Date: May 6, 2018
Race 11 of 36: Dover International Speedway
Track Specs: One-mile oval / 400 laps / 400 miles
Standings (from leader): 18th (-241)
RECAPPING THE RACE:
William Byron and the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team had a solid race on Sunday at Dover International Speedway. Byron finished 14th and was the highest finishing NASCAR Cup Series rookie in the 400-mile race.
Byron took the green flag in 17th Sunday, and he raced inside the top 20 for most of Stage 1. By Lap 3, he was already up to 15th, and before the end of the segment Byron had moved up to 12th, all while battling the handling of the No. 24 Axalta Chevy. He said the race car was tight through the center of the corner and snapped loose under throttle on exit. An uncontrolled tire penalty sent Byron to the rear for the start of Stage 2, but he recovered to jump back inside the top 15 just 48 laps into the segment. He lost a lap to the leader just before the end of Stage 2, taking the green-checkered flag in 15th, but received the free pass for being the first car one lap down to regain his position on the lead lap.
Byron began the final segment still in 15th, though he was one of four drivers to head to pit road during an early caution. He returned to the track on the edge of the top 15 and Byron remained inside the top 15 until Lap 307, when he lost a position while fighting a lack of rear grip with the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet. On Lap 315, a caution flag waved for rain in the area while he was running 16th, and the red flag was displayed shortly thereafter while track drying efforts commenced.
On the other side of the red flag, Byron pushed forward past competitors when the race went green, finding 12th place with 51 laps remaining. He lost a pair of positions before the checkered flag waved, however, finishing 14th. The solid finish helped him gain ground in the season standings, jumping him up two spots to 18th, and he also moved further ahead in the rookie of the year battle, in which he currently holds the top spot.
Jimmie Johnson took the checkered flag ninth, his 24th career top-10 finish at Dover. Chase Elliott joined Johnson and Byron inside the top 15, crossing the line 12th. Alex Bowman started the race at the rear of the field due to inspection issues and finished 23rd.
QUOTING WILLIAM BYRON:
“It was hard for us to get track position. We had a couple of times we had to go to the back, but overall once we got up there it felt like we were a 10th-to-15th kind of day. We kept making the car better, we just needed to end on a short run there on the last run and also have some rubber on the racetrack. Long race – it was good to get all 400 laps in, and hopefully we can definitely come back stronger here in the fall. I think we have a lot of ideas on what to work on, so I’m looking forward to that.”