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      Hendrick Motorsports’ top-5 streak continues at Pocono; Bowman and Byron finish inside top 15

      © 2019 Gavin Baker / Hendrick Motorsports

      ALEX BOWMAN

      Start: 15th
      Finish: 15th
      Standings: 11th

      Alex Bowman and the No. 88 Axalta team rolled off 15th for the 400-mile event at Pocono Raceway on Sunday. Ten laps into the 160-lap event, Bowman reported that his Camaro ZL1 was a little tight off. Just eight laps later, the driver radioed to crew chief Greg Ives that his car was better in clean air. The competition caution was shown on Lap 20 and the Axalta Chevrolet was scored in the 16th position. Ives called Bowman to pit road for four tires, fuel and a track-bar adjustment and they were set to restart 18th. By Lap 29, the Arizona native advanced one position to 17th and was quiet on the radio.

      © 2019 John K Harrelson

      The caution flag was shown on Lap 30 and Bowman radioed to the Axalta team that his car was a lot better, but that there was a lot of traffic he was navigating through. Ives elected to keep the driver out on track and they were set to restart 15th with 17 laps to go in the stage. Bowman was able to gain four positions by the end of Stage 1, to cross the line 11th. Under the stage-ending caution, Bowman visited pit road for four tires and fuel. At the start of the second stage, the Axalta Camaro ZL1 was scored 15th. One lap after taking the green flag, the caution flag was shown and Bowman was scored in the 13th position. Ives radioed to Bowman to save as much fuel as he could, as the team was going to remain on track and not visit pit road. Bowman restarted ninth on Lap 60 and one lap after the green flag waved, the caution was shown. The Axalta crew chief once again relayed to Bowman to save fuel and stay out.

      With 21 laps to go in Stage 2, Bowman was running 11th. Ives elected to bring the No. 88 machine to pit road for a scheduled green-flag stop on Lap 97 for four tires and fuel. The team was scored with a 23rd-place finish in Stage 2 and would remain on track while under the stage-ending yellow. The 26-year-old started the final stage from the eighth position and on Lap 117 radioed to the team that the car was pretty good by itself. On Lap 124, Ives called Bowman to pit road for a scheduled pit stop for right-side tires, fuel and a track-bar adjustment. As pit stops cycled through, Bowman was running in the sixth position. With 14 laps to go in the race, the caution flag was shown, and Bowman reported that his car was too free in Turn 1. The team decided to pit from the ninth position for four tires and fuel under the caution.

      Before hitting pit road, Bowman relayed to the team that his Axalta Camaro ZL1 had popped out of fourth gear and he wasn’t able to get it to stay in place. While on pit road the team discussed ways to attempt to fix the issue. With less than 10 laps to go in the race, the team was scored in the 15th position and would end the 400-mile event in that position.

      Alex Bowman: “This was not what we needed today. We had a good car; we just fought some handling issues off and on. Greg and the Axalta team made good adjustments on each stop. There at the end, it just came out of fourth gear and wouldn’t stay in. I had to hold it in place for the end of the race. We learned some things today about how this package will run at Pocono, so we have a little idea for next time. We will leave here and move on to Michigan.”

      WILLIAM BYRON

      Start: 1st
      Finish: 9th
      Standings: 14th

      Collecting back-to back NASCAR Cup Series pole awards, and his third pole of the 2019 season, William Byron led the field to green for Sunday’s 400-mile event at Pocono Raceway. Jumping out to an early lead, Byron’s No. 24 Hendrick Autoguard Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 paced the field until the competition caution came out on Lap 21. Coming to pit road for four tires, fuel and minor adjustments, Byron returned to the track in sixth place for the restart after the first five cars only took two tires. Before the end of Stage 1, Byron fought his way back to the second position and was chasing down the leaders but ultimately ran out of time, but still collected valuable second-place stage points in the opening leg of the race. The sophomore driver came down pit road under the stage break for another routine four-tire stop with minor adjustments to a Hendrick Autoguard Chevy that was just a bit loose in Turns 1 and 3.

      © 2019 Gavin Baker

      With some cars electing to pit before the end of the previous stage, Byron lined up behind them for the start of Stage 2, restarting from the eighth position. However, just three laps into the run the caution came back out. Crew chief Chad Knaus made the call for Byron to come down pit road to top off on fuel but was told to “save aggressively.” Lining up 15th for the restart, Byron tried to gain some of those positions back but two more quick cautions stalled his forward progress. Finding himself 12th on the Lap 73 restart, Byron initially radioed to the crew that he felt like he had a flat tire. Staying on track to assess the situation, Byron ultimately decided to not pit and chalked it up to tire buildup that collected under the previous caution. As the laps in the second stage began to wind down, Byron methodically worked his way through traffic, making it back within the top 10 with just under 10 laps remaining. As some teams elected to pit under green before the stage ended again, the No. 24 team opted to stay out collecting crucial stage points after crossing the line third to end Stage 2. Byron brought his Chevy down pit road under the caution for four tires, fuel and an adjustment to try to help with the car’s handling in “dirty air.” The Hendrick Autoguard team had another solid stop, allowing Byron to start the final stage from 12th, the first car with four fresh tires.

      Taking the green on Lap 106, Byron was fighting for positions when he scrubbed the wall with his right side. Losing momentum, Byron dropped to 19th and assessed any possible damage to his Hendrick Autoguard Chevy. After getting a good look at the right side, Knaus and the No. 24 team gave Byron the green light to stay on track and work on gaining as much track position back as possible. As a long green-flag run ensued, Byron began meticulously working his way through traffic, and as green-flag stops began Byron found himself back within the top-five running order with under 40 laps to go. Taking over the lead on Lap 134, Byron held down the top spot until he made his green-flag pit stop on Lap 136 for fuel only. Returning to the track in the 12th position, Byron gained one position before the final caution of the race came out on Lap 148. Coming down pit road one final time, Knaus made the call for two right side tires and a splash of fuel, setting Byron up to restart 12th with nine laps to go. As the laps counted down, Byron raced to the ninth position by the time the checkered flag was displayed, collecting back-to-back top-10 finishes as well as his third top-10 finish in the last four races.

      Byron’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott came home with a top-five finish – in fourth – at the “Tricky Triangle,” and Jimmie Johnson came home 19th. Kyle Busch captured the win.

      William Byron:“We had some really good parts of today’s race. We went for the points today, which with the way the strategy was, it was hard to get back up at the front. But we got a lot of points today, which was our plan and that’s great. I know it doesn’t sound good, but we had really good stages and really good runs today. We were able to go from 12th to 9th on that last restart and we finished with a top 10, so hopefully we can go to Michigan and be able to improve on that even more. We were definitely as fast as anyone at the start of the race. It just took us a long time to get by guys and that was just something that kind of was a hindrance. But overall the guys did a great job on the car and this was a solid day. We’ve had two solid races in a row now and that’s great for us. Another pole is obviously awesome to get; I just have to work on some things and clean it all up. After that I think we’ll be really close to that first win.”

      Via Hendrick Motorsports