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      William Byron set to take on the desert with the Axalta flames back on his No. 24

      © Phil Cavali Photography

      Returning to where he locked up the Rookie of the Year award last season, William Byron looks to build on his strong results at ISM Raceway in the fourth race of the NASCAR Cup Series season. 

      Byron has led 65 laps through three races, already more than the 61 laps he paced the field for over the entire 2018 season. Fifteen of the laps he led last year came in his most recent visit to ISM Raceway when he scored a top-10 finish to secure the rookie title, becoming just the second driver to win Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series rookie honors in consecutive seasons.

      “ISM Raceway is a track I have always enjoyed and have always seemed to run well at in every series,” Byron said. “Last fall was an interesting race with the start-finish line moving, but we still had a good race car. We got a top-10 finish, but late-race damage hindered us from finishing better than I think we should have. I’m excited to get back, though, and keep building off the momentum that we have going in 2019 so far.”

      Arizona native Alex Bowman will be chasing a win at his home track, where he has one top-10 finish in his Cup career.

      “It is definitely a track that is on my bucket list,” the driver of the No. 88 said. “I have been close there before so I definitely would like to get a win there and hopefully we can get it done this weekend. ISM Raceway is just a cool racetrack. I enjoy that place and I feel like I know what I need in a race car to be successful there. It’s just a fun place to go.”

      RACE INFO:  TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway | 3:30 p.m. ET pm ET on Sunday, March 10


      WILLIAM BYRON

      WHAT SOPHOMORE SLUMP?: Just three races into his second NASCAR Cup Series season, William Byron has already made gains behind the wheel of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Kicking off the 2019 season by capturing the pole for the 61st running of the Daytona 500, Byron has an average starting position of 12.6 and an average finishing position of 18th in the first three events. The 21-year-old has led the field for 65 laps cumulatively so far in 2019 compared to 61 laps led throughout the entirety of the 2018 season. Byron is also currently sitting 16th in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings, compared to 24th at this same point last year.

      VENTURING TO THE VALLEY OF THE SUN: Heading to a track where he has found success in every level of national NASCAR competition, Byron will return to ISM Raceway for the third time in his Cup career, a track that ranks third of his best tracks based on the average finish (10.5). Last spring, Byron qualified a track-best 11th, led 15 laps and went on to finish in the 12th position. Returning in the fall, he rolled off the grid 19th but raced his way to his fourth career top-10 in the Cup Series, a ninth-place finish, en route to locking up the 2018 Rookie of the Year award. The 21-year-old driver also has two NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at ISM Raceway on his resume, both coming in 2017, when he started on the front row and finished in the top four in both races, including a win in November. With that victory, he became the youngest winner ever at ISM Raceway in the Xfinity Series at 19 years, 11 months and 13 days. In 2016, Byron was behind the wheel for the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series race at the one-mile oval, where he led 112 laps and was in the hunt to make the final four of the playoffs before an engine failure ended his night early.

      KNAUS’ PHOENIX PROWESS: For the 33rd time as a NASCAR Cup Series crew chief, Chad Knaus will sit atop the pit box at ISM Raceway this Sunday. With four wins at the one-mile oval, all coming with Jimmie Johnson, Knaus ranks second among active Cup crew chiefs, just one behind the top spot. He also has three pole awards at ISM Raceway with the No. 48 team.

      Check out the latest episode of Around the Track with Jeff Gordon, where William Byron discusses his biggest influence, his interests outside of racing, and how he balances school and the Cup Series. 

      ALEX BOWMAN

      WELCOME HOME: Bowman, a Tucson, Arizona, native, has seven starts in the NASCAR Cup Series at ISM Raceway. His best finish of sixth came in the 2016 event when the No. 88 team started from the pole and led a race-high 194 laps. Last fall, Bowman qualified fifth and finished 30th after being involved in an incident late into the 312-lap event. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has six starts at the Arizona track in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Bowman’s best qualifying effort of fifth came in 2014 and 2017. In the fall event in 2017, the driver claimed his best finishing position of eighth. In 2011, Bowman ran the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West event at ISM Raceway where he started ninth and led 23 laps en route to a second-place finish.

      IVES IN PHOENIX: For the ninth 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 his driver’s home track. The Michigan native claimed the victory in the 2015 fall event at ISM Raceway with Dale Earnhardt Jr. after leading 22 laps. Ives led Bowman to a pole win at the track in 2016 and the No. 88 Chevrolet led 194 laps en route to a sixth-place finish. The crew chief has an average starting position of 9.0 and an average finish of 15.2 in his eight starts at ISM Raceway. Ives has four starts at the venue as a crew chief in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, with a best finish of fourth place coming in 2013 with driver Regan Smith. From 2006-2012, Ives was a race engineer for the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team. During that time, he was a part of four wins, one pole award and 11 top-five finishes at ISM Raceway.

      Via Hendrick Motorsports