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      Playoff cutdown looms as Alex Bowman and William Byron take on Roval elimination race


      © Nigel Kinrade / NKP

      Bank of America ROVAL 400
      Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course
      Sunday, Sept. 29 | 2:30 p.m. ET


      ALEX BOWMAN

      BOWMAN GOES LEFT AND RIGHT AT CLT: The driver of the No. 88 machine will make his second start at the Charlotte Motor Speedway “roval” this weekend. Last season, Bowman qualified third and crossed the line fourth after 109 laps during the event. The Tucson, Arizona, native has seven starts at the Charlotte Motor Speedway oval and has two top-10 finishes in his last two events at the track.

      LOOKING AT POINTS: Following last weekend’s event at Richmond Raceway, where the No. 88 team finished 24th, Bowman now sits 13th in the playoff points grid just two points out of the top 12. The Round of 12 will be set following Sunday’s race at the Charlotte road course. In 2018, Bowman gained 71 points between the events at Richmond and the “roval,” sending him to the Round of 12, and this year the No. 88 team is hoping history will repeat itself.

      BOWMAN ON RACING AT THE “ROVAL”: “This is an interesting and busy week. The ‘roval’ is kind of awkward, but we finished decent there last year. We really need a good weekend on-track. We are so close to the Round of 12 cut-off line, so we definitely need to focus on getting as many points as we can this weekend. Last week didn’t go the way we needed it to, so we are definitely going back to the books and hoping to unload strong in Charlotte on Friday.”

      ROAD-COURSE STATS: In his last five starts at road courses with Hendrick Motorsports, Bowman has scored stage points in six of the 10 total stages. The driver’s lowest finish in those last five road-course starts still has him in the top 15 with three 14th-place results. 

      IVES ON ROAD COURSES: Bark River, Michigan, native Greg Ives will make his second start at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course on top of the No. 88 pit box as crew chief this Sunday. He led Bowman and the No. 88 team to a fourth-place finish at the “roval” last season after qualifying third for the event. Ives has 11 starts as a crew chief in the NASCAR Cup Series on road-course tracks with Hendrick Motorsports. In those 11 starts, he has one top-five finish and four top 10s.

      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.”


      WILLIAM BYRON

      TWO DOWN, ONE TO GO: Heading into the first elimination race of the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, driver William Byron has scored a seventh-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and a 24th-place result at Richmond Raceway in the first two races of the Round of 16. Despite an unfortunate finish at last weekend’s short-track race, Byron remains above the cut line, now in the 12th position, two points above Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman.

      ‘ROVAL’ READY: Just like the rest of the NASCAR Cup Series field, Byron will be making his second start at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s “roval” this weekend. However, this year’s race will have a new reconfiguration with the backstretch chicane. Last year, the No. 24 driver had a solid, top-10 day at the 2.28-mile course, until a flat tire mired him deep in the field before a late-race incident ended his day early. Despite the results not reflecting the day he was having, the sophomore driver is still optimistic about this weekend. In two road-course races this season, Byron has the highest average starting position in the field (2.0) after starting on the front row at both Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International. Byron has shown strength on the road courses in 2019, including capturing his first Cup Series stage win at Sonoma.

      BYRON ON WHAT HE LEARNED FROM THE “ROVAL” LAST YEAR: “It was a really intense race. I think it will probably come down to a late-race restart. Last year’s race I think even had a fuel mileage aspect to it until the final few laps and everyone had really old tires and no grip whatsoever. You try to prepare for that any way you can, and you try to judge the grip level coming to those restarts late in the race. Otherwise, you have to do your best to stay out of trouble early, but also know you can overcome issues at a place like that.”

      TIED FOR SECOND: Byron is one of four Cup Series drivers who have finished second in a race in 2019 but have yet to capture the checkered flag. He is ranked third among the Cup field for most laps led (187) without a win.

      HOME SWEET HOME: Cutting his teeth in the racing world in Charlotte, North Carolina, Byron is one of only a handful of drivers who was born and raised in the “Home of NASCAR.” After visiting U.S. Legend Cars International headquarters in Harrisburg, North Carolina, with his father in 2012, Byron found himself behind the wheel for the first time the following year competing in the Young Lion Division. Winning 33 of the 69 legend car events in 2013, Byron went on to lock up the U.S. Legend Young Lions national championship and the Thursday Thunder Young Lion championship at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Progressing to the Legend Car Pro Division the next season, Byron also signed with JR Motorsports developmental program at the same time. From that point on, Byron hasn’t slowed down at all as he climbed the racing ranks before ultimately making it to the top level of NASCAR as a Cup Series rookie in 2018.

      CHECKING THE BOXES: This weekend’s race at the “roval” marks the final track of four where No. 24 team crew chief Chad Knaus has yet to claim a victory on the current NASCAR Cup Series schedule. While it is only the second race at the 2.28-mile track, Knaus came close to capturing the win in the inaugural event last season with Jimmie Johnson, but a next-to-last-corner move for the win by the No. 48 resulted in a spin, ultimately leaving the team with an eighth-place finish.

      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.


      HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS

      HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT CHARLOTTE’S ROAD COURSE: There has been just one race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course, which made its debut last season. Hendrick Motorsports captured one top-five finish and three top 10s in the event. Those three top 10s tied with Stewart-Haas Racing for the most by any team in the race. The organization also had three drivers start in the top six at the “roval” in 2018.

      A DATE TO REMEMBER: In the last four NASCAR Cup Series races run on Sept. 29, a Hendrick Motorsports driver found Victory Lane in three of them. Jeff Gordon won at North Wilkesboro in 1996 and Kansas in 2002, then Jimmie Johnson won at Dover in 2013.

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      Part 1 | Part 2

      ROAD-COURSE SUCCESS: Since the start of 2018, Hendrick Motorsports has won two of the five races on road courses, and won four of the 10 stages in those races. In that span, it has led 157 laps – the most of all teams – and swept the front row in the most recent road-course qualifying at Watkins Glen with Elliott in first and William Byron in second.

      Via Hendrick Motorsports