The NASCAR Cup Series season heads to Charlotte on Sunday, May 30, for the Coca-Cola 600. The race is the most grueling on the schedule, and it forces drivers to make adjustments in their preparation. For Hendrick Motorsports‘ William Byron, he has to focus on his hydration.
Byron met with Heavy and other media members on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming 600 Miles of Remembrance. He explained during the availability that the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway forces the drivers to focus on important factors, such as hydration. The race is grueling, especially when the temperatures hit the mid-80s and higher.
“I just hydrate differently or more throughout the week,” Byron told media members, per Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass. “As far as effort in the car goes, the 600 is not the most high-effort race because of the way the track is. There’s not a lot of bump content or wheel content to kind of saw on the wheel. I would say Atlanta or Darlington would be harder.
“Physically, you don’t do much. Eating and hydrating is a little bit different because I feel like throughout the race you need more fluids. You also kind of need to eat at points during the race, whether it’s energy chews or stuff like that.”
Byron Will Look to Continue HMS’ Strong Season
A driver for Hendrick Motorsports, Byron is locked into the playoffs. He punched his ticket with a win at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Week 3. He has championship hopes, but he will have to face off with familiar faces in order to achieve this goal.
All four HMS drivers are in the playoffs after Chase Elliott won at Circuit of the Americas. Kyle Larson took the checkered flag at Las Vegas Motor Speedway while Alex Bowman won races at Richmond Raceway and Dover International Speedway. HMS has been one of NASCAR’s best teams in 2021, and Byron wants to see the string of success continue.
“We hope that this run continues. Obviously, it’s early in the year, so you have to keep that speed and momentum up, which is really hard,” Byron told Heavy and other media members. “I feel like you can easily get ahead and then fall behind, somebody leapfrogs [you] and that cycle continues throughout the year until you get to the final race.
“The work never stops all the way until the end. Somebody is always chasing or trying to keep their lead. For us, we’ve just got to try to keep it up. For us and the 24, we’ve done really well this year. In the past 10-12 races, our worst finish is 11th, which is great. We just need to try to get another win, which is what we’re focusing on at Charlotte.”
The First Step Toward Winning the Coca-Cola 600 is Qualifying
Unlike past races in the 2021 schedule, Byron will not learn his place in the starting order prior to showing up at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Instead, he will have to take part in practice laps and qualifying sessions. There are very few races on the schedule that feature qualifying beforehand, but the Coca-Cola 600 is one of them.
In order to turn in a top qualifying time, the No. 24 team will have to get the Chevrolet Camaro dialed in and ready for the 600-mile race. Making adjustments during the practice sessions will be key, but there is another key factor — the weather.
The Coca-Cola 600 starts at 6 p.m. ET and ends after 400 laps and under the lights. The changing track and air temperatures completely change how the cars perform, especially if clouds move into the area during the early portions.
“I think [the weather] is so significant because the track at Charlotte changes so much,” Byron said. “You can go there and it can be 90 degrees and sunny, and you are fighting a completely different race car than at night. That’s the main difference-maker from when we used to run there for the All-Star Race, come back, and race a week later. The track characteristics at the front would be totally different. Nothing changes with the car, but the characteristics of the track change.”
The Coca-Cola 600 takes place on Sunday, May 30, at 6 p.m. ET. Fox will broadcast the race with Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, and Mike Joy in the booth. Prior to the 400-lap race, the drivers will take part in Friday evening practice sessions. They will then return to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday morning for qualifying sessions.