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      NASCAR regular season comes to a close with Brickyard 400

      © 2019 Logan Whitton / NKP

      Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard
      Indianapolis Motor Speedway
      Sunday, Sept. 8 at 2 p.m. ET

      WILLIAM BYRON

      MAKING HISTORY: Capturing his fourth career NASCAR Cup Series pole this past weekend at Darlington Raceway – all of which have come in the 2019 season – William Byron joined elite company. Not only is he the youngest driver to earn the Cup Series pole at Darlington, but he is now one of three drivers to start from the pole position for the Daytona 500, the Charlotte 600 and the Southern 500 in the same year, joining NASCAR Hall of Famers Fireball Roberts (1962) and Bill Elliott (1985). No driver has ever won the pole for all four “crown jewel” races in one season, but the 21-year old driver can rewrite history if he is able to capture the top spot in qualifying this weekend for the Brickyard 400.

      SOPHOMORE SUCCESS: In 2019, Byron has exceeded his totals in virtually every category from his 2018 rookie of the year campaign. Last season, he totaled four top-10 finishes and 61 laps led. So far this year, he has doubled his top 10s with eight and nearly tripled his laps led with 180. In addition, he has secured four pole positions and two top-five results compared to zero last year.

      PLAYOFF TICKET PUNCHED: While there is still one race left in the 2019 Cup Series regular season, the No. 24 team has already locked itself into the 16-driver Cup Series playoffs field. Building his points gap over the bubble position dating back to the race at Kansas Speedway in May, Byron earned enough points in last Sunday’s race at Darlington to clinch his position. From 15 points below the cutoff line at Kansas, he is currently 66 point above it following last weekend. It is the first time the sophomore driver will be a part of the playoffs, and he became the ninth different driver that Hendrick Motorsports has taken into the playoffs, leading all organizations in series history. 

      © Phil Cavali Photography

      INDY INSIGHT: Making his second Cup Series start in the illustrious Brickyard 400, Byron is optimistic about the No. 24 team’s chances at a track where he’s had past success. While his lone Cup start at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last season was hindered by weather washing out all practice and qualifying, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native started the race 22nd and raced within the top 10 for parts of the race, even leading laps due to pit strategy. However, with varying strategies in the closing laps, Byron crossed the stripe in the 22nd position. In 2017, Byron made his first trip to Indianapolis in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. While battling for a championship, Byron became the youngest driver to win a major race at the historic track at 19 years, 7 months and 23 days. He’s not only the youngest driver to win a NASCAR race at the 2.5-mile track, but is the third-youngest winner in any series, behind two Indy Car Light Series drivers. Byron would love to kiss the bricks again this weekend, adding to the already lengthy legacy the No. 24 team has at Indy. The team has five wins in the Brickyard 400, all with Jeff Gordon, dating back to the inaugural race in 1994.

      BYRON ON RACING AT INDIANAPOLIS: “I think this year’s package is going to do really well at Indy. It was good in the Xfinity Series when we ran there and we had good passing throughout the race. I think it will be a better race than Pocono was because of the short chute you have in between Turns 1 and 2 that give you the opportunity to really get a run on somebody. I think it will be interesting to see how it plays out. Depending on the weather and how hot it is, I think will play a role, too, on the outcome of Sunday’s race.”

      KNAUS KNOWS INDY: Returning to Indianapolis for the 18th time as a Cup Series crew chief, Chad Knaus leads all crew chiefs for Brickyard 400 wins with four. Those four wins with Jimmie Johnson included trips to Victory Lane in three of four seasons from 2006-2009. His last win at the 2.5-mile oval came in 2012. Knaus has also visited Victory Lane at Indy one other time as a member of Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 team in 1994 during the inaugural running of the Brickyard 400.

      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 AT THE BRICKYARD: Bowman has three previous starts in the NASCAR Cup Series at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 88 machine qualified 15th last season at the track and finished 33rd after the team suffered right-side damage from an incident on Lap 65. The Tucson, Arizona, native has two starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the historic track, where he finished inside the top 17 in both events.

      25 RACES IN: There are 11 races to go in the 2019 season and the No. 88 driver has had a record year thus far. In 2018, Bowman had three top-five finishes and 11 top 10s. He completed 97.3 percent of the total laps and led 71 markers. In the first 25 races in 2019, Bowman has one win (Chicagoland Speedway), four top-five finishes and seven top 10s. Since Daytona this season, the 26-year-old driver has led 182 laps and completed 98.1 percent of the total laps run. In 2018, the driver or the No. 88 machine’s average start was 13.1 and his average finish was 17.0. Since the start of the 2019 season, Bowman’s average start is 13.5 and his average finish is 13.9.

      LOOKING AHEAD TO PLAYOFFS: This weekend’s event in Indianapolis marks the final race of the regular season in the NASCAR Cup Series. Of the 10 tracks that make up the playoffs, Bowman has a runner-up finish at three (Dover International Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway) this season. Last year, Bowman finished the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course event in the fourth position after starting third. The final race of the first round of the playoffs will be held at the Charlotte “roval” later this month.

      IVES IN INDY: No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives has called the shots four times at Indianapolis with three different drivers. The Bark River, Michigan, native earned his best finish of 13th with Jeff Gordon back in 2016 at the 2.5-mile oval. Ives has two starts in the Xfinity Series at the Brickyard, which includes one top-15 finish when Chase Elliott finished 12th in 2014 after starting fifth. As a race engineer for the No. 48 team at Hendrick Motorsports from 2006-12, Ives was a part of four wins at the track.

      BOWMAN ON PREPARING FOR PLAYOFFS: “I think consistency is the key improvement we need. We go to a lot of places where we are really strong and there are a lot of good tracks for us in the playoffs, but at the same time, we are very hit-and-miss here lately. We have a lot of work to do, I think, but the tracks that suit us can be very good. Starting at a place like Vegas, going back to Kansas and Dover, we are going to a lot of tracks that are good for us, so we should be really strong. I think a lot of it is building momentum these two weeks after the off weekend, which was a really good reset for us. At the same time, we are working super hard on our Vegas stuff, really focused on that and getting it going.”

      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

      HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT INDY: At Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports owns a variety of NASCAR Cup Series records in the Brickyard 400. The organization’s 10 wins are the most by five, its 26 top-five finishes are the most by four, its 40 top 10s are the most by six and its 1,025 laps led are the most by 328. Hendrick Motorsports owns five Brickyard 400 poles, which is tied for the most all-time with Joe Gibbs Racing.

      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

      TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS AT THE BRICKYARD: Hendrick Motorsports has never gone more than three races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway without a trip to Victory Lane. That streak began with the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994, which was won by Jeff Gordon, the youngest driver ever to win at Indy. The organization has won three of the last seven races at the Speedway, Indiana, track, and those victories have come via three different drivers, which is tied for the most at the venue. A Hendrick Motorsports driver has led laps in four of the last eight Brickyard 400s.

      Via Hendrick Motorsports