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      William Byron scores runner-up finish in Texas

      © 2021 Gavin Baker / NKP

      Rolling off 12th in the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for Sunday afternoon’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, William Byron went to work on moving himself to the front of the field. Fighting a slightly snug race car, Byron powered his way to fourth by the time the competition caution came out on lap 25. Wanting to use pit strategy to gain crucial track position, crew chief Rudy Fugle made the call to bring his driver down pit road for two left-side tires and fuel under the yellow. Winning the race off pit road, Byron restarted as the leader when the field went back green. He maintained his position until just under 30 laps to go in the opening stage as his tires began to wear. Byron was able to continue to run second until coming down pit road under green with 11 laps left in Stage 1 for a splash of fuel. As varying pit strategies began to play out, Byron was able to race his way back to fifth by the time the green-checkered flag flew. Racing on 105-lap right-side tires, Fugle called the driver of the No. 24 down pit road under the stage break for four tires, fuel and both an air pressure and chassis adjustment.

      Restarting in the third position for the start of Stage 2, Byron quickly went to work on regaining the runner-up position on track. Doing just that, Byron ran in leader Kyle Larson’s tracks for most of the remainder of the stage until the caution came out on lap 165. During the caution, the 23-year-old driver came down pit road for four tires, fuel and a slight air pressure adjustment. Lining up in third for the ensuing restart, Byron regained second pretty quickly before radioing to the team that he was happy with the setup of his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE as the run went on. Picking up debris on the grille as the end of Stage 2 grew closer, Byron was able to keep his track position under green before ultimately crossing the stripe in second-place for the end of Stage 2. Under the stage break, Byron came down pit road for four tires, fuel and to add tape to the grille.

      Lining up once again alongside Larson, this time for the start of the final stage, Byron radioed early on in the run that he was feeling a small vibration. However, as the run went on, he mentioned that the vibration was starting to get better and he was able to remain on track until the caution came out on 276 just as green-flag pit stops were beginning. Under the yellow, Fugle called his driver down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Lining up second again for the restart, Byron battled with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate through a string of cautions late in the going that occurred every couple laps, slowing overall momentum. After slight contact with a competitor on track caused a left rear tire rub, Byron was able to maintain his position before the final restart of the race with two laps to go. Restarting on the front row, Byron tried to power the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE to the top spot, but unfortunately didn’t have quite enough, scoring a track-best second-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway – his 18th top-10 result of the 2021 season.

      © 2021 Matthew T. Thacker / NKP

      Kyle Larson captured his eighth points-paying win of the 2021 Cup Series season, locking himself into the Championship 4 already. Byron crossed the stripe close behind in the second position. Meanwhile, Chase Elliott scored a top-10 result at Texas in seventh-place. Unfortunately, Alex Bowman was collected in an early on-track incident, scoring a 33rd-place finish.

      William Byron: “Our Axalta Chevy was fast all day. We just never quite got control. I think he (Kyle Larson) was definitely better than us in that first Stage. And then I was right there with him the rest of the time and it was just clean air, basically. But congrats to those guys. Kyle really deserves it. They’ve been awesome all year and flawless on pit road; and pit calls and everything. Our team is right there and I think we’re building something really good for years to come.

      “We’re here to stay. Rudy (Fugle, Crew Chief) is going to be in it for a long time, I feel like, and we’ve got a good team; a good young team, myself included, so I feel like we can do a lot of good things. I saw that last week. Just didn’t finish it off with the contact there, but yeah this week we had a pretty good run and had a shot at a win.”

      Via Hendrick Motorsports