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      NASCAR’s West Coast swing starts in Las Vegas with Alex Bowman back in the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet

      © Phil Cavali Photography

      Coming off a pair of top-15 finishes, Alex Bowman and the No. 88 team will take on Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where the full 2019 rules package debuts, in the third race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. 

      “I think this race will still have some unknowns for most guys,” William Byron said. “Atlanta gave a small idea of what to expect, but we didn’t have the full package for that race. Plus, Atlanta races unlike any other mile-and-a-half track we go to. Some of the other teams got to test earlier at Las Vegas with the full package, including our teammate Jimmie (Johnson).”

      “I think we can definitely lean on the No. 48 team,” Bowman added, “and go over what they learned and what they established at the test and go from there.”

      BEST START TO SEASON: In his four career seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series, Bowman is off to his best start to a season. The 25-year-old is averaging a 13th-place finish this season, earning a pair of top-15 finishes in the first two events of 2019. Last season, his previous best start, he had two top-20 finishes in the first two races.

      VIVA LAS VEGAS: Bowman, a Tucson, Arizona, native, has four starts in the NASCAR Cup Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. His best finish of 16th came in the March race last season after qualifying 20th. Last fall, Bowman qualified ninth and finished 19th after a left-side tire went flat late in the event. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has one start at the 1.5-mile track in the NASCAR Xfinity Series when he qualified 18th and finished eighth in 2013.

      VEGAS STATS FOR IVES: For the sixth time in his crew chief career in the NASCAR Cup Series, Greg Ives will call the shots for the No. 88 team this weekend at Las Vegas. The Michigan native’s best finish at the 1.5-mile track came in 2015 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. started and finished fourth, leading four laps along the way. Ives’ drivers have completed 99.8 percent of the total laps in five events at Las Vegas. In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ives has one top-five finish and two top-10s with an average finish of 6.0 with two different drivers at the track. From 2006-2012, Ives was a race engineer for the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team. During that time, he was a part of three wins and four top-five finishes at Las Vegas.

      ATLANTA REWIND: The No. 88 team qualified 16th for last weekend’s 325-lap race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Bowman battled handling issues throughout the first half of the event, but the No. 88 Axalta team continued to make adjustments in the right direction on pit road. On two separate occasions, the team was caught on pit road while making a green-flag stop when a caution flag waved, forcing the team to take a wave-around. Bowman battled back and led his Hendrick Motorsports teammates with a 15th-place finish.

      THE OTHER SIDE: On Saturday, Feb. 23, Bowman’s second diary feature on Motorsport.com was published. The feature, titled “The Other Side of Alex Bowman,” talks about Daytona and the special name above his passenger side door, the No. 88 team’s test in Daytona and his early thoughts on the new package at Atlanta. 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. Check out his newest diary article here.

      © Phil Cavali Photography


      RECAPPING ATLANTA: Sophomore NASCAR Cup Series driver William Byron continued to make improvements last weekend, qualifying a career track-best 17th at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Despite running lap times comparable to the top-five running order, Byron fought handling issues with his No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 throughout the 325-lap event before ultimately crossing the finish line with a career track-best 17th-place finish.

      LOOKING FOR LADY LUCK: This weekend will mark Byron’s third Cup Series start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In his previous two starts, Byron has a best qualifying effort of 17th and finish of 27th, both coming in the spring race last season. However, Byron’s showing last September at the 1.5-mile oval displayed improvement from his first start, running inside the top 20 for most of the race before having to retire early due to suspension damage. Aside from his Cup Series starts in 2018, Byron has two previous starts in the “City of Lights,” one in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where he raced to a 14th-place finish, and one start in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, qualifying 10th and taking the checkered flag in fifth.

      KNAUS KNOWS VEGAS: This Sunday when veteran crew chief Chad Knaus climbs atop the No. 24 pit box, he’ll look to set a new record for most wins by a crew chief at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. With 18 Cup races at the 1.5-mile oval under his belt, Knaus has gone to Victory Lane three times. Those three victories have him equal with Paul Wolfe for most wins, a tie he would like to break this weekend.

      Via Hendrick Motorsports