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      William Byron overcomes early troubles to claim career-best finish in Kansas

      © 2023 Nigel Kinrade / NKP

      Start: 1st
      Finish: 3rd

      Making contact with the wall early on in NASCAR Cup Series practice Saturday, William Byron and the No. 24 team didn’t let that slow them down, setting the fastest lap in qualifying at Kansas Speedway. Starting Sunday’s race from the pole, Byron led the opening couple laps of the race. However, on lap 3, the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 jumped loose down the backstretch forcing Byron into the wall with the right rear fender and dropping him back to fourth. Just one lap later though the caution came out allowing Byron to line up third for the restart. Once the field went back green and the run continued, the handling of Byron’s Chevy remained on the extreme loose side, dropping him back to eighth by lap 25. Needing an adjustment, crew chief Rudy Fugle called his driver down pit road under green on lap 36 for four fresh tires, fuel and both a round of chassis and air pressure adjustments. Unfortunately though, Byron was given a speeding penalty and had to complete a pass-thru penalty – also under green-flag conditions. Once green-flag pit stops had fully cycled through, Byron was scored in 32nd, one lap down to the leaders. Still fighting a loose race car as the stage continued, Byron tried to make up track position as best he could. On lap 71 though he radioed that he had a vibration after tagging the wall again and needed to come down pit road, also under green, for four tires and fuel, ultimately losing another lap to the leaders in the process. Returning to the track a few laps before the end of the opening stage, Byron crossed the line on lap 80 in the 34th spot, two laps down. Talking through options, the crew decided to use the stage break as a chance to make repairs. Electing to pit twice, Byron came down pit road the first time for right-side tires, a chassis adjustment and damage repairs and returned the next lap for left-side tires and fuel.

      After making those two pit stops during the stage one break, Byron restarted at the tail-end of the field for the second stage. As a green-flag run ensued, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native radioed that his handling was a bit better but still needed work. He was able to race his way up to what would be 19th on track despite being scored 31st, two laps down. On lap 108 the caution flag came out again, allowing Fugle to make the strategy call to not pit and take the “wave around” to get one of their laps back. Going back green on lap 113, Byron did his best to hold out on old tires in hopes that a caution would come out. Unfortunately though, just 16 laps later without the luck of a caution, Byron had to come down pit road under green for four tires and fuel. Returning to the track, now three laps down, Byron used the fresher tires to race his way around the leader to get one of his laps back before the caution came out on lap 138. Once again being eligible to take the wave around, Byron did not pit under the caution, getting another lap back. Scored 32nd, one lap down, when the field went back green, Byron did his best to hold his ground. Luckily the yellow flag came out a few laps later with Byron the first car one lap down. Being the beneficiary of the “lucky dog,” Byron and the No. 24 team found themselves back on the lead lap before the end of stage two. Knowing they would have to start at the tail end of the field again, Fugle made the call for four scuff tires and fuel during the caution to save an extra set of sticker tires for later. Restarting with 12 laps remaining in stage two, Byron methodically worked his way through traffic reaching 25th by the time the caution came out on lap 159. Using the same strategy as the leaders, Byron came down pit road under the yellow for four tires, fuel and another round of chassis and air pressure adjustments. Lining up 22nd on the restart, Byron grabbed two positions before the caution came out, signaling the end of the stage.

      Once again utilizing the same pit strategy as the leaders, Byron stayed out during the stage break, allowing him to restart 11th for the final stint of the race. On the restart, Byron was able to maneuver himself to eighth but slid back to 11th by the time the caution came out on lap 190. Fugle called the No. 24 down pit road for four tires and fuel with the crew breaking out a fast stop, gaining Byron six positions. With some cars electing not to pit, Byron chose the high lane on the restart, lining up 10th. Showing the same speed he had at the beginning of the race, Byron propelled himself inside the top-five running order as the green-flag run continued. With 60 laps to go, the yellow flag once again was displayed, allowing Byron to come down pit road for four tires, fuel and a small air pressure adjustment. Once again, the No. 24 pit crew got the job done, picking up three positions for their driver. Restarting fifth, the 25-year-old darted his way through traffic, re-taking the lead on lap 213. However, two laps later the caution came out, re-stacking the field for another restart. Lining up on the front row, Byron battled to maintain the lead but ultimately slid into the second position, still within striking distance. As the run continued, the handling of Byron’s No. 24 Chevy swung to the loose side again, dropping him back to third. Adjusting his line with only a handful of laps left, Byron was able to maintain his position, scoring a third-place finish Sunday.

      © 2023 Gavin Baker / NKP

      Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson was leading heading into the final turn of the final lap Sunday at Kansas Speedway but was moved out of the way, scoring a runner-up finish Sunday. Byron was close behind, rallying to a third-place result. Chase Elliott also scored a top-10 finish at Kansas, coming home in seventh. However, Josh Berry, who is filling in for the injured Alex Bowman, was involved in an on-track incident that resulted in a 25th-place finish.

      William Byron: “It was an amazing effort by our No. 24 Liberty University Chevy team. We all but wrecked twice, went three laps down and came back to finish third – it’s just incredible. It’s just a testament to the strength of this race team. The tail wasn’t exactly right there at the end. It was knocked over and the car was really loose towards the end of any longer run. A tough situation, but really happy with that effort. Just a great job by this whole Liberty University Chevy team. They gave us a really hard fight, so good to come home third.”

      Hendrick Motorsports