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      Byron brings new patriotic paint scheme to Daytona as Bowman hopes to build off win

      © Phil Cavali Photography

      WILLIAM BYRON

      SOPHOMORE SEASON SUCCESS: At the halfway mark of his sophomore season in the NASCAR Cup Series, Byron has improved in spades behind the wheel of the No. 24 Chevy. In 17 races so far, Byron has five top-10 finishes, 180 laps led and three poles compared to only four top-10 finishes, 61 laps led and zero poles in all of 2018. The driver is currently the leader in the entire Cup Series with an active streak of laps led in seven consecutive races, with the next closest driver at five straight events. That streak has him tied for the third-longest streak of races led in 2019 and ties his longest streak of consecutive races with laps led dating back to his standout Truck Series season in 2016. In the last eight races, Byron ranks eighth among Cup drives for the most amount of points earned with 257.

      AXALTA’S FLAMES OF INDEPENDENCE: This weekend, Axalta Coating Systems will return to Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Daytona. The iconic Axalta flames will take on a new look for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. On Tuesday, the Axalta Flames of Independence paint scheme was unveiled sporting a pearl-white base coat with red and blue ombre flames traveling down the sides of the car.

      BYRON ON DAYTONA: “I’m excited to get to Daytona this weekend. We obviously started off the season there with a lot of speed by getting the pole for the Daytona 500, and we really had a good race going until the last couple laps. As a team we’ve gotten stronger since then, on and off the track, and I think that can only help us. The thing with Daytona though is you can’t really prepare for it; it’s about making sure you’re still there in the end. The hope is to collect as many points as possible in the first two stages to help balance out what may happen in the end, but even then, it’s easy to lose a ton as well. Hopefully though we can get the result that I think our team deserves. I honestly feel like we should be contending for the win at the end.”

      DAYTONA DATA: When Byron returned to Daytona International Speedway for the Cup Series season opener this February, it marked his third start at the famed 2.5-mile superspeedway but his first with No. 24 team crew chief Chad Knaus. A strong Speedweeks yielded Byron securing the pole for the Daytona 500, his first Cup Series pole award. Across the driver’s three Daytona Cup Series starts, he’s led 56 laps and has a track-best finish of 21st earlier this season after an on-track incident with two laps remaining took him out of contention. He has a Daytona win on his racing resume – during his 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship campaign, Byron qualified third in the July race at Daytona and found himself at the front of the field when it mattered most, leading 29 laps to score the victory. In the process, he became the youngest driver with a Xfinity Series win at Daytona at 19 years, seven months and one day. Aside from his two Xfinity starts at Daytona, Byron also has one Truck Series start and one ARCA Racing Series start at the track on his resume.

      CHICAGO CLOUT: Forced to start at the rear of the field for last Sunday’s race at Chicagoland Speedway due to an engine change from an oil leak discovered after practice, William Byron powered his No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 through the field, ultimately taking over the lead on Lap 99. When a caution with 60 laps remaining shuffled the running order, the driver continued to maintain his top-10 running position as the laps wound down before ultimately scoring an eighth-place result, his fifth top-10 finish of the 2019 season.

      KNAUS’ KNACK: This weekend’s race at Daytona will mark the 37th race Knaus has called from atop the pit box at the track, but it will be his second with Byron at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Making his 2019 debut with the sophomore driver in February, the duo claimed the Daytona 500 pole. Aside from this year’s pole award, Knaus has two other pole awards at Daytona as well as two wins, sweeping the 2013 season.

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      William Byron talks about his unconventional start in racing, how he has managed to progress through the NASCAR ranks so quickly and how iRacing prepared him for the Cup Series.
      Watch Part 2 and Part 3 of Jeff’s interview with William.

      ALEX BOWMAN

      WINNER, WINNER: Last weekend, Alex Bowman and the No. 88 team led 88 laps en route to a victory at Chicagoland Speedway. It was Bowman’s first career NASCAR Cup Series victory and No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives’ fifth win. The team qualified eighth for the 267-lap event last Sunday and finished both stages inside the top 10, earning valuable stage points. Bowman is now locked into the NASCAR playoffs, which kick off later this season. He is now one of 10 drivers to capture their first Cup Series victory with Hendrick Motorsports, an all-time record.

      © 2019 Matthew T. Thacker / NKP

      GOING FOR TWO: The last time a driver captured his first two series victories back-to-back was in 1964 when Billy Wade captured his first win at Old Bridge and went on to get his second win the following weekend at Bridgehampton. Bowman finished second in the last superspeedway race at Talladega back in April and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Chase Elliott, took home the win. The No. 88 team is looking to have back-to-back wins this weekend at Daytona.

      BOWMAN IN DAYTONA: Bowman is set to make his seventh start at Daytona International Speedway this Saturday night. The Tucson, Arizona, native has one pole (February 2018) and one top-10 finish at the superspeedway. During the July race weekend last season, Bowman and the No. 88 team finished 10th after rolling off second for the 168-lap event. The driver has led a total of 14 laps at the Florida-based track and has completed 99.6 percent of the total number of laps run.

      BOWMAN TALKS: “Going to Daytona this weekend, we have a little bit of a monkey off our back. I was one who definitely kept track of the point standings and now we can go out and focus on stage points and race wins. Being locked into the playoffs is an amazing feeling. Our goal is to get to Miami and be in the running for a championship. … This team brought an amazing car to Talladega earlier this year and I know that these guys were back in the shop putting together a great car for this weekend. The superspeedway program at Hendrick Motorsports has always been good and the teams all work together pretty well on the track. I think we have a shot at the win this weekend, too, which is a great feeling.”

      A LOT OF FIRSTS: Bowman may have scored his first NASCAR Cup Series victory last weekend, but there are many more firsts. The Arizona native is the first Cup Series driver to get his first win at Chicagoland Speedway. He is also the first driver of the No. 88 machine to get their first win with that number on the door. Hailing from Tucson, Arizona, Bowman also became the first NASCAR driver from the state to win a Cup race.

      2019 AT A GLANCE: Following last weekend’s victory at Chicagoland Speedway, the No. 88 team continues to make gains this season. This season, Bowman has one win, four top-five finishes, and six top-10s. The No. 88 team has led 182 laps this season thus far, which is more than double its number of laps led in 2018. The team is locked into the NASCAR playoffs and currently sits eighth in the playoff standings. Bowman is ranked number one on the list of drivers who have earned the most points over the last eight races this season. In that span, the 26-year-old sits first with 323 points. He also has the best average finish of the series at 6.63 in the last eight races, finishing inside the top two in four of them.

      IVES’ STATS: Ives will call the shots for the 10th time at Daytona International Speedway this weekend under the lights. The crew chief’s resume includes two pole wins, one win with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2015, two top-five results and three top-10s at the track. Ives’ drivers have led a total of 166 laps at the superspeedway. In 2013 and 2014, Ives was a crew chief at JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His drivers led 25 laps at Daytona and had an average start of 14.8 and an average finish of 14.2. From 2006-2012, Ives was a race engineer on the No. 48 team with Jimmie Johnson. During that time, the team had one win (2006), one second-place finish and one pole award at Daytona.

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      HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS

      HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT DAYTONA: Over the years Hendrick Motorsports has accumulated quite the resume at Daytona International Speedway. The organization boasts the second-most wins all-time at the track with 14, behind only Wood Brothers Racing’s 15. Hendrick Motorsports has accumulated 54 top-five finishes, 96 top 10s and 2,102 laps led at the track.

      A NEW RECORD: Following Alex Bowman’s victory last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports tied Wood Brothers Racing for the all-time record for the most drivers to win for a team with 18. Of the 23 drivers that have competed in at least 10 races for Hendrick Motorsports, only five have failed to win. The organization is responsible for each of Chevrolet’s last five Cup Series wins.

      GOT POLES?: Hendrick Motorsports has a Daytona record five straight poles at the track. Chase Elliott began the streak by grabbing the top starting spot for the 2017 Daytona 500, which was followed by pole wins from Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bowman, Elliott again and most recently William Byron earlier this season in the Daytona 500.

      WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES: Through the first 17 races of 2019 compared to that span in 2018, Hendrick Motorsports has improved across the board. The difference in many categories includes poles (+5), wins (+2), top-five finishes (+5), top-10 finishes (+4), laps led (+740), average start (-4.28), average finish (-2.51) and stage wins (+3). The organization has placed at least three drivers in the top 10 at the end of four of the last seven races, compared to three or more Hendrick Motorsports drivers finishing inside the top 10 in the same race just three times in all of 2018.

      PLAYOFF POSITIONING: Currently, all four Hendrick Motorsports teammates are in position to make the 16-driver NASCAR Cup Series playoffs at the end of the regular season. Elliott and Bowman have both essentially locked in their spots by finding Victory Lane and rank seventh and ninth, respectively, in the point standings. Byron currently ranks 12th in the standings, with Jimmie Johnson in 14th. 

      Via Hendrick Motorsports