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      Bowman, Byron to take on Homestead as NASCAR season comes to a close

      ©Phil Cavali Photography

      RACE INFO:  Ford EcoBoost 400 from Homestead-Miami Speedway |  3 p.m. ET on Sunday Nov. 18

      BOWMAN IN MIAMI: Alex Bowman has three previous NASCAR Cup Series starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway, with his best finish of 16th coming in 2016. The Tucson, Arizona, native piloted the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet in the 2016 season finale for Hendrick Motorsports as a fill-in driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr. That same year, Bowman drove the No. 88 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in his first series start at the track. The driver was on his way to a top-10 finish when he was spun around coming to the checkered flag and scored with a 14th-place finish.

      IVES AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI: Greg Ives has called the shots three times as the No. 88 team crew chief at the Miami-based track. The Michigan native has also been atop the pit box for two events at the track in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports. In 2014, Ives and driver Chase Elliott claimed the Xfinity Series championship and celebrated at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

      2018 IN REVIEW: The 2018 season has been Bowman’s best career Cup Series season to date. The 25-year-old won the pole for the Daytona 500 this season, his second career pole – both of which came while driving with Hendrick Motorsports. The 25-year-old driver made the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs for the first time in his career and advanced to the Round of 12. Bowman had his best finish on a track at 18 venues so far in 2018. Until this season, the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 had not finished inside the top five. This season, Bowman finished inside the top five on three occasions. Prior to 2018, Bowman had three top-10 finishes. Going into Homestead this weekend, the Arizona native has earned 11 top-10 finishes this season alone.

      “I really haven’t raced at Homestead that much. It’s a tough place for me. I haven’t ever gotten super comfortable running the wall there all day without knocking the right side off. I think we have some work to do, but I am confident we can have a good race car there.”

      ©Phil Cavali Photography


      2018 ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: With his top-10 performance at ISM Raceway last Sunday, William Byron clinched the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series rookie of the year title. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award will be presented to Byron at the Myers Brothers awards ceremony in Las Vegas on Nov. 28, 2018 – the day before his 21st birthday. This is his fourth rookie of the year title in as many years (2017 – NASCAR Xfinity Series, 2016 – NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, 2015 – NASCAR K&N Pro Series East). He joins Jeff Gordon (1993), Kyle Busch (2005) and Chase Elliott (2016) as the fourth Hendrick Motorsports driver to earn a rookie title. Byron is only the second driver – joining Erik Jones – to win all three NASCAR national series rookie of the year titles in consecutive years. He is also the third-youngest driver to earn the title, behind Joey Logano and Busch. With just one race remaining in the 2018 season, the 20-year-old has racked up four top-10 finishes and led 61 laps through 35 points races. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native will be paired up with seven-time champion crew chief Chad Knaus for the 2019 season, which will start with a test session in Fontana, California, in January.

      “it was fun being there last year – it was really exciting and just a cool feeling to win the championship, so it will be cool to go back there and remember some of those things.”

      William Byron on Homestead-Miami

      HOMESTEAD PEDIGREE: Byron has a stout – albeit short – résumé at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In the Xfinity Series in 2017, he started sixth and finished third at the 1.5-mile track, securing the series championship in the process. In 2016, he started on the pole and won the Truck Series race, leading 31 laps.

      GRUBB VICTORIES: No. 24 team crew chief Darian Grubb has scored two wins at Homestead-Miami Speedway, one of which came in November 2011 with Tony Stewart to cap off their championship season and the other was in 2013 with Denny Hamlin. This weekend will mark Grubb’s last race as crew chief for Byron before he assumes the role of technical director in 2019. While he’ll still travel to the racetrack each week, the promotion grants him an elevated role of overseeing the technical development of all four Hendrick Motorsports teams. Six recent crew chief-driver pairings have won in their last race together, including Grubb and Stewart in 2011, so that could bode well for Grubb and Byron this weekend.

      “I think the Cup car will be different in some ways, but I think the same characteristics and things apply. Running the fence will be similar there in the Cup car – I’m sure you’re going to hit it at some point in the race. You have to try to make sure you can run up there at the top and be competitive. It’s the last race of the year, so we’ll try to finish on a good note. Overall, it was fun being there last year – it was really exciting and just a cool feeling to win the championship, so it will be cool to go back there and remember some of those things.”

      Via Hendrick Motorsports