LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY (1.5-MILE OVAL)
LOCATION: LAS VEGAS
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 27 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 7 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, SEPT. 15 (NBCSN/PRN/SIRIUSXM)
LOOKING BACK IN THE REAR-VIEW: Dating back to the end of June at Chicagoland Speedway, the last 10 races have been some of sophomore driver William Byron’s career best. In those races, he’s started from the pole once and collected three top-five finishes and five top-10s, resulting in an average finish of 11.9. In fact, all of his Cup Series top-five finishes and five of his 13 career Cup top-10s have come in the last 10 races leading into the 2019 playoffs.
PLAYOFF-BOUND: Solidifying his position in the Cup Series playoffs, Byron is the third-youngest driver in series history – at 21 years, 9 months, and 17 days – to make his first playoff start. In the 2019 playoffs, he is the youngest driver competing in the 16-driver field and became the ninth different driver that Hendrick Motorsports has taken into the playoffs, which leads all organizations in series history.
LIBERTY U RETURNS: For back-to-back weekends, Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will carry Liberty University on board, this time for the first race of the playoffs at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Returning as a primary sponsor of the No. 24 team in 2019 for 12 races, Liberty University has a long history with the sophomore driver starting back in 2014 in the late model ranks and is in the midst of its fifth season of sponsoring the 21-year-old driver. Liberty University has been Training Champions for Christ since it was founded in 1971. Located in the mountains of Central Virginia, Liberty is a liberal arts institution with 17 colleges and schools that offers more than 600 degree programs from the certificate to the doctoral level, on campus and online. Working on an undergraduate degree in business communication, Byron is now in his junior year at Liberty University through its online program.
FEELING LUCKY: This weekend’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway marks not only the first race of the Round of 16 in the playoffs but also Byron’s fourth start at the 1.5-mile track. This race will be a repeat trip for the Byron-Chad Knaus pairing after scoring a 16th-place finish at the venue in just their third start together as driver and crew chief earlier this year. During that spring race, the No. 24 driver led 21 laps – the fourth-most laps he’s led during his career in a Cup Series race. Aside from his starts in the Cup Series, Byron has two previous starts in the “City of Lights,” one in the Xfinity Series where he raced to a 14th-place finish, and one in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, qualifying 10th and ending the race with a fifth-place finish.
KNAUS’ POSTSEASON PROWESS: Gearing up for the start of the 2019 playoffs, Knaus is set to make his 16th appearance in the playoffs – the only Cup Series crew chief to make an appearance in every season of the playoffs' existence. While it will be the veteran crew chief’s first time entering the 10-week stretch with Byron behind the wheel, Knaus is no stranger to playoff success, collecting 29 victories – the most of any crew chief by 20 wins – as well as seven championships, all coming with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson.
INDY INSIGHT: Despite sustaining damage early on during last Sunday’s Brickyard 400, the No. 24 team made repairs and Byron went to work making up ground, finding himself back within the top-10 running order by the start of the second stage. Continuing to make progress on the handling of the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Byron continued his march to the front before ultimately crossing the finish line in the fourth position – his third top-five finish of the 2019 season.
William Byron on Las Vegas:
"I think this weekend’s race will be a good one for us. This is the second time I’ll be going to Las Vegas Motor Speedway with (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and this group on the 24 team. We had an OK showing in the spring race for just our third race as a team and I definitely think we have improved since then as a group. We’ll just approach this weekend like it’s any other weekend, though. You don’t want to change anything up because that’s when mistakes happen. We had an almost flawless race last weekend at Indy, so if we can execute like that again for this race, it should be a good result."