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      Coming off runner-up finish, William Byron eyes victory lane as NASCAR visits Kentucky

      © 2019 Nigel Kinrade / NKP

      RACE INFO:  Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart at Kentucky Speedway | Saturday, July 13 at 7:30 p.m. ET

      WILLIAM BYRON

      REDEMPTION AT DAYTONA: After an on-track incident in final practice, William Byron was forced to start from the rear of the field when the NASCAR Cup Series was finally able to take the green flag at Daytona International Speedway last Sunday afternoon. Methodically working his way through the field and into the top-five running order, Byron was able to successfully avoid “The Big One” on Lap 120, positioning himself as the runner-up at the time of the caution. With various pit strategies playing out with the weather in the area, the race was deemed official on Lap 127. Byron was credited with a second-place finish – a career best and his first Cup Series top-five finish.

      HALFWAY HOME IN 2019: Hitting the halfway mark of the 2019 Cup Series season, Byron is hitting his stride with the No. 24 team. After collecting his career-best Cup Series finish of second last weekend at Daytona, he is now tied with five other drivers, including teammate Alex Bowman, for the most top-10 finishes in the last eight races with five. He is also tied with teammate Jimmie Johnson for the longest active streak with two consecutive top-10 finishes, and his two straight top 10s on 1.5-mile tracks tie for the third-longest active streak. Over the last seven races, the driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has steadily gained 73 points over the playoff bubble since the 600-mile event at Charlotte in May. With 18 starts in his sophomore season, Byron has led 180 laps, collected three poles, one top five-finish and six top 10s compared to 61 laps led and four top 10s through 36 starts in 2018.

      BLUEGRASS STATE BOUND: When the Cup Series heads to Kentucky Speedway this weekend for Saturday night’s race, Byron will make his sixth national series start at the 1.5-mile oval. With last year marking his first race at Kentucky in the Cup Series, Byron fought an ill-handling car all race before ultimately finishing in the 20th position. In his two Xfinity starts at the track, Byron has one top-10 finish and was poised for a second in the fall race but a loose wheel sent him to an 18th-place finish. In 2016, Byron qualified third in the Truck Series race at Kentucky, led 70 laps and went on to be the first winner on the newly repaved and reconfigured track.

      KNAUS NEEDS KENTUCKY: This weekend’s race at Kentucky Speedway marks the second track of four this season where No. 24 team crew chief Chad Knaus has yet to claim a victory. Calling the shots for eight races at the 1.5-mile track, third (2011) is the closest Knaus has come to taking home the checkered flag. In those eight starts, the veteran crew chief has one pole (2012), one top-five finish and five top 10s.

      Jeff Gordon and William Byron
      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

      BOWMAN AT KENTUCKY: Bowman is set to make his fourth Cup Series start at Kentucky Speedway this Saturday night. On 1.5-mile tracks this season, the Tucson, Arizona, native has one win (Chicago) and three top-10 finishes including two top fives. The driver of the No. 88 machine has an average finish of 9.0 at 1.5-mile venues and is one of only four drivers with an average finish of 10th or better on the track length in 2019. The 26-year-old driver also has three starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Kentucky, completing 98.9 percent of the total laps run and recording two top-10 finishes including one top five.

      ON A TOP-10 ROLL: Bowman is tied with five drivers for the most top-10 finishes in the last eight races. He has finished inside the top 10 five times since Dover in May. The No. 88 driver owns the second-longest active streak of top 10s on 1.5-mile tracks with three.

      IVES’ STATS: No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives will call the shots for the fifth time at Kentucky Speedway this weekend under the lights. The Bark River, Michigan, native’s resume includes two top-15 finishes and four laps led. Ives’ drivers have an average starting position of 12.8 and an average finish of 21.2 at the track. In 2013 and 2014, Ives was a crew chief at JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His drivers led 20 laps at the 1.5-mile track and had an average start of 10.8 and an average finish of 14.5. From 2006-2012, Ives was a race engineer on the No. 48 team with Jimmie Johnson. During that time, the team had one pole win, one top-five finish and two top 10s at Kentucky.

      Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman
      Alex Bowman opens up about his long journey to Hendrick Motorsports, the adversity and injuries he had to overcome along the way and going “from the couch to the playoffs.”

      HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS

      TEAM HENDRICK AT KENTUCKY: Kentucky is one of only two tracks in the NASCAR Cup Series where Hendrick Motorsports has yet to claim a victory along with the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course. In the organization’s 32 starts at Kentucky, it owns two poles, one second-place result, six top-five finishes, 15 top 10s and 220 laps led. The organization has finished in every position from second to 14th at least once at the track.

      THE LAST NINE: Over the last nine races, Hendrick Motorsports leads the NASCAR Cup Series in several categories. The organization has earned the most poles (three), runner-up results (four), top-five finishes (12), top 10s (20) and laps led (580) during that span. Hendrick Motorsports’ average finish of 11.75 in those eight races also leads the Cup Series, and its two wins are tied for the second-most.

      FULL SPEED AHEAD: Hendrick Motorsports has had at least three cars finish in the top 10 in four of the past eight races (Dover International Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway). Through the first 18 races of 2019, the organization has increased its poles by five, wins by two, top-five finishes by seven, top 10s by five and laps led by 709 over the same span in 2018. Hendrick Motorsports’ average start of 12.01 this season is 3.8 positions better than through the first 18 races last year, and its average finish of 13.58 is 2.89 spots better than 2018’s mark through the first half of the year.

      Via Hendrick Motorsports