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      William Byron nabs track-best finish at Darlington to extend top-10 streak

      © 2021 Rusty Jarrett / NKP

      Start: 5th
      Finish: 4th
      Standings: 3rd

      Beginning Sunday’s race at Darlington Raceway from the fifth position, William Byron fought the handling of his No. 24 Valvoline Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE early on in the race before methodically progressing his way through the field. Scoring stage points in both of the opening stages, Byron raced his way to the fourth position in the final laps of the event, scoring a top-five result – his 10th consecutive top-10 result of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.

      Starting fifth for Sunday’s 293-lap event at Darlington Raceway, Byron settled into the top-10 running order until the caution came out on Lap 23. Fighting a tight-handling No. 24 Valvoline Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, Byron came down pit road for four tires, fuel and both an air pressure and chassis adjustment. Restarting ninth, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native gained one position before returning to pit road, this time under green, for four tires, fuel and another round of air pressure and chassis adjustments. With the remainder of the opening stage going green, Byron continued to run within the top 10, crossing the finish line in ninth at the end of Stage 1. Needing a little help on the entry to Turn 1, Byron came down pit road under the stage break for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment.

      © 2021 Matthew T. Thacker / NKP

      Restarting seventh for the start of Stage 2, Byron survived a string of back-to-back cautions, before coming down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Lining up eighth, Byron got a stellar restart, moving up to the fifth position before ultimately taking over the fourth position on Lap 125. 16 laps later, crew chief Rudy Fugle called the No. 24 down pit road under green for four tires and fuel. Picking up two positions on pit road, Byron rejoined the field in second and continued to run in that position until the final 20 laps of the stage. Slipping back to third, Byron maintained his position until the green-checkered flag was displayed to signal the end of Stage 2. Under the stage break, Byron came down pit road to the attention of his team for four tires, fuel and both an air pressure and chassis adjustment once again.

      Lining up fourth for the start of the final stage, Byron reported that his No. 24 Valvoline Throwback Chevy was on the tight side of the spectrum. As the run continued, Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson got around Byron for the fourth position before he came down pit road for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustment shortly afterwards. As green-flag pit stops cycled through, Byron was running in the sixth position, and maintained that spot until green-flag pit stops began once again. Coming to the attention of his pit crew for the final time during Sunday’s race on Lap 254, Byron got four tires, fuel and one final round of air pressure and chassis adjustments. Once pit stops cycled through, Byron’s team had picked up two positions, moving him up inside the top-five running order once again. With a long green-flag run ensuing, Byron maintained his position for the remaining laps, ultimately crossing the finish line in the fourth position – a track-best result for Byron at the southern short track.

      Kyle Larson led the Hendrick Motorsports organization to the finish Sunday at Darlington Raceway, crossing the line with a runner-up result followed by Byron in the fourth position. Chase Elliott scored a seventh-place finish Sunday while Alex Bowman crossed the finish line in 17th after a late-race unscheduled pit stop.

      William Byron: “I thought we were pretty solid all day. We fell back to eighth or ninth early in the race and we were just too loose. We didn’t really have the car fully connected yet, but we just got it better and better. The long runs were still kind of our weakness. We weren’t super strong on long runs; we were just kind of a fourth-place car. But to finish fourth is good for us. Tenth top 10 in a row is awesome. I think our team is just super consistent this year. That’s a credit to Rudy (Fugle, Crew Chief) and the guys preparing awesome cars and executing well. We just have to find that little bit to kind of get with the 5 (Kyle Larson) and the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.). We’re there at times, but we can’t really kind of break that seal, which is hard. We just have to continue to build the notebook. It’s Rudy and I’s first time going to these tracks, so I feel like there’s a lot of room to go still. But we’re doing great.”

      You’re getting a lot of stage points too. Should we read something into that? 
      “I think it just shows the strength of the car, our team, our communication, all those things. If you’re running fifteenth all day and you finish in the top-five, it might feel nice, but it doesn’t really show much points-wise, etc. I feel like for us to run where we finish all day is impressive and that’s what the good teams do, and I feel like we’re in that mix. We’re in that fourth to sixth range right now, so we just kind of have to break that seal to get into the top two or three, which I think it’s pretty obvious which cars those are. We’re getting close.”

      Via Hendrick Motorsports