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      William Byron looks to build on top-15 finish as NASCAR visits Martinsville


      © 2019 Logan Whitton

      Coming off his first top-15 finish of the season, William Byron is set to make his third NASCAR Cup Series start at Martinsville Speedway.

      “Yeah, that is a tough racetrack,” Byron said of Martinsville. “I like it, but it’s very challenging. I feel like a lot of the same things that work at any other short track are going to work there. I’m trying to work on those things and hopefully, when we get there, we will have a better idea. I think we had some bright spots in the fall, we just had a wreck on pit road and that blew the brake ducts out of the car so we didn’t have any brakes, but other than that we had some solid points of the race, so I’m looking forward to it.”

      RACE INFO: STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway | 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 24

      FIRST FIVE: Already five races into the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season, William Byron has made improvements during his sophomore year. Opening up the campaign with his first Cup Series pole for the Daytona 500, Byron has improved his average qualifying position during the first five races of the season by almost 10 spots, from 22.6 in 2018 to 13.4 in 2019. In four out of five races so far this season, Byron has improved or tied his previous best finish at each track, except for ISM Raceway, where he was on pace for a top-15 finish but a loose wheel in the closing laps hindered his result. At this point last season, Byron and the No. 24 team had led 16 laps compared to 68 laps led already this season, more than the total laps he led in all of 2018. He ranks second among the Chevrolet lap leaders for 2019.

      MARTINSVILLE MERIT: Since attending his first Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway in 2006 as a fan, Byron has since moved through the NASCAR ranks and is now poised to make his fifth start at the paperclip – his third in the Cup Series. Building off of his first Cup Series race at Martinsville, where he started and finished 20th, Byron qualified a track-best 11th in the fall but his day was cut short when an incident on pit road after Stage 1 left him with brake issues, relinquishing him to a 39th-place finish. The 21-year-old driver’s other two Martinsville starts both came in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series in 2016 when he qualified seventh for both events and raced to a third-place finish in the spring and an eighth-place finish in the fall.

      AT IT AGAIN WITH AXALTA: Once again, Byron will carry the iconic Axalta flames on his No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the fourth time in 2019. Axalta Coating Systems will be on board Byron’s machine again next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway as well as Bristol Motor Speedway the following weekend.

      SPECIAL THANKS FROM AXALTA: Unloading at the 0.526-mile oval this weekend, Byron’s No. 24 Axalta Chevy paint scheme will have an added touch of appreciation for Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway. Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will feature the names of employees from Axalta’s Front Royal, Virginia, site. As one of Axalta’s top-performing sites in 2018, Front Royal manufactures paint for commercial vehicles, industrial products and collision repair. In recognition of their success, Mike Carr – Vice President of Axalta and President for Axalta’s Americas region – wanted a unique way to recognize the employees and say, “Thank you,” so, Front Royal employees will have their names displayed on the back of Byron’s No. 24 Axalta Chevy. In addition, 28 lucky Front Royal employees will make the trip to Martinsville Speedway for Sunday’s race.

      KNAUS’ KNACK FOR MARTINSVILLE:  Switching gears to the first short-track race of the season, No. 24 team crew chief Chad Knaus will call the shots on top of the pit box for his 38th NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway. A track rich in history and known for the sought-after grandfather clock trophy, Martinsville is a track where Knaus has found success. Collecting nine wins, the second-highest amount at one track in his career (11 wins at Dover), his most recent win at the paperclip came in the fall of 2016. Knaus hopes to add to his grandfather clock collection with a win this weekend with Byron and the No. 24 Axalta team.

      Jeff Gordon and William Byron (Part 3)
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      ALEX BOWMAN

      BOWMAN AT MARTINSVILLE: Bowman has six starts in the NASCAR Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway. His best finish of seventh came in the spring event in 2018 after the No. 88 team started 16th. It was Bowman’s first top-10 finish at the track and his first of the 2018 season.

      IVES IN VIRGINIA: No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives will call the shots for the ninth time for the No. 88 team at Martinsville this weekend. The Michigan native has one top-five finish and three top-10s at the track, with a best finish of fourth coming in 2015 with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Ives’ drivers have an average start of 17.4 and an average finish of 16.1 at the Virginia track. From 2006-2012, Ives was a race engineer for the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team. During that time, he was a part of six wins, three pole awards and 12 top-10 finishes at Martinsville.

      Via Hendrick Motorsports