Date: June 24, 2018
Race 16 of 36: Sonoma Raceway
Track Specs: 1.99-mile road course / 110 laps / 218.9 miles
Standings (from leader): 20th (-407)
RECAPPING THE RACE:
William Byron and the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team had a solid weekend at Sonoma Raceway in the rookie’s first NASCAR Cup Series road course event. Byron was the top finishing Cup rookie in Sunday’s 110-lap race, coming home with a top-25 finish.
Byron pulled double duty during the Sonoma, California, race weekend, driving the No. 27 Liberty University Chevy in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West (NKNPSW) race on Saturday in addition to his primary No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet in the Cup race on Sunday. He qualified well in both series, starting second for the NKNPSW race in which he earned a third-place finish, and rolling off the grid in eighth for Sunday’s Cup race.
When the Cup race got underway, Byron was soon shuffled outside the top 10 as he battled the handling of his No. 24 Camaro. By Lap 12, he had fallen to 15th and he lost additional track position over the next nine laps. Byron was running 24th when the first round of green-flag pit stops began just before the end of Stage 1. Crew chief Darian Grubb opted to have Byron stay on track until the first segment ended on Lap 25, so Byron ended Stage 1 inside the top 15 in 14th.
The competitors who pitted under green near the end of the first segment were able to stay out during the stage break, so after coming to pit road for four tires, fuel and adjustments, Byron restarted in 28th for Stage 2. When a caution flag waved on Lap 34, the driver of the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet had moved up to 25th. This time, Grubb called for Byron to pit under green near the end of the second segment, so Byron came to pit road for another round of four tires, fuel and adjustments. The pit stop relegated the driver to a 30th-place finish in the second segment, but ultimately worked in his favor as after his competitors made their pit stops, Byron was able to restart in 12th for the final stage.
During the final segment, Byron continued to battle a tight handling condition on his Liberty University Camaro, and by Lap 68, he had fallen to 21st. The next round of green-flag pit stops began on Lap 70, so Byron continued to advance his position as his competitors hit pit road. He moved up to 15th before coming to pit road for a four-tire stop of his own on Lap 80. Unfortunately, the No. 24 team received a pass-through penalty for an uncontrolled tire during the stop, which caused Byron to lose a lap upon serving the penalty and he rejoined the field in 29th with just 28 laps to go. He continued to battle over the final laps, picking up four spots to earn a 25th-place finish.
Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman earned Hendrick Motorsports a pair of top-10 finishes. Elliott led the way for the organization at the 1.99-mile road course, taking the checkered flag in fourth. Bowman followed in ninth, while Jimmie Johnson just missed the top 10, finishing 11th.
QUOTING WILLIAM BYRON:
“I felt like the biggest thing was just trying to learn the racetrack. The first run was really tough and after that I felt like our pace got a little bit better and improved. If I could have started the weekend where I finished the race (handling-wise), I feel like I have a much better idea what I needed. Now, we will go back and write some notes to see how we can improve for the next road course race.”