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      William Byron and Alex Bowman looking to give perfect birthday gift to Rick Hendrick at Kentucky

      © 2020 Nigel Kinrade / NKP

      Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart
      Kentucky Speedway

      Sunday, July 12 | 2:30 p.m. ET


      THE LAST FIVE: Despite misfortune Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, William Byron and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team are optimistic their recent surge of momentum will continue. In his last five starts, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native has racked up two top-10 results, including a season-best finish of seventh at Pocono Raceway. With an average finish of 12.67 in the last five races, Byron ranks sixth overall in the Cup Series.

      EYES ON THE PLAYOFFS: Looking to lock himself into the playoffs for the second time in his three-year NASCAR Cup Series career, Byron is 14th in the standings with two playoff points to his name. While a win in one of the upcoming points-paying races would automatically secure his position in the fight for the championship, Byron is currently 48 points above the playoff cutline heading into the Kentucky Speedway weekend.

      BLUEGRASS STATE BOUND: Sunday’s race will mark Byron’s third Cup Series start at Kentucky Speedway. With a best finish of 18th, Byron’s results don’t accurately depict the speed he has displayed at the 1.5-mile track. Last year, the driver was running within the top five for the first half of the race. However, during a restart in the final stage, Byron was called for a penalty, forcing him down pit road and off the lead lap before crossing the finish line in 18th.

      KENTUCKY CONQUER: In his lone NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series start at Kentucky Speedway in 2016, Byron qualified in the third position, led 70 laps and collected the victory. He became the first winner on the newly repaved and reconfigured track.

      KNAUS NEEDS KENTUCKY: Kentucky Speedway is one of only four active NASCAR Cup Series racetracks where crew chief Chad Knaus has yet to claim a victory. Despite calling nine races at the 1.5-mile venue, third place (2011) is the closest Knaus has come to taking home a checkered flag. With eight of those nine starts coming with driver Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team, the veteran crew chief has one pole (2012), one top-five finish and five top 10s. His most recent showing at Kentucky came with Byron and the No. 24 team last season when Knaus put the then-sophomore driver in contention for the win. However, a late-race restart penalty left the duo with an 18th-place finish.

      ALL-STAR RACE VOTING: For the first time in Cup Series history, the 2020 NASCAR All-Star Race will be held on the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway, and Byron is looking to lock himself in. Last year, the driver of the No. 24 battled his way into the main event by winning the first stage of the Open qualifying race in a stellar last-corner pass. However, if Byron isn’t able to lock himself in to the All-Star Race before July 15 by winning a points-paying Cup Series event, he will have three chances during the Open qualifier by winning one of the stages or by receiving the fan vote. Currently Byron is ranked fourth in the voting with only a few days left. Fans can place their vote once per day, with votes shared on social media counting double, at NASCAR.com/fanvote until 12 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 14. The winner of the fan vote will be announced immediately following the conclusion of the Open qualifying race on Wednesday, July 15.

      BYRON ON HAVING COMPETITION CAUTIONS INSTEAD OF PRACTICE: “I think the competition cautions in these races have helped some guys for sure. For us on the No. 24 team, though, we haven’t necessarily needed them at most tracks. We’ve shown up extremely prepared from a team aspect and a driver aspect. I can only really think of one race that I wanted that competition caution, and that was Atlanta. Otherwise, I’ve been happy with how our speed has been at the beginning of the race. Kentucky may be a different story since the surface is so hard to pinpoint ahead of time, but I’m confident in the car my team will have prepared.”

      Chad Knaus talks William Byron, Jimmie Johnson, returning to the No. 24 & more
      Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Chad Knaus, crew chief of Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 24 car, discusses the difference between a young Jimmie Johnson and William Byron, how NASCAR has evolved during his time in the sport, his experience working as a crew chief when he was just a teenager and whether he ever wanted to become a driver.
      Watch Part 2 of Jeff’s interview with Chad


      BOWMAN AT KENTUCKY: Bowman is set to make his fifth NASCAR Cup Series start at Kentucky Speedway this weekend. Last season, the Tucson, Arizona, native finished inside the top 20 after crossing the line 17th. He also has three NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the venue, completing 98.9% of the total laps run with an average start of 13.0 and average finishing position of 13.3. In those three starts, the driver has one top-five finish and two top 10s.

      2020 VISION: Over the last 16 NASCAR Cup Series races, Bowman has the sixth-best average running position at 11.77. The 27-year-old driver has led 381 laps this season, which is the fifth-highest total in the series. Bowman and the No. 88 team have also been better than their finishes in 2020 with an average running position of 11.77 and average finish of 16.75 — a difference of five spots on the racetrack. In addition, the No. 88 pit crew has an average four-tire pit stop of 14.24 seconds, which is ninth-best among teams this season.

      STAGE ENDS: Bowman has four stage wins in 2020, which is tied for second overall in the NASCAR Cup Series. He has also captured 142 stage points in 2020, which ranks fifth on the list of drivers with stage points this season.

      THROUGH 16: After 16 events in 2020, Bowman currently sits eighth in the NASCAR Cup Series standings and is seventh in the playoff standings. The sixth-year driver has one win (Auto Club Speedway), two top-five finishes and five top 10s.

      IVES’ STATS: Crew chief Greg Ives will call the shots for the sixth time at Kentucky Speedway on Sunday afternoon. The Bark River, Michigan, native’s resume includes two top-15 finishes and four laps led at the track. During the 2013 and 2014 seasons, 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 and two top-10 finishes.

      BOWMAN ON GETTING BACK TO A 1.5-MILE TRACK: “I am ready to get back to a mile-and-a-half track this weekend, especially after the last few weeks. These are the tracks where we are typically pretty good. We haven’t had the finishes to show recently at mile-and-a-half venues, but we have brought extremely strong Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LEs each week. The last time Cincinnati was on the car, we put it in victory lane. I know we will bring a fast car this weekend and can hopefully go two in a row with Cincinnati.”

      IVES TALKS KENTUCKY: “We are going back to a mile-and-a-half track and somewhere where we have really good speed. Kentucky hasn’t been favorable to me and my history at the track. The last few times we have run here, we have strategized well and run well but we haven’t ended up with the finish we deserve there. If we can just finish where we run, that is a lot better than wrecking or losing a tire there and not finishing where we need to be. We have a good package for a mile and a half tracks, so hopefully we can take that and the stuff we have learned from other tracks here lately and get a solid finish at the end of the day.”

      Rick Hendrick on his early days in NASCAR and the driver who surprised him most
      After racing for him for 23 full-time seasons, Jeff Gordon sits down with fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Rick Hendrick to discuss Hendrick Motorsports’ beginnings, what surprised them about Jimmie Johnson, big risks paying off and more.
      Part 2 | Part 3


      THE GIFT OF WINNING: There’s one birthday present Rick Hendrick has never received: a NASCAR Cup Series victory. Sunday’s race at Kentucky Speedway falls on the car owner’s 71st birthday and will mark just the third time the circuit has ever competed on July 12. Jimmie Johnson scored a runner-up finish at Chicagoland Speedway in 2008, representing Hendrick Motorsports’ best-ever result on the date. Born July 12, 1949, in Warrenton, North Carolina, Hendrick was raised on a tobacco farm in Palmer Springs, Virginia. Today, he is the owner of 12-time Cup Series champions Hendrick Motorsports and the chairman and CEO of Hendrick Automotive Group, the largest privately held operator of car dealerships in the United States. Hendrick holds nearly every major statistical record for a NASCAR team owner and was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2017.

      BRING KENTUCKY HOME: Kentucky Speedway is the only active NASCAR Cup Series track where Hendrick Motorsports has not won. Since the 1.5-mile venue began hosting Cup races in 2011, the team has finished in every position from second through 15th at least once.

      LEADING THE WAY: In 2020, no one has led more laps on 1.5-mile tracks than Hendrick Motorsports. The team has led 421 laps on 1.5-milers this season, which is 57 more than second-place Stewart-Haas Racing.

      Via Hendrick Motorsports