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      Coming off career-best Cup finish, William Byron and No. 24 team visit Bristol

      © Axalta Coatings / Phil Cavali Photography

      Fresh off matching the best finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career, William Byron looks to carry that momentum into Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500. 

      The sixth-place result in Texas marked the fourth time this season that Byron has recorded his best Cup Series finish at a track after he did so at Daytona, Atlanta and Las Vegas (Byron also equaled his best finish in Fontana).

      “The atmosphere is great at Bristol,” Byron said. “The cars are fast and it feels really fast inside the car. I would say all of that stuff just contributes to the overall atmosphere there. It’s just a really fun track to go to as a driver. It’s challenging but also very rewarding to be able to get around there fast.”

      Byron’s best result at Bristol in NASCAR’s top level was his 18th-place finish in last year’s Food City 500. Can he improve that and make it five track-best results this season?

      RACE INFO: Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway | 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 7

      © Phil Cavali Photography

      BATTLE AT BRISTOL: Heading to the “Last Great Colosseum” this weekend, Byron is set to make his sixth national series start at Bristol Motor Speedway. With two NASCAR Cup Series starts last season, two NASCAR Xfinity Series starts and one NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series start at the 0.533-mile concrete oval, Byron also has one regional touring series start in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Byron was strong in qualifying for both Cup Series races, qualifying 11th in the spring and fifth in the fall – his best qualifying effort of 2018. Fighting handling issues in both races, he posted a best finish of 18th. In the Xfinity Series, his best finish was a 12th-place effort in the spring, while he collected a fourth-place finish in his lone Truck Series start, leading one lap in the process. In his K&N start, Byron led 44 laps before coming up just shy of the win with a runner-up result. If Byron were able to win this weekend, he would become the sixth driver to earn their first career Cup win at Bristol, as well as become the youngest Bristol winner of all time, which is currently held by Kyle Busch when he drove for Hendrick Motorsports in 2007.

      TAMED TEXAS: Having one of his best career NASCAR Cup Series weekends, Byron qualified a track-best second on Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. Running near the front almost all race, including leading 15 laps, Byron brought home a career track-best sixth-place finish in Sunday’s race – tying his previous career-best Cup finish from last season at Pocono Raceway – coming up a position short of capturing his first Cup Series top-five to his teammate Jimmie Johnson.

      KNAUS’ KNOWLEDGE: Set to call the shots for his eighth race with Byron this weekend, Knaus will be making his 35th start at Bristol as a Cup Series crew chief. With two pole awards and two wins in his career at the 0.533-mile concrete track, Knaus’ most recent win came in the spring race in 2017. At the notoriously tough track, Knaus also has 12 top-five finishes and 20 top-10s to his credit.

      Jeff Gordon and William Byron (Part 3)
      In the final segment of his interview with NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron discusses his biggest influence, his interests outside of racing, and how he balances school and the Cup Series.

      ALEX BOWMAN

      BOWMAN AT BRISTOL: Bowman will make his seventh start in the NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway this Sunday. His best finish of fifth came in the spring race in 2018 in the No. 88 Nationwide machine after qualifying eighth. The finish was Bowman’s first top-five finish in his Cup Series career. In his previous six starts at the track, the Arizona native has two top-10 finishes. Last fall, the No. 88 team finished eighth after starting the event in the 22nd position.

      “Bristol can be a great place for us and I am really looking forward to getting back there this weekend.”

      aLEX bOWMAN
      © Phil Cavali Photography

      BOWMAN TALKS THE ‘LAST GREAT COLOSSEUM’:
      “I can absolutely carry over what we learned at Bristol last year and put that to use this weekend. It is a strong racetrack for us. Last fall we went down a lap due to an issue and were still able to bounce back and get a top-10 finish. I think Bristol can be a great place for us and I am really looking forward to getting back there this weekend.”

      IVES IN TENNESSEE: Crew chief Greg Ives will call the shots for the ninth time for the No. 88 team in Bristol this weekend. The Michigan native has two top-five finishes and four top-10s at the track, with a best finish of second coming in 2016 with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Ives’ drivers have an average finish of 14.0 at the Tennessee-based track. Ives joined Hendrick Motorsports as a mechanic in 2004. He won five championships with the No. 48 team in 2006-2010 as the lead mechanic. During that time, he was a part of one win, two pole awards and eight top-10 finishes at Bristol.

      HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT BRISTOL: At Bristol Motor Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports has 11 wins, 11 pole positions, 58 top-five finishes and 104 top-10s. Jimmie Johnson most recently won there for the organization in April 2017. Last time at Bristol, Hendrick Motorsports had three drivers finish in the top 10. Eight of the organization’s 11 wins at Bristol have come in the spring race.

      Via Hendrick Motorsports