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February 10, 2019

William Byron

Chad Knaus

Daytona Beach, Florida

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by the Busch pole winner for the 61st annual Daytona 500. That is William Byron, driver of the No.24 AXALTA Chevrolet. This is William's first Monster Energy Series pole award, and it is the 700th Cup pole for Chevy. We are also joined by crew chief Chad Knaus. We will open it up to questions.

Q. Did you come in expecting‑‑ obviously you thought you had fast cars, but was the expectation to come away with a pole, and how does it feel to walk away with a Daytona 500 pole?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I think we were realistic. We probably thought we were going to be somewhere in the hunt. The guys have done a lot of work to get down here. It's kind ofbeen a, I guess, hard‑working off‑season for them, and there's been a lot of things in the works, so I was excited to get down here and see what we had. But ultimately you never know who's going to pop up and be competitive and fast down here.
Great to get a pole. Big for Chevrolet, I guess, with their accomplishment there. We're looking forward to kind of checking this off and going on to Sunday.
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, much like William said, you never know what you're going to have until you get down here, with the limited amount of track time that you have. But based off of what we had last year, we felt like we were going to come down and be competitive. I'll be honest, when the Penske guys went out there, I didn't think we were going to be able to necessarily eclipse what they put up, and then fortunately we did.
A lot of hard work and a lot of effort for and from everybody at HMS to be able to do that. The top four spots, that's a pretty amazing feat I feel. If you go back and you look at our qualifying efforts at the superspeedways the last handful of races, all four of those cars have been in a pretty tight box, and that's a pretty amazing thing to do.

Q. Obviously you have to have the cars to be able to do what the SHR guys did at Talladega in October, but you guys seemed to have really good cars, one, two, three, four here in qualifying. Is there a possibility you can get linked up, maybe try to replicate what they did there in October?
CHAD KNAUS: I think we can give it a go. That's kind of the plan, obviously. This is a different animal at Daytona than what it is at Talladega. Handling comes into play significantly more. The 150 I don't think will be a true judge of that. I think we from the 24 standpoint are going to probably pull out and play that pretty conservative and not try to make anything like that happen. But in the 500 you never know, especially with a short run at the end. I don't know what you think.
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I think this is a long race. I felt like from last year, it was one of the longest that I ran.
The mental energy and physical energy‑‑ physical is not that much, but the mental energy of the whole race is very long, so you really don't know who's going to be around once you get to 15 or 10 to go. And then once you get to that point, it's kind of anything goes at that point. So you just start pushing anybody and trying to get to the front. But we'll try to link up, but it's going to be hard to do.

Q. Chad, obviously more than most poles of the season, this one is really, really big for the team and all the work that everybody did behind the scenes. How does this pole really kind of help the team when it comes to their attitude for not only this week but starting the season off knowing that they're building fast cars?
CHAD KNAUS: I think it's huge. William can attest to this; we've had a lot of late nights, a lot of long hours. We loaded up on‑‑ I guess it was Thursday, right?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, 11:30.
CHAD KNAUS: I don't even know what day it is anymore.
WILLIAM BYRON: I was going to bed and these guys were loading up the car. It's ridiculous.
CHAD KNAUS: We've been working really hard, and these guys‑‑ the thing that I think a lot of people don't understand is yes, we have a very fast race car. It's very easy to slow down a fast race car if you don't get the details met, and the thing we've worked on extremely hard during the off‑season with the new guys that we've got on the team is just the procedures, going through the procedural duties and making sure we don't miss anything, and that's a big thing to being able to go to the racetrack and execute. Pretty amazing really.

Q. Kind of along those lines, I'm just wondering if you guys could talk about this is the most fabulous way you could start off working together I would imagine you could have is winning the pole for the Daytona 500.
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, it's really cool. This guy has done a lot over the off‑season for me to get developed and ready to go. Like he was saying with the guys, just the little things are huge. I feel like there's a lot of things that we're going through for the first time, but for me it's kind of being here for the second time feels really comfortable. I get to go through the garage the same way, don't have to worry about the newness of the Cup Series, so I'm looking forward to that, and I know we've got a hungry group of guys to go after it with.
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, it's awesome. I mean, it really is. The last time I came here with a new driver, we sat on the pole. So it's kind of cool. It really is. This is really special for me. You know, a lot of you people were here back in the 24 days, in its youth, and to be a part of that and be able to come back as crew chief of the 24 car and qualify first for the Daytona 500 is just an awesome dream for me.

Q. Chad, you always seem like the kind of guy that enjoys teaching, enjoys mentoring, and obviously you may not have had that with Jimmie in the last few years, but now you've got this young kid‑‑
CHAD KNAUS: Young man.

Q. Young man. In the off‑season, how much mentoring, how much time did you spend, and how rewarding is it to be able to have that kind of young man driver to be able to do that with now?
CHAD KNAUS: I mean, we've spent a good amount of time together. I'm looking forward to the season to get going so we can spend more time together for sure. I do enjoy working with young talent. It's a lot of fun for me. So I'm looking forward to growing this relationship and seeing how it goes and goes and grows.
It's been a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the off‑season. I know you guys think I'm a geek and all that, man, but I've really enjoyed working with this team and these guys and the enthusiasm. Nothing against where I was, you need to understand that; it's just a new thing, and it's great, man, it's a lot of fun. I think he's got a lot of potential. His dedication and drive and desire to go out there and be one of the best drivers in the sport is evident, and I think his ability is pretty obvious just with what he's accomplished in the past. You put that work ethic and that ability together, and you've got a pretty impressive little thing there.

Q. William, now you get to ride the fine line for Thursday. How hard do you think you need to race to make sure you know what you have for the 500, and do you maybe dare, like hey, I've got a fast car, let me go try to win this qualifying race?
WILLIAM BYRON: No, I mean, it's kind of a‑‑ for me the Duel doesn't matter at this point. This was the goal to get the top two spots, and if we were second, that was great, too, but the pole is good, and now our goal is‑‑ really what we have in the Duel is nothing like what we're going to have on Sunday, so it's not even worth scaring yourself or doing whatever to figure it out. I learned that last year the hard way.
I think that I just look forward to being a part of it and seeing what that brings, and then Friday and Saturday is really our hard‑working days. Really the conversations we'll have are important, too.

Q. Does it bother you at all to have the car, then you and Chad decide at some point time to shut her down and back down through the field and get out of this stuff? How hard is that to do?
WILLIAM BYRON: I mean, it's looking forward to the bigger goal. The bigger goal is we're here for the 500, not for Thursday night. From an outside perspective, yeah, maybe if I was watching, yeah, but I don't care. I don't think it matters.
CHAD KNAUS: I'd put it in the garage if I could. Just being frank. It's just not worth it, man. We've got a great race car. We're racing at night for the 150. It's a completely different race once you get there to Sunday, so it's not worth it.

Q. Chad, two‑part question: No.1, does this make you feel like you're 21 again now with a new exciting opportunity and the fact that you've done this before with Jimmie way back when you started him out as a young guy and now here you are winning the pole with William? That's one question. The other question is we all know it takes horsepower to run fast at a plate track as well as aero. Have you guys found a significant amount of added horsepower during the off‑season‑‑
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, our engine shop is pretty amazing. I think you can see that just from the accomplishments they've had over the course of the last ‑‑ well, the course of its existence is pretty spectacular, and to have all of those cars on the first four qualifying positions is pretty remarkable.
As far as feeling 21 again? Man, I'm a long ways from that. A wise man told me once, he said, when I was young I used to go to bed sore and wake up feeling fine. Now that I'm old, I go to bed feeling fine and I wake up sore, and there's some reality to that. But it has put some wind in the sails for sure, you know. To be around a young group of guys again, seeing that enthusiasm, the big eyes, the open eyes is a lot of fun, and it's going to be a great time.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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