Date: July 1, 2018
Race 16 of 36: Chicagoland Speedway
Track Specs: 1.5-mile tri-oval / 267 laps / 400 miles
Standings (from leader): 21st (-430)
RECAPPING THE RACE:
William Byron and the No. 24 UniFirst University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team produced a hard-fought 20th-place finish in the rookie’s first NASCAR Cup Series outing at Chicagoland Speedway.
After a pair of practice sessions early in the day on Saturday, Byron and the Darian Grubb-led crew later went on to advance to the final round of qualifying that same evening and, for the second week in a row, solidified an eighth-place starting position.
After taking the green flag for the 267-lap event, Byron was quickly shuffled outside the top 10 as he battled the handling of his No. 24 Camaro. By Lap 10, he had fallen outside of the top 15 and communicated to his team that his UniFirst Chevrolet was tightening up in the turns. Byron was running 18th when the race’s first round of pit stops began under green-flag conditions and, once the field cycled through, he found himself in the 16th position thanks to speedy work by his pit crew and the adjustments that they made. Byron was able to maintain his running position and closed out Stage 1 in 16th.
Prior to starting the second stage, Grubb brought the green-and-white Camaro to pit road for more adjustments in hopes of alleviating the continued tight-handling condition. The pit crew’s fast feet and flawless execution placed Byron 13th for the Stage 2 restart. But after the completion of the first half of the second stage and a pit stop under caution, Byron found himself running in the 18th position. Despite slipping to 22nd on Lap 140, Byron was able to notch a few spots to finish Stage 2 in 19th.
In the race’s final segment, Byron took the green flag 17th and fell to 22nd when a timely caution slowed the field with 100 laps remaining. Needing to turn better through the corners, Grubb called the UniFirst Chevrolet to pit road for routine service that included more adjustments. Byron restarted 18th and made quick work of those around him as he netted three spots by Lap 196. He moved to 20th an Lap 200 and picked up one position before crossing the finish line 19th.
Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman earned a top-10 finish, while Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott finished 14th and 19th, respectively.
QUOTING WILLIAM BYRON:
“Yeah, just fought tight the whole day and felt like we got a little bit on the other side of it but it didn’t really help us out much. But, we had good pit stops and a couple of good things to hang on to. So, now we’ll go to Daytona.”