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      William Byron crowned DAYTONA 500 champion as Axalta flames return to victory lane

      © 2024 Nigel Kinrade / NKP

      William Byron put together the perfect start to 2024 for the No. 24 as he captured the biggest win of his NASCAR Cup Series career. The Axalta driver took the checkered flag in the “Great American Race” to put the No. 24 back in victory lane in the season-opening DAYTONA 500.

      Byron, who is coming off a career-best 2023 campaign in which he earned six wins, wasted no time getting his first victory of 2024 as he took the win under caution after a chaotic final few laps. It was Byron’s 11th career Cup victory and his second at Daytona International Speedway following his 2020 win in the summer race.

      “I have so many emotions,” Byron said after the race. “I’m just so proud of this team, this whole Axalta team. … Now we just want to keep it going. We have a lot to prove this year, and this is a good start, obviously.”

      The victory was also a perfect result to start the year for Hendrick Motorsports, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The organization’s first NASCAR Cup Series start came on Feb. 19, 1984, and now, exactly 40 years later, the team was able to celebrate another win in the “Great American Race.”  The result was Hendrick’s ninth DAYTONA 500 crown and its first since 2014. This was the No. 24 car’s fourth trip to victory lane in the DAYTONA 500, following Jeff Gordon’s 1997, 1999 and 2005 triumphs. Hendrick Motorsports is the first organization to win the event in five different decades.

      “I’m telling you, you couldn’t write this script any better.” team owner Rick Hendrick said in victory lane. “24 in 24. … We win this on our 40th (anniversary) to the day, it’s just… and tied a record now, so that’s awesome.”

      “It’s so cool,” said Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman and the former No. 24 driver. “What this is going to do for this team, for Axalta, and all of our partners, and William Byron. He was already a superstar. He just went to another level of being a superstar. I wasn’t driving the car but I felt like I was making every lap with him out there. It’s crazy to watch these guys do what they do and do it so well. And to watch it from this side of it it makes me so happy, so proud. We’re going to celebrate. This is an amazing win, huge win.”