KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY (1.5-MILE TRI-OVAL)
LOCATION: SPARTA, KENTUCKY
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 19 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 7:30 P.M. ET, SATURDAY, JULY 13 (NBCSN/PRN/SIRIUSXM)
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.
AT IT AGAIN WITH AXALTA: After running the Axalta Flames of Independence paint scheme this past weekend at Daytona, Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will return with the iconic Axalta flames back on board for Saturday night’s race at Kentucky Speedway. After this weekend, Axalta Coating Systems has four races left on Byron’s Chevy in 2019 with two races in October (Dover and Talladega) and two races in November (Texas and Homestead).
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.
William Byron on Kentucky:
“Kentucky has lost a lot of grip quickly. They repaved it less than five years ago and it has really gotten grayer and grayer each year. I’m sure it’s going to be even more slick this year when we go back. It’s one of those tracks that takes a while to get rubber, so you just have to almost wait for that process to happen and make sure you tune your car to the rubber and not the clean track. That’s really all I’m worried about is once the rubber lays down, you know it’s going to be a different racetrack.”