. Bowman was set to restart 14th on Lap 25. On the restart, the Tucson, Arizona, native gained four positions and was up to eighth when the caution was shown on Lap 32 for weather.
After another 30-minute hold for lightning, Bowman visited pit road on Lap 35 for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment after relaying his car was tight. The field took the green flag on Lap 37 and Bowman restarted sixth. On Lap 56, Bowman radioed to Ives that his Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was free on entry. With 13 laps to go in Stage 1, Bowman was running seventh. He would maintain that position through the conclusion of the stage, earning valuable stage points.
Ives called the driver to pit road for four tires, fuel, a track-bar adjustment, an air pressure adjustment and added tape under the stage ending yellow. After a quick stop by the LLumar crew, Bowman gained three spots on pit road and was set to restart fifth on Lap 88. On Lap 105, the 27-year-old driver reported that his car was really tight while running the fifth position. Knowing that tire wear is big at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Ives called Bowman to pit road for a scheduled green-flag pit stop on Lap 121 for four tires, fuel and an adjustment to help the car’s handling. After green flag stops cycled through, Bowman was scored in the sixth position.
On Lap 143, Bowman radioed to Ives that his car was on the splitter taking off. At the conclusion of Stage 2, Ives called the driver to pit road for four tires, fuel, a wedge adjustment, an air pressure adjustment and grille tape. Bowman was set to restart sixth on Lap 168. The LLumar driver was able to maintain the sixth position when the caution was shown with 97 laps to go in the event. Ives, once again, called the driver to pit road for four tires and fuel under the yellow. Bowman restarted in the seventh position with 92 laps to go.
With 67 laps remaining in the 267-lap event, Bowman relayed to Ives that he had no rear grip while running 10th. After losing three additional spots, Ives called the driver to pit road for a scheduled green-flag stop for four tires, fuel and multiple adjustments to help the car’s handling. As green-flag stops cycled through, Bowman was scored in the 10th position with 47 laps to go in the race.
Bowman radioed to Ives with 37 laps to go that his car took off tighter on that run. The LLumar Chevrolet was running 12th when reporting that and continued to get tighter the longer he ran. With 18 laps to go, the driver was scored in the 18th position. He would maintain that position through the conclusion of the event to finish 18th.
Alex Bowman: “We really struggled today. We fought some tough handling conditions all night. The guys worked hard on pit road making adjustments and we had some quick stops. This LLumar Chevy was just off tonight. We will go back to the notebook this week and come back strong in Talladega next weekend.”