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      Push for NASCAR Playoffs goes under the lights at Bristol

      © Phil Cavali Photography

      Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race
      Bristol Motor Speedway
      Saturday, Aug. 17 at 7:30 p.m.


      WILLIAM BYRON

      POINTS, POINTS, POINTS: Trying to secure his place in the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, William Byron continues to pad his position above the cut-off line. After a solid run at Michigan International Speedway last weekend, the sophomore driver now sits 89 points above the cutoff line with three races left in the regular season. In fact, over the last 11 races, Byron has gained 104 points on the bubble, gaining points in all but two races in that span.

      © Phil Cavali Photography

      STAYING HOT IN THE SUMMER: Continuing his hot streak during the summer months, Byron isn’t showing signs of slowing down any time soon. In the last three races, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native has started within the top three positions twice and has gone on to finish in the top 10 twice and in the top five once across those same three races. Also, in two of those three races, the driver of the No. 24 was ranked in the top eight in points earned. Byron has collected track-best finishes in seven of the last eight races, a stat he would like to continue this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.

      BATTLE AT BRISTOL: This weekend, Byron will make his fourth NASCAR Cup Series start and his seventh national series start at Bristol Motor Speedway. His best Cup race at the “Last Great Colosseum” came a few months ago this season, when the driver of the No. 24 qualified second, lining up alongside Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott. Despite early damage, he was able to rally to a track-best finish of 16th. In the Xfinity Series, Byron’s best finish at the 0.533-mile concrete oval was a 12th-place effort in spring 2017. He collected a fourth-place finish in his lone Truck Series start at the venue, leading one lap in the process. In his K&N start at the track, Byron led 44 laps before coming up just shy of the win with a runner-up finish.

      BYRON ON BRISTOL AT NIGHT: “I try not to focus on it too much. It’s a really exciting race as a fan but as a driver it’s a stressful race. You really have to manage yourself and your car for all 500 laps. You can’t put yourself in a position to take yourself out of contention early on because it’s so hard to recover. You try to treat it like any other race but it’s a cool one to win if you can.”

      Around the Track: 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’S BRISTOL PERFORMANCE: The driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevy has seven previous NASCAR Cup Series starts at Bristol. His best finish at the 0.533-mile speedway in Tennessee came in 2018 when he brought home a fifth-place finish after 500 laps in the spring. The Tucson, Arizona, native has two starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the track, earning one top-15 finish (2013).

      © NKP

      IVES AT ‘THE WORLD’S FASTEST HALF MILE’: No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives will make his 10th NASCAR Cup Series start atop the pit box at Bristol Motor Speedway. In his nine previous starts, he has two top-five finishes and four top 10s. Ives’ best finish of second came back in 2016 with Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind the wheel. In 2013 and 2014, Ives was a crew chief at JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and claimed one top-five finish and three top 10s at Bristol. Ives’ drivers led 59 laps in the series at the 0.533-mile track and completed 99.7 percent of the total laps run. As a race engineer for the No. 48 team at Hendrick Motorsports from 2006-12, he was a part of one win, two pole awards and eight top-10 finishes at Bristol.

      MICHIGAN REWIND: Last weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series visited Michigan International Speedway. Bowman and the No. 88 team qualified fourth for the 200-lap event. In a race full of fuel mileage strategy, the team knew that it would come down to track position and smart calls from the box. Bowman finished Stage 1 in the eighth position, earning the team valuable stage points. Starting Stage 2 in fourth, the driver was able to stay inside the top-five until 15 laps to go in the stage, when the team elected to make a green-flag pit stop. When an untimely caution was shown just a few laps later, Bowman ultimately ended Stage 2 in the 19th position. Starting the final stage in the 13th position, he was able to gain three positions to finish the event in 10th. This finish marked the seventh time this season that the No. 88 team has finished inside the top 10.

      BOWMAN ON BRISTOL: “I think Bristol is a track where you can carry over what you learned in previous events. It is a strong racetrack for the No. 88 team. Bristol is one of those tracks where it can be a great place if you have good track position. We need a good points weekend and a good finish to get us ready for the playoffs.”

      Around the Track: 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

      BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY STATS: Hendrick Motorsports owns 11 wins at Bristol Motor Speedway, and its 12 pole positions at the 0.533-mile track are the most of active organizations. Chase Elliott most recently added to that total by capturing the pole earlier this season at Bristol in April. In addition, the organization has earned 58 top-five finishes, 105 top 10s and 5,901 laps led at the track since 1984.

      RECENT SUCCESS: Since the start of the 2018 season, the organization has competed well in its 12 starts at Bristol. In that span, Hendrick Motorsports drivers have earned three top-five finishes, which is tied for the second-most among all teams. The organization’s six top 10s in that time are the second-most, its 150 laps led are the fifth-most and its average finish of 13.17 is the fourth-best.

      Rick Hendrick on his interests outside of racing, getting star-struck & more
      Jeff Gordon wraps up his conversation with Rick Hendrick as Mr. H dives into his love of music, driving with Paul Newman and Tom Cruise, and discusses how important Gordon has been to Hendrick Motorsports’ success.
      Part 1 | Part 2

      SIX MAKE 11: At Bristol, Hendrick Motorsports has won eight times in the spring race and three times in the summer event. Those 11 wins have come courtesy of six different drivers – Jeff Gordon (five), Jimmie Johnson (two), Darrell Waltrip, Terry Labonte, Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne.

      SHORT TRACK STARS: Hendrick Motorsports leads all active teams at short tracks, claiming the most wins (50), poles (51), top-five finishes (221), top 10s (377) and laps led (20,851).

      ON THIS DATE: The last NASCAR Cup Series race to be held on Aug. 17 was run at Michigan International Speedway in 2014. In the 400-mile event, Hendrick Motorsports had all four drivers lead laps, combining to lead 95 of 200 laps throughout the race. The organization collected the win and three top-10 finishes — Gordon took home the victory with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in fifth and Johnson in ninth.

      Via Hendrick Motorsports