Date: March 11, 2018
Race 4 of 36: ISM Raceway
Track Specs: One-mile oval / 312 laps / 312 miles
Standings (from leader): 21st (-100)
RECAPPING THE RACE:
Sunday's race at ISM Raceway marked rookie William Byron's best finish in the NASCAR Cup Series to date. Byron qualified well, led 15 laps during the 312-lap race, and brought the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 home just outside of the top 10.
Starting Sunday's race 11th, Byron battled a tight handling condition on his No. 24 Axalta Chevy for much of Stage 1, but remained on the lead lap and inside the top 20 to finish the segment in 18th. After restarting 19th for Stage 2, Byron worked his way up to 16th when a caution occurred on Lap 123. During the caution period, No. 24 team crew chief Darian Grubb elected to have Byron take two tires when most competitors took four, allowing Byron to jump from outside the top 15 all the way into the top 10 for a restart on Lap 127.
Byron held his top-10 position until a caution with four laps to go in Stage 2. He was among the leaders heading to pit road while some competitors stayed out, leaving Byron to finish Stage 2 in 15th. He took the green flag for the final segment back inside the top 10 in ninth, and during a caution early in the segment, the No. 24 team elected to take two tires once again. The strategy put Byron in the lead for the ensuing restart, and he held it to pace the field for 15 laps before losing the lead to competitors with four fresh tires.
Once the competitors with four tires made their way around Byron, he settled into 10th. He made his final stop of the race under green on Lap 253. After the cycle of green-flag pit stops was complete, Byron was running 12th. With 20 laps to go, he had moved up to 11th. He lost one position before the checkered flag waved, finishing 12th. Byron was the top finishing rookie in the race.
Chase Elliott took the checkered flag third to lead his Hendrick Motorsports teammates to the stripe at the Arizona track, pushing Hendrick Motorsports' streak to 13 consecutive races at ISM Raceway with at least one top-10 finish. The track is one of six different venues where the organization has an active streak of at least 10 consecutive races with a top-10 finish. Byron's other teammates finished back-to-back behind him, with Alex Bowman in 13th and Jimmie Johnson in 14th.
QUOTING WILLIAM BYRON:
"I think the two tires worked for us near the end of the race. The way our car was handling, we were really tight all day and we couldn't really get that out of it. But, the middle stage of the race we started running closer to the top 10 - ninth or 10th, I think - and that was the perfect call at the time. I was a little unsure if it was going to work out just because we had done it already one time. But, it worked out - we could kind of keep some clean air and I think that was a net gain for sure. I think leading on that run just showed myself that I can do those restarts up there and I know I have the pace to run up there until our handling kind of took over. But if we can really start to hone in on what we need a little better, we are going to be right there. It's going to take a little bit of work, but it was fun to at least be up front a little bit."