CONCORD, N.C. -- The Daytona 500 last weekend was filled with plenty of action for the pole sitter, William Byron. The driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was able to lead the pack a total of 44 laps, and with a race at Atlanta Motor Speedway this Sunday, he’s looking to last weekend’s success in hopes of carrying it with the No. 24 team.
The confidence Byron gained in Daytona had him feeling good about the end of Speedweeks.
“Obviously qualifying on the pole was a good accomplishment for us, it kind of set us up for the weekend,” Byron said on SiriusXM Wednesday. “We were able to approach everything differently.”
Ultimately, a late-race multiple-car incident ended the No. 24 team’s race early last Sunday and Byron was scored 21st in “The Great American Race.”
With so much going on throughout Speedweeks, from qualifying and practices to The Clash, Duels and finally Daytona 500, Byron was grateful for what new No. 24 team crew chief Chad Knaus was able to provide to the team.
“I felt like Chad just really did such a great job of keeping me focused and allowing me to just focus on driving the car,” Byron said. “He wasn’t ever asking me about setup changes or really any uncertainty on his end. So, that helps a lot as a driver, just to know that you’re hopping in a car that you’ve talked about what you feel like you needed to have in the car and that they are going to go out there and try to get that for you.”
As the driver-crew chief duo competed in its first race together, the pair had a whirlwind of obstacles thrown at them. For Knaus, he wants nothing more than to see the No. 24 Chevy in Victory Lane this year and continues to push Byron to make that goal a reality.
“I think it’s an accurate assumption that he does demand excellence and I think that’s what you want – it’s what you go to a racetrack for,” Byron said of Knaus. “We don’t go there to run second. So, I think that’s one thing we’ve had conversations about, really the detail that goes into preparing for a race like that every weekend, not only the Daytona 500, but every weekend. That’s going to continue for us. That helps you a lot as a driver going in there with preparation and not having to worry about the unknown.”
Byron and the No. 24 team have put in many hours to prepare for the 2019 season. While the season opener left Byron with an unfortunate multiple-car incident, Speedweeks as a whole left the driver feeling good about a strong start to his sophomore Cup Series campaign.
“Yeah, that’s an exciting feeling,” Byron said. “And obviously it’s part of a lot of hard work that our team has put in through the offseason and that I’ve put in. It just kind of culminates in leading laps and things like that.”
Looking ahead to Atlanta, the second race of the season will be the first race of its kind with NASCAR’s new rules package. It creates a challenge not only for Byron but all the drivers competing this weekend.
“Atlanta is a definite curveball I think for everyone in the Cup Series,” Byron said. “So, I can’t really give an expectation of how were going to run even if we get through that first practice. I think it’s going to be a challenging weekend and something we can capitalize on the adversity and the different rules and see what happens.”
Among the many unknown aspects of the race this weekend, one challenge that persists is the tire durability.
“The tires just degrade every lap and you kind of have to keep up with that and adapt your driving style now that the car and track is changing,” Byron said. “It’s a very unpredictable surface and I feel like it’s constantly moving around and you’ve got to search for the grip.”
The unpredictable Atlanta race will be followed by the West Coast swing in Nevada, Arizona and California. Entering that daunting stretch of the 2019 campaign, Byron hopes he will begin to know the areas the team needs to improve on for the remainder of the season.
“I think once we get through Atlanta and get another race under our belt on a fairly normal racetrack, we can kind of see from there what we need to work on,” he said.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun this year. I’m looking forward to what we can do on the No. 24 team.”
Tune in this Sunday, Feb. 24, at 2 p.m. ET on FOX as Byron and the rest of the Cup Series take on Atlanta.