September 30, 2023

William Byron’s Atlanta NASCAR Cup victory has Hendrick, the 24 celebrating like it’s 2014

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Byron has Hendrick, the 24 Partying Like 2014Icon Sportswire – Getty Images

Hendrick Motorsports Vice Chairman Jeff Gordon walked into the facility the day after Christmas last year expecting to see no one, but to Gordon’s surprise, crew chief Rudy Fugle was at work in his office.

Gordon immediately told Fugle, “If you work, you’re in for a good year.”

They both laughed, but so far Gordon’s prophecy has proved true.

Fugle and his driver William Byron now have four wins to lead the season, with their fourth coming Sunday night in the rain-shortened Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The win marks the first time the No. 24 Chevrolet has recorded so many wins in a season since Gordon drove it in 2014.

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William Byron leads the Cup Series with four wins this season.Alex Slitz – Getty Images

Also, in the last 10 races, Byron has had two wins, five top-fives and eight top-10 finishes. With seven races remaining in the regular season, Byron leads the drivers’ standings, with a 21-point lead over second-place Martin Truex Jr.

Gordon believes Byron and Fugle show the same dedication and commitment to their craft and that “radiates throughout the team”.

“If someone sees others putting in the extra effort, they don’t want to be the weak link,” says Gordon. “I think we always knew William had the talent. It was just about getting experience as a young driver racing at this level, getting him to someone who believes in him and delivers the car.”

Byron says Fugle is good for him because he is a “no nonsense” person.

“They’re just facts,” says Byron. ‘I don’t have to worry about him. He just shoots me right. He just talks about what we need to do better, and I feel like that works really well for me because I’m honestly similar.

“Personally, we keep up with each other, but we don’t hang around to get beer. But we’ve certainly grown closer on that side. I think we just work really well in a professional sense.”

Byron had to overcome a one lap deficit to win Sunday night’s race, which was shortened from 260 to 185 laps due to rain. His eighth career win was the 2,000th for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Ironically, it was Gordon in the No. 24 that gave the tire manufacturer its 1,000th win in the series.

McDowell runs on fumes

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Michael McDowell played the rain game almost perfectly on Sunday night.Icon Sportswire – Getty Images

With rain at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday night, Michael McDowell knew he had to bet on fuel economy if he wanted to finish his first top-five and fifth top-10 this season.

However, if NASCAR hadn’t called the cars to pit when it did, McDowell’s top-5 finish probably would have evaporated in the steamy Georgia night.

“With two (laps) to go, I had to flip the switch to reserve,” said McDowell. “We probably had one or two pace laps left from reserve. It never tripped or ran out of fuel, but I started to lose a little fuel pressure. So we were close.”

NASCAR drivers go to Slinger Nationals

William Byron didn’t take much time to celebrate his Sunday night victory in the Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Less than 24 hours after winning the rain-shortened race, Byron and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott, who finished 13th in Atlanta, headed to Slinger Super Speedway in Wisconsin for the 11 Slinger Nationals super late model event July.

Erik Jones, who placed 11th at Atlanta, also competed in the quarter-mile event, as did Wisconsin native and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Ty Majeski.

NASCAR Hall of Fame member Matt Kenseth, who is an eight-time Slinger Nationals champion, is about to challenge for another title.

Byron won the prestigious short track event in 2022 and Majeski in 2018 and 2020.

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AJ Allmendinger achieved his best finish of the 2023 cup season on Sunday.Icon Sportswire – Getty Images

Allmendinger takes third place in chaotic racing

AJ Allmendinger’s third-place finish in the rain-shortened Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway was his best performance this season, but the intense, chaotic racing that took place was not something he enjoyed.

“Sometimes I’d rather watch it than be in it, but it’s the nature of this breed’s beast,” Allmendinger said. “That’s why I always say I hate it with all the passion in my life, but I’m still going to try and go wide and go for the win because I hate losing even more .

“The car I had today made it a bit fun because I didn’t have to hold my breath and be on the edge. My car was stable and I could make movements. Sometimes there are moves where you hold your breath and hope
you can get through the rest of the corner.”

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