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William Byron Overcomes Overheating, Beer Can in Air Filter to Finish 10th at Las Vegas

William Byron trash bag Las Vegas beer can in air filter 2024 NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400

Photo by Jim Fluharty/HHP for Chevy Racing

William Byron had a really fast No. 24 Z by HP Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but a rogue trash bag found the front end of his race car while he was leading the race, and eventually pegged the engine’s water temperature to over 350 degrees forcing him to pit road.

After Byron came to pit road, his team was able to yank the bag from the front of his No. 24 car, and it turned out that the massive bag was roughly a 55-gallon trash bag, which some folks from HP took as a memento.

“I think one of the sponsors that were there with us, they had the bag,” Byron’s crew chief Rudy Fugle said in a Monday morning interview with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “They were pretty disappointed, obviously, because we were leading and doing so well. And I saw them after the race with it, and I was like, ‘Okay, that’s a souvenir for them,’ but that thing was like a 55-gallon trash bag for those big trash cans that you see in the infield of the race track. It got loose.”

While Byron was frustrated at the moment on the team radio about the massive bag, which hampered the Daytona 500 race winner’s day, he and the No. 24 team battled back from dropping a lap due to an unscheduled pit stop on Lap 37 and even with sliding through his pit box on the final green flag pit stop of the race to salvage a top-10 run.

With all of the adversity that they overcame to score the 10th-place finish, it became even more apparent how big of a miracle it was that the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team was able to still run competitive lap times after the trash bag fiasco. As the team tore their car down following the race, they found a little bit of contraband in their air filter.

“Even worse than that, or even funnier than that, I’m pretty positive that [the trash bag] had a beer can in it because that beer can got stuck in our air filter,” Fugle laughed. “After the race, there was a silver bullet in our air filter somehow. I had never seen anything like that before either. Quite the day.”

While they have an interesting story to tell for years to come, Fugle wonders what may have been had the trash bag not foiled their run early in Sunday’s race.

“I hate that it didn’t give us a chance to show really how strong of a car we could have had all day long,” Fugle explained.

William Byron spoke to Bob Pockrass of FOX Sports following Sunday’s race, and Byron said that he had never experienced such a fast flip of an engine running normal temperatures to overheating as extremely as his engine did on Sunday. It was an unprecedented-sized piece of debris.

“[The bag] was huge. It seemed to get stuck somewhere underneath [the car],” Byron explained. “I don’t really know. I just know my temperatures went from 250 or whatever to 350 in like 10 seconds. I’ve never had that happen.”

While Byron piled on frustration through his own errors behind the wheel in the final Stage of the race, he was encouraged by the speed that his car had overall at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and he is excited to head to Phoenix Raceway for next weekend’s event.

“The second half [of the race] was just sloppy. Me sliding through the box, and the whole thing,” Byron stated with disappointment. “Still to get a top-10, the car was super fast. And we’ll go to Phoenix.”

While it was a frustrating missed opportunity overall for the No. 24 driver and team, Fugle says every team is bound to hit a snag along the rigors of a 36-race season.

“It’s a shame that that happens, but something happens to everybody once in a while. So, if we get it out of our system now, and just keep fighting as a team, it’s a character-builder,” Fugle explained.

Fugle notes that while they had horrible luck with the trash bag on Sunday, the fact that they were even able to finish the race after their motor overheated so extremely was a counter of good luck for the team on a tough day.

“It’s amazing. I was surprised [the engine made it] as well,” Fugle said. “The water stayed in, it’s just a good engine shop. And a little bit of luck.”

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