Date: Nov. 18, 2018
Race 36 of 36: Homestead-Miami Speedway
Track Specs: 1.5-mile oval / 267 laps / 400.5 miles
Standings (from leader): 23rd (-4453)
RECAPPING THE RACE:
In Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, William Byron brought the No. 24 Hertz Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 home with a 24th-place finish after starting the race in 28th.
Byron got to work early in Sunday’s race and was up to 23rd on Lap 8. By Lap 33, the driver of the No. 24 Hertz Chevrolet jumped up another three positions to settle into 21st. Reporting that the Hertz Chevy was a little tight, he came to pit road for a cycle of green-flag stops. After the cycle of stops was complete, he was back to 21st. Byron lost a lap to the leaders as the run continued, radioing that the No. 24 Chevrolet was too tight in the high line in traffic. Still, he was able to move into 20th in the closing laps of Stage 1, finishing the opening segment inside the top 20.
During the stage break, Byron told the No. 24 Hertz crew that the car was too loose on corner entry and exit, but reiterated that in the high line, it was tight in traffic. He brought the Hertz Chevy to pit road during the break for multiple changes, along with four tires and fuel. Byron took the Stage 2 green flag in 21st, and he continued to hold his position over the next several laps. By Lap 124, he had fallen back to 22nd and had lost another lap to the leaders. On a caution for debris with 20 laps remaining in Stage 2, Byron stayed out on track to take the wave-around and get one of his laps back. Now only one lap down, he lined up 22nd for the restart. He was shuffled back three additional spots in the closing laps of the middle segment, but he battled to hold his top-25 position, finishing Stage 2 in 25th.
The Hertz driver brought his No. 24 Chevrolet to pit road on the stage break, asking the crew to free up the car. After a four-tire stop with adjustments, Byron lined up 27th on the Lap 166 restart and steadily climbed up to 22nd by Lap 190 as the changes seemed to improve the handling of the No. 24 Hertz Chevrolet. When a caution occurred on Lap 193, Byron asked the Hertz crew to free up the car again. He lined up 23rd for the Lap 199 restart and gained a spot on the restart, putting him 22nd and in position for the free pass. On Lap 220, he came on the radio to report a flat right-rear tire while running 21st.
After having to make an unscheduled pit stop for the flat tire, Byron rejoined the field in 27th, three laps down. As another round of green-flag pit stops cycled through for the rest of the field, he was able to stay on the track and regain one of his laps. When a caution came out with just 20 laps to go in the 267-lap event, Byron was scored 24th, two laps down. He remained on track to take the wave-around, getting another lap back. He was able to hold onto his position through the closing laps, crossing the stripe 24th in the No. 24 Hertz Chevrolet to mark his final race as a Cup rookie. Byron secured rookie of the year honors for 2018 with a top-10 finish at ISM Raceway last Sunday, Nov. 11.
Chase Elliott led his Hendrick Motorsports teammates to the checkered flag, earning a seventh-place finish. Jimmie Johnson was the next teammate to the checkered flag, finishing 14th, and Alex Bowman followed in 29th.
QUOTING WILLIAM BYRON:
“It was a good effort today, but things didn’t go our way. Overall, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs this season, but it’s been a good learning experience. We’ll get back after it in 2019.”