Date: June 10, 2018
Race 15 of 36: Michigan International Speedway
Track Specs: Two-mile speedway / 133 laps / 266 miles
Standings (from leader): 20th (-387)
RECAPPING THE RACE:
While rain both delayed the start and caused the early ending of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway, it couldn’t dampen the spirit of the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team. William Byron finished just outside the top 10 in 13th in what he described as “the best car we’ve had all year.”
The inclement weather caused a two-and-a-half-hour delay at the start of Sunday’s race at Michigan, but once the green flag waved, it was clear that Byron had a fast No. 24 Liberty University Chevy. The 20-year-old driver began the race 14th, but by the second lap he was already up to eighth. When the yellow flag waved on Lap 25 for the competition caution, Byron was still in eighth and radioed to the Liberty crew that his Chevrolet was tight from the center to the exit of the corner. After coming to pit road for four tires, fuel and minor adjustments, he rejoined the field in seventh for the restart. He moved up to sixth a lap later, but through another caution cycle, he lost a handful of spots. When the third caution of the race occurred on Lap 56, Byron was running 12th. The caution set up a one-lap shootout to the end of Stage 1, and Byron gained four spots before the green-checkered flag waved. He finished the opening stage in eighth to pick up three extra points.
In Stage 2, Byron again jumped up to sixth early in the segment. When the yellow flag waved on Lap 85, he was running eighth. Crew chief Darian Grubb opted for a two-tire stop during the caution to help Byron maintain his track position. Byron restarted eighth, but slowly lost ground until he settled into 11th on Lap 103. He reported that the tight handling condition he had been battling on the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 had worsened following the two-tire stop. Still, just before taking the green-checkered flag, he inched ahead of another competitor into 10th place to earn another extra point at the end of Stage 2.
When the final segment got underway, Byron lined up seventh, but lost position on the restart as the No. 24 Chevy fired off looser than he expected. He fell to 13th before a caution flag waved just four laps later with rain looming. Shortly thereafter, a red flag was displayed and the race was called on Lap 133 of the scheduled 200-lap distance due to the weather, giving Byron a 13th-place result.
Chase Elliott was leading his Hendrick Motorsports teammates at the end of the rain-shortened event, taking home a ninth-place result. Alex Bowman crossed the stripe in 16th and Jimmie Johnson in 20th.
QUOTING WILLIAM BYRON:
“I think that is the best car we have had this year. We were able to run top seven or top eight. We still need to work on a few things with the front of our car, but I think overall, we really had a good balance and really just seemed to hold on pretty good. I wanted some longer runs, but it was a pretty good race for us. I knew the car was going to be solid today and it’s a lot of fun when it’s that way.
“I feel like the last two weeks we have been about a seventh- to 10th-place car, so we’ve just got to finish them off, but I think we know kind of what we need to do there. Disappointing we couldn’t get a top-10, but overall we ran really well.”