After qualifying second behind teammate William Byron, finishing runner-up in Stage 1 and just missing out on a top-10 finish in the Daytona 500, Alex Bowman will look to improve on his strong start to the Cup Series season when he takes the No. 88 Axalta-sponsored Chevrolet to Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Byron, who led a career-high 44 laps in the season-opening race and spent the most laps within the top-five running order of any driver in the field, will visit Atlanta for just the second time as a Cup Series driver.
“I really don’t know what to expect when we get to Atlanta. I feel like it’s going to be a challenge in the sense that it’s a slick racetrack,” Byron said. “We are going to go there and try and understand the new aero package, but also try and understand what that racetrack is going to do throughout the race. I think it’s going to present different challenges than we normally deal with there.”
Hendrick Motorsports has captured victories at four of the last eight races in Atlanta.
RACE INFO: Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 | 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, February 24
AXALTA IN ATL: This weekend marks the first of 12 events in which the Axalta primary colors will adorn the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Last year, Hendrick Motorsports announced that Axalta signed a four-year contract extension that will take the partnership through 2022.
BOWMAN AT ATLANTA: Bowman, a Tucson, Arizona, native, has three starts in the NASCAR Cup Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway. His best finish of 20th came last year after qualifying 18th for the 325-lap event. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has one start at Atlanta in the NASCAR Xfinity Series when he qualified 18th in 2013. In 2017, Bowman ran at Atlanta in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series where he finished sixth after qualifying fifth.
IF HE WINS: If Bowman were to claim the victory in Atlanta this weekend, he would be the seventh different driver for Hendrick Motorsports to claim victory at the 1.54-mile track. A win this weekend would be the 25-year-old’s first NASCAR Cup Series win in 119 series starts. There have been six drivers in NASCAR Cup Series history to capture their first win at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
IVES’ ATLANTA STATS: This weekend will mark the fifth time that No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives has called the shots for Hendrick Motorsports at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Bark River, Michigan, native’s best finish of second came in 2016 with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Ives has two career starts as a crew chief in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the 1.54-mile facility. In 2014, Ives’ driver sat on the pole for the 195-lap event and led 36 laps en route to a fifth-place finish. From 2006-2012, Ives was a race engineer for the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team. During that time, he was a part of two wins and one pole award at Atlanta.
NEW KICKS: This year, Bowman will take part in the Chase Elliott Foundation’s “DESI9N TO DRIVE” shoe program. Benefiting the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta summer camp program, Bowman and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates selected racing shoe designs created by patients of Children’s. After the race, the race-worn shoes will be signed by Bowman and auctioned off online by the Chase Elliott Foundation.
DAYTONA REWIND: The No. 88 team qualified second for last weekend’s 61st annual running of the DAYTONA 500. Bowman ran in the top 10 for most of the afternoon. The driver finished Stage 1 in the second position, earning valuable stage points. Bowman’s Chevrolet nearly missed a big incident on track, but unfortunately was involved in a separate incident on Lap 196. The team made the necessary repairs and Bowman was able to take home an 11th-place finish.
THE OTHER SIDE: Last Thursday, Bowman’s first diary feature on Motorsport.com was published, titled “The Other Side of Alex Bowman.” Each month, Bowman will release a diary piece to give fans a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on each month both on and off the track. In his first diary entry, Bowman talks about the offseason, both mental and physical workouts and how he feels about being back at the track for his second full season with Hendrick Motorsports. Check out his first diary article here.
DAYTONA 500 RECAP: Capturing his first NASCAR Cup Series pole award during the first Sunday of Speedweeks, William Byron showed patience and speed throughout the 61st annual running of the DAYTONA 500 before being relegated to a 21st-place finish after an on-track incident with only two laps remaining. Despite the finishing position, Byron led a career-high 44 laps during Sunday’s race. The 21-year-old driver also spent 133 of 207 laps within the top-five running order, the most by anyone in the race. His 154 laps inside the top 10 throughout the race were the second-most of any competitor.
THE ATLANTA ARCHIVE: After an impressive showing by Byron last week at Daytona, the No. 24 team will now turn its sights to the first intermediate track of the year – Atlanta Motor Speedway. Byron has one previous Cup start at the 1.54-mile oval, where he qualified 23rd but was able to finish 18th despite fighting handling woes throughout the race. Byron has two other NASCAR starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway – one in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where he finished seventh, the third-highest of the Xfinity Series regulars, and one in the Truck Series, where he was running second before losing an engine, leaving him with a 32nd-place finish.
KNAUS HOT AT HOTLANTA: At a track where past knowledge is crucial, crew chief Chad Knaus will add valuable experience to the No. 24 team when the Liberty University Chevy hits the track this weekend. Calling the shots for 27 NASCAR Cup Series races at the weathered track, Knaus has snagged the checkered flag five times, most recently back-to-back in 2015 and 2016. In his 27 races at the venue as a crew chief, Knaus’ car has left the 1.54-mile oval with 14 top-five finishes and 15 top-10s. In fact, Knaus has a knack for intermediate tracks in general, collecting 34 wins at the track type across his Cup Series crew chief career.