CONCORD, N.C. -- Rudy Fugle’s first taste of NASCAR Cup Series action began with the Clash at the DATYONA Road Course last week, which kicked off Speedweeks for the DAYTONA 500. Hendrick Motorsports’ newest crew chief helped guide William Byron to a fifth-place finish in the Clash, despite suffering from a flat rear tire early in the exhibition.
Fugle handled the moment well; his calls throughout the race allowed Byron to rally and place fifth, his best finish at the road course. However, Fugle wasn’t happy with how the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE handled on the course and said the team has been working on the car to make it smoother for Byron.
“We just need to get a little bit more of a pace and work on our tire fall off,” Fugle explained. “I feel like we fell off too quick in the Clash and we need to make it handle a little bit better for this weekend.”
Byron is entering his fourth season in the Cup Series after spending time with Fugle in the Truck Series in 2016. Given Byron doesn’t have a dirt or road racing background and placed eighth at the road course last year and fifth in the Clash, Fugle is impressed with how the 23-year-old has fared on the twisting road courses.
“He’s become a good road racer,” he said. “There’s a lot of talented road racers here at Hendrick Motorsports. The cars are good, the baseline setups are good, so we’ve got a really good foundation to work with. He’s done a great job getting better and working on his craft. I expect a good race this weekend.”
Fugle will rely on Byron’s experience and their come-from-behind top-five finish the Clash to set the parameters for the upcoming DAYTONA Road Course race. While the fifth-place result is impressive for the first-year Cup Series crew chief, he knows the team can finish even higher if the race runs smoothly.
“I’m looking forward to a second chance to end the race a little bit more uneventfully and with less adversity,” Fugle said. “We can be straight up, straight forward, hopefully have a good car, and get a shot for a win.”
Tune in to see Fugle and Byron in action at the DAYTONA Road Course this Sunday. The race will start at 3 p.m. ET and be broadcast on FOX.