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      Alex Bowman matches best finish of season in Las Vegas

      Phil Cavali Photography

      Start: 11th
      Finish: 11th
      Driver standings: 12th

      Alex Bowman and the No. 88 Axalta Camaro ZL1 rolled off the grid from the 11th position on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Nine laps into the 267-lap event, Bowman was running in the 14th position. The Arizona native came over the radio on Lap 15 to report that his Chevrolet was much more stable than the day prior but was still free when he tried to move up the track. Crew chief Greg Ives told the driver that the team would be making an air pressure adjustment on the first stop to help that issue.

      On Lap 29, Bowman told his Axalta team that his car was starting to tighten up on exit. Green flag pit stops started around Lap 40 and seven laps later Bowman was scored in the fourth position. Ives called the driver to pit road for right-side tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment on Lap 58. At the conclusion of Stage One, Bowman was scored in the 14th position and was happier with his car following the adjustment.

      Following a quick four-tire stop by the Axalta pit crew under the stage ending caution, Bowman was set to restart from the 11th position. When the field took the green flag for Stage Two, cars were three and four wide on the restart. Bowman got shuffled around and by Lap 103 was running in the 15th position. The 25-year-old driver was quiet on the radio when Ives called him to pit road on Lap 125 for another two-tire stop. Around 12 laps later, Bowman reported that his car was a little tight but not terrible.

      When Stage Two ended, Bowman had worked his way into the ninth position and earned valuable stage points. Ives elected to put four fresh tires on the Axalta machine and add Sunoco Racing fuel. The No. 88 machine restarted 13th for the final stage of the 400-mile event. On Lap 191, Bowman made slight contact with the outside wall and reported that he had a little bit of right-side damage and that he had hit debris with the left front. The Axalta Camaro ZL1 was scored in the 11th position when the team made a green flag pit stop for tires and fuel. The team also made repairs to the right side of the Axalta machine during this stop.

      With 43 laps to go, Bowman was running in the 14th position and was battling to gain position on track. The driver moved into the 11th position late in the race and would ultimately end the event in that position. The No. 88 team currently sits 12th in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings following Sunday’s race in Las Vegas.

      Alex Bowman: “We had a decent day today with our Axalta Chevy. We fought tight conditions in the beginning, but Greg (Ives, crew chief) and the guys made some good adjustments on pit road that helped that. We still have some work to do, but we are making gains.”

       Hendrick Motorsports

      WILLIAM BYRON

      Start: 20th
      Finish: 16th
      Driver standings: 16th

      Rolling off 20th for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, William Byron had his best race at the 1.5-mile oval, positioning the No. 24 Hertz Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at the front of the field, leading 21 laps during Stage Two en route to a track-best 16th-place finish.

      Knowing track position was going to be a key factor in how Sunday’s race would go, Byron made quick work to make up ground as soon as the green flag dropped to start the 267-lap race. Gaining eight spots within the first five laps, Byron maintained the 12th running position for half of the first stage before his Hertz Chevy began to swing to the tight side in Turns 3 and 4. Shortly thereafter, green-flag pit stops began and Byron made his way to pit road on lap 43 for four tires, fuel and a round of adjustments to loosen the No. 24 up. Varying pit strategy ensued with a handful of cars trying to extend their fuel mileage, but Byron was able to race his way back within the top-15 running order, ultimately holding that position until the Stage One break.

      Fighting a Hertz Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that was too loose after that run, Byron came to the attention of the No. 24 team under the caution for another four-tire stop and set of adjustments. Lining up 14th for the restart on lap 88, Byron raced his way to 12th-place and held that position until green-flag pit stops started on lap 125. While green-flag pit stops were going on, Knaus made the strategy call to keep the No. 24 on track for as long as possible. With this strategy, Byron took the lead on lap 129 and would remain in control of the top spot until he hit pit road under green on lap 149. With only 10 laps remaining until the end of Stage Two, Knaus elected to make it a fuel-only stop for the driver of the Hertz Chevy. Byron returned to the track in the 10th position. As the laps wound down Byron battled his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson for position, but ultimately Johnson’s newer tires prevailed and Byron finished the second stage just outside the top 10, in 11th.

      Needing his Hertz Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to be tightened up a little bit more, Byron came to pit road under the stage break for four sticker tires, fuel and another set of adjustments. Scored 12th for what would be the final restart of the race on lap 168, Byron raced his way inside the top-10, reaching as high as the eighth position before telling his team that this was the best his No. 24 machine had been all day. However, the longer the run went on, Byron began to fight the handling of his Hertz Chevy again. Knaus called Byron down pit road one more time on lap 209. Asking for more of the same adjustments that they had made on the last pit stop, Byron received four tires, fuel and a slight adjustment to aid in a loose race car. Returning to the track under green, Byron was scored within the top 20 with some of the lead cars still needing to pit. Once the final car made its green-flag pit stop, Byron cycled back on to the lead lap in 13th place with 39 laps remaining. As the race remained under green flag conditions, the handling on Byron’s No. 24 Hertz Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 swung to the tight side, making passing more difficult than in previous runs. Continuing to fight handling woes, Byron fell back to the 16th position in the final laps of the race where he remained until the checkered flag was displayed.

      William Byron: “We were just too tight there at the end of the race. The car felt almost like it did in practice at Atlanta last weekend, but to start the run off today we were generally too loose. This new aero package has you walk a fine edge between too loose and too tight. The car was the best it had been all day to start the final stage but by the end of the race it was hard to hold on to and run a consistent line each lap. I think as a team though we’ve showed that we’re making pretty big gains every week from when we unload to when we race.”

      Via Hendrick Motorsports