By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
William Byron may have trailed playoff rival Jimmie Johnson at the checkered flag Sunday at Dover International Speedway, but it was a net gain for driver No. 24.
Following a dreadful opening race of the Dover doubleheader weekend on Saturday (finishing 28th, three laps down), Byron and his Hendrick Motorsports crew reversed the fate in Sunday’s Drydene 311, coming home fourth.
The result was his first top five of 2020, and most importantly, closed the point gap to teammate Johnson, going from 11 points below the playoff cutline to four as they enter the regular season finale next week at Daytona International Speedway.
“It was like a completely different race car and completely different race for us today compared to yesterday,” Byron said. “We had the Axalta Chevy doing the things we wanted it to do on most runs. It just felt good out there.”
Starting 23rd, Byron was on full power in his fight toward the front. Finishing third in Stage 1, Byron maintained his track position to finish sixth in Stage 2.
In fact, in stage points alone, Byron picked up an additional eight points on Johnson, who finished eighth and ninth in the stages, respectively.
“I knew at the beginning of the race that we were keeping pace with the No. 19 the No. 11. As soon as we got the track position, we were able to stay up there,” he said. “I think we were a little bit behind though since we really didn’t have a notebook from yesterday. I think if we had another race at it, we would run a bit better.”
With his playoff hopes lying on the high banks of Daytona in six days, Byron can only hope for the best. However, a day like Sunday at Dover makes it just that much easier.
“Overall, this is good for our Axalta team,” he said. “Now we’re going to Daytona where it’s going to be insane. I don’t think you can really points race. It’s going to be a race to be as aggressive as you can and hope things fall your way.”