Byronwho drives the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsportsbecame the series’ first repeat winner of the season with his dominating win last weekend at Circuit of the Americas.

With his victory in the season-opening Daytona 500, Byron already has a leg up on his competition but this weekend’s race at Richmond, Va., and the following week at Martinsville, Va., may best demonstrate the staying power of Byron and his No. 24 team.

Byron won a career-best six races in 2023 and advanced to the Championship 4 at Phoenix for the first time. But if there was one weakness in his season, it was on short tracks, particularly Richmond and Martinsville.

“The next two are circled big-time,” Byron’s crew chief, Rudy Fugle said following last Sunday’s win at COTA. “We talked about it. There are different types of wins.

“We’re going to shoot for the stars but get a win out of the next two weeks. We have not been good at Richmond. We have not been good at Martinsville. We need to be. Right away.

“That’s all we’re focused on right now.”

In the four races at Richmond and Martinsville last year, Byron’s best finish was 13th – in the fall at Martinsville. While not a win, it was a strong enough performance to help him advance to the Championship 4.

In a combined 23 career starts between the two tracks, Byron has one win (at Martinsville in 2022), five top-five and eight top-10 finishes.

Richmond, especially, has been a struggle with an average finish of 15.9 and just two top-10 finishes.

Sunday night’s race at Richmond will provide several challenges. It will be the first time on the track with NASCAR’s new short track aero package and the first time the Next Gen cars have run on the track in a night race.

What to expect

“I mean, we haven’t raced at night there with Next Gen at all,” Fugle said when asked about what he expects in this weekend’s race. “I don’t know. I really don’t.

“The tire wear is going to be – and the falloff – is going to be high. Not as much as a summer race at 3 pm, for sure. But we’re still going to be sliding around, have some awesome strategy situations, two-stop and three-stop in stages and all of that.

“That’s what we’re expecting. “We just hope to have a car to compete good enough to make those calls that matter.”

Still, with the way the year has started, there’s little reason to think Byron won’t be in the mix to make it back-to-back wins in consecutive weeks.

“I feel like it kind of ebbs and flows. We’re on a good flow right now in some ways (like) in the win category,” Byron, 26, said. “I’d like to finish better on the off days, too. I’m working on that every week.

“I’m still trying to look at those days and how I can improve, like last week (at Bristol). But I feel like the ups are up right now. “We just got to keep it going.”

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