McSwain Left With “Very Humbling Experience” in First Crew Chief Bid with Byron in 2024

By Cole Cusumano, Staff Writer

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Things didn’t go quite according to plan for Hendrick Motorsports and their NASCAR Xfinity Series program at Phoenix Raceway in the Call Every Dig. Every Time 200.

Optimism was through the roof entering the weekend for the powerhouse organization in search of their first developmental series win since 2009, after William Byron was tabbed to run the infamous No. 17 Chevrolet Camaro SS at the track he won at in the NASCAR Cup Series just one year ago.

Along for the win in the desert with Byron was lead engineer on the No. 24 team Brandon McSwain, who was also atop the pit box as his crew chief for the 200-lap event in what was one-of-four races scheduled for the duo in 2024.

The No. 17 team started Saturday’s festivities on a high note, posting the eighth-fastest speed in practice. However, any feelings of comfort in their car quickly went away after Byron qualified 28th for the main event.

When the first caution of the day flew on Lap 5, Byron had already picked up eight spots. From there, the 26-year-old made an impressive charge up to 11th by the end of Stage One, which is also where he finished in the second segment.

Unfortunately, with 55 laps remaining, Byron succumbed to right-front damage after getting caught up in a 11-car wreck on the backstretch while running ninth. 

This led to Byron and McSwain finishing the race three laps down in 23rd.

“Very humbling experience,” McSwain told Kickin’ the Tires. “Obviously, the day didn’t go quite how we wanted – not starting as far forward as we thought, but we kind of made our way forward.

“I think if we wouldn’t have gotten caught up in the accident, it would have been a better result than it was. I think it could have been top-five easily. I appreciate all the hard work everyone did back in the shop and here at the track.”

McSwain first started working with Byron back in 2017, where he was an engineer on his championship-winning team at JR Motorsports. He was there for all of his Xfinity wins – including one at Phoenix – as well as his eight at the Cup level after making the jump to the sport’s premier series in 2019.

While many are calling this McSwain’s crew chief debut with Byron, he actually called the shots in 2017 for the then 19-year-old at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where they also got involved in a wreck and finished 25th.

Although finishing 23rd may be an improvement from their first race working together in a driver-crew chief dynamic, they’ll look to contend for wins in their next three starts this season in Xfinity beginning with Darlington Raceway on May 11.

Greg Ives, who will be the crew chief of the No. 17 for six races between Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Boris Said, served as McSwain’s “second-hand” in his first race back as crew chief.

With 15 combined Cup and Xfinity wins of his own under his belt as a crew chief, Ives thought his teammate did a good job and is excited for his future with Hendrick Motorsports.

“I think with everything you do for your first time, you have room to make improvements,” Ives told Kickin’ the Tires. “But you know, every situation he was in was really the first time for it. I thought he did good. 

“We have some work to do with the team and the pit crew, the road crew, all that stuff. A lot of new guys, new faces, and we’re just, utilizing this team to develop. Yeah, we want to win and win every time we come out, but we also want to develop future champions, mechanics, car chiefs and engineers.”

For McSwain and Byron, focus immediately shifts to the Shriners Children’s 500, where they’ll roll off fifth for the Cup race in hopes of replicating their race-winning performance at Phoenix one year ago.

“I thought it gave us a good read of what the track’s going to do for tomorrow,” McSwain concluded. “For me, it’s trying to understand the migration of the rubber, and how you play it down, and how the balance goes on. Definitely very blessed for the opportunity, but I’m ready to do it again.”

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