Following his 17th-place finish at Richmond Raceway on April 13, Alex Bowman sat 21st in the driver standings. Thanks to four top-10 finishes in the next four races — including three straight runner-up results — the Arizona native is now 10th in the Cup standings, 64 points above the cut-line, and part of one of the hottest teams in NASCAR.
“We have been running pretty well the last few weeks,” Bowman said. “Greg (Ives) and the guys have worked really hard on this 88 car and it is showing on track. We have made up a lot of ground in the point standings and we need to continue having weeks like we have been.”
The entire Hendrick Motorsports team has been strong over the last four races, tallying the most poles (two), second-place finishes (three), top-five finishes (seven), top-ten finishes (12), laps led (416), and best average finish (9.1).
“As a driver and as a team, when you’re in an upward swing a lot of times bad situations don’t seem as devastating or race-ending as they usually would,” William Byron said. “I think we have a lot of momentum on our side right now. The cars have been faster which is something everyone has been working hard to improve. That always helps the success on-track for sure. I’m really excited for what we can do in the upcoming races especially since this is a stretch of really good racetracks for myself and the team starting at Pocono.”
Byron scored a Cup Series-best sixth last July at Pocono, the same race Bowman tallied a then-career-best third-place finish.
“Pocono has always been a really fun track for me,” Byron said. “It’s a really tricky track and it’ll be even trickier this year with the downforce and straightaway speeds being a little slower. I think it’s going to make it a little more similar to the Truck Series race there and that was one of my best races.”
RACE INFO: Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway | Sunday, June 2 at 2 p.m. ET
BOWMAN AT THE TRICKY TRIANGLE: On Sunday, Bowman will make his seventh start at Pocono Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series. The 26-year-old has completed 99.2 percent of laps within his six events that he has competed in at the Pennsylvania track. The driver’s track-best finish of third came in his last appearance when he started 10th for the 164-lap event. Back in 2016, Bowman made one start in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the track, starting and finishing 10th in the spring event. The Arizona native also has two starts in the ARCA Series at the track back in 2012, where he finished third in both events.
LOOKING FOR A WIN: Three drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series have finished second in 2019 but have yet to claim a victory. Bowman has finished second three times since Talladega in April. The No. 88 machine has led 94 laps in the last four events.
IVES AT POCONO: This weekend marks the ninth time that crew chief Greg Ives will call the shots for the No. 88 team at Pocono Raceway. The crew chief’s resume includes three top-five finishes at the 2.5-mile track since 2015. Ives’ best finish at the track came back in 2016 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second. Last year at the Pennsylvania track, Ives led Bowman to his best finish of the 2018 season, taking the checkered flag in third at the July race. Before moving to the No. 88 team, the Michigan native was a race engineer for the No. 48 team between 2006 and 2012. During that time, the team captured 11 top-10 finishes and one pole award at the track.
ALL IN THE NUMBER: The No. 88 car is second on the list of most Pocono wins by car number. There have been seven times that the driver of the No. 88 machine claimed the victory at the 2.5-mile track. Earnhardt Jr., Dale Jarrett, and Bobby Allison have all won twice in the No. 88 car and Darrell Waltrip won once behind the wheel of the No. 88 machine.
WHAT SOPHOMORE SLUMP?: With one-third of the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season officially complete, Byron has been making major strides during his sophomore year at the highest level of NASCAR competition. After collecting his second Cup Series pole award this past weekend at his hometown track, Byron has shown a steady increase through the 13-race stretch of 2019. Compared to the same point last season, Byron has improved his average starting position from 19.5 in 2018 to 11.5 including two Cup Series poles. He has also improved his average finishing position from 20.8 to 16.0 and increased his laps led count from 31 (61 total laps in all of 2018) to 123 so far this season. The sophomore driver also has completed 99.7 percent of all possible laps run, with only one DNF (season opener at Daytona). Additionally, Byron has scored three top-10 finishes, compared to one top-10 finish at this point last season and four total top-10 finishes all season. Byron’s improvements in 2019 have correlated in the Cup Series’ standings as well where the driver of the No. 24 is now sitting 15th, within the cutoff point for the NASCAR Playoffs.
PREVIEWING POCONO: Byron heads to Pocono Raceway for the sixth time in his racing career – a track that has been good to him across many different series. Making his debut at the “Tricky Triangle” in 2016, Byron first competed at the track in June in the ARCA Series race, where he qualified third and left with a solid top-10 finish. The experience proved valuable, as he won the pole in his first Truck Series start at the track and dominated by leading 44 out of 60 laps before capturing the win. After that, Byron also collected a solid top-15 finish in his lone Xfinity Series start before moving up to the Cup Series full time. With two Cup Series starts last season at Pocono, Byron had solid days in both races, but ultimately collected his Cup Series-best finish of sixth in the July race after leading 10 laps.
LUCK IN NUMBERS: The No. 24 has been no stranger to success at Pocono Raceway in the past. Four-time champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon earned six wins at the Long Pond, Pennsylvania, track – the most of any Cup Series driver – while driving the No. 24 Chevrolet. With those six wins by Gordon, the No. 24 is tied for the third-most wins by a car number at the “Tricky Triangle.” If Byron can pick up the win this weekend, he would be the second driver to win at Pocono in the No. 24 as well as become the fifth driver to collect their first Cup Series win at Pocono Raceway.
KNAUS KNOWS: Heading to the “Tricky Triangle” for the 36th time in his Cup career as a crew chief, Chad Knaus leads active Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs in best finishes at Pocono Raceway. With three wins at the 2.5-mile triangular track, Knaus swept both races in 2004 and then captured the win again from the pole in the spring of 2013.
HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT POCONO: The organization leads all teams with 17 wins at Pocono Raceway, with the four most recent coming as season sweeps in 2013 (Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne) and 2014 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.). In addition, the organization also owns the most in each of the following categories at Pocono: pole positions (12), top-five finishes (68), top-10 finishes (123) and laps led (3,250).
POCONO PROWESS: Hendrick Motorsports’ 17 NASCAR Cup Series victories at Pocono have been won by seven different drivers, a stat which is tied for the most different winners at a track by a team. The organization’s Pocono wins have come via Jeff Gordon (six), Johnson (three), Tim Richmond (three), Earnhardt (two), Geoff Bodine, Terry Labonte and Kahne.
POWER OF THE POLE: Hendrick Motorsports leads organizations in poles for the 2019 season. Last weekend marked the sixth time in organization history where five or more poles in the first 13 races of the season were claimed by Hendrick Motorsports. The record for most poles captured in one season by the organization is 16 in 1986 where there were six pole victories in the first 13 races.
TRICKY TRIANGLE STREAKS: The record for the most consecutive wins at Pocono Raceway is claimed by Hendrick Motorsports. The organization holds a five-race win streak that began with Gordon’s August 2012 victory and ended with Earnhardt’s August 2014 win. The first four of those five straight races were won by four different Hendrick Motorsports drivers, a feat that has been accomplished on just one other occasion by Carl Keikhafer Racing at Martinsville Speedway from 1955-1956.