Monday, Dec 05

Hendrick Motorsports Media Advance: Darlington

 
 

5 KYLE LARSON

 

Age: 30 (July 31, 1992)

 

Hometown: Elk Grove, California

 

Resides: Mooresville, North Carolina

 

Crew Chief: Cliff Daniels

 

Standings: 4th

 
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No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

 

PLAYOFFS?! PLAYOFFS?!?!: With two victories, three stage wins and six points for finishing fifth in the regular season point standings, Kyle Larson will start the 10-race playoffs in fourth with 2019 points – 21 markers behind leader and teammate Chase Elliott. In this three-race Round of 16, where four drivers will be eliminated following the Sept. 17 event at Bristol Motor Speedway, the driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is 12 points ahead of the cutoff position. Larson will need to win one of the three events or avoid being one of the four lowest playoff drivers on points (who haven’t won in that round) to advance to the Round of 12.

HALF OF ‘EM: Larson won five of the 10 playoff races in 2021 en route to capturing the NASCAR Cup Series championship. He started his title run with a runner-up finish in the opening race at Darlington Raceway in September that included a last-lap "video game-like" maneuver where he rode the turn three and turn four wall in an attempt to overtake the eventual winner.

EGG-CELLENT STATS: In nine Cup Series starts at the South Carolina venue, Larson has five top-five finishes and seven top-10s with an average start and average finish of 8.9 – the second-best average finish all-time amongst drivers with more than two starts. The 2021 Cup Series champion has led in seven of those races for 686 laps – 23 percent of the laps he has completed at the egg-shaped track. Larson has posted runner-up finishes in three of his last four starts at the 1.366-mile track and secured top-three finishes in five of his last seven. In May at Darlington, a mechanical issue on lap 112 after leading 30 laps relegated Larson to a 36th-place result.

FIVER: Larson is tied with Ross Chastain and Elliott for most top-five finishes this season with 10. The trio are two ahead of any other competitor in that statistical category through 26 races in 2022.

A PERFECT 10: On Saturday at Darlington, Larson will drive the No. 17 HendrickCars.com Camaro for Hendrick Motorsports. The 30-year-old driver has four starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Darlington, finishing in the top 10 in each. He has a 5.8 average finish in those races with his best result of fourth occurring in 2016.

XFINITY AND BEYOND: Larson has competed in two Xfinity races in 2022 – Road America in July and Watkins Glen International in August. At Road America, he won both stages from the pole position before finishing second. Larson started at the rear of the field at Watkins Glen due to unapproved adjustments during pre-race and led the final five laps to claim the win. Overall in his last seven Xfinity starts, the Elk Grove, California, native has five victories and a runner-up result.

RIDING ON THE 5: This weekend’s race will see the name of Kelly Brandt on the right-side window as part Workforce Appreciation Weekend – a partnership with Cup Series teams to showcase the industry’s appreciation of the American Workforce on Labor Day weekend. Brandt has been a Hendrick Certified Master Technician with the Hendrick Automotive Group since 2005 and is currently the technical team lead and service center shop foreman at Rick Hendrick Chevrolet in Charleston, South Carolina. He has competed in the Randy Dorton Hendrick Engine Builder Showdown for multiple years and was part of the winning team in 2017.

YOUR CAR NEEDS: This weekend, Larson will drive the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. From the convenience of home, customers can shop nearly 20,000 new, quality pre-owned or certified cars, trucks and SUVs available at HendrickCars.com with no payments until 2023 on pre-owned vehicles for well qualified buyers. The website also makes it easy for customers to find one of Hendrick Automotive Group’s 94 dealership locations nationwide. See dealer for details and exclusions.

 
 
 
 

9 CHASE ELLIOTT

 

Age: 26 (Nov. 28, 1995)

 

Hometown: Dawsonville, Georgia

 

Resides: Dawsonville, Georgia

 

Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson

 

Standings: 1st

 
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No. 9 NAPA/Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

 

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 NAPA/Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, will be available to members of the media at the Darlington Raceway media center on Saturday, Sept. 3 at 11:15 a.m. local time. Crew chief Alan Gustafson will also be available inside the media center on Saturday, Sept. 3 at 8:30 a.m. local time.

PLAYOFF TIME
: The NASCAR Cup Series kicks off its playoffs at Darlington Raceway this Sunday. This marks Chase Elliott’s seventh consecutive playoff appearance in as many seasons he’s raced full-time in the series. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native enters this weekend as the top seed after earning the regular season championship and the 15 bonus points that come along with it. He’s currently 33 points above the cutline entering the Round of 16. In 2020, the 10-race playoffs culminated in a championship for Elliott and the No. 9 team after they won the finale at Phoenix Raceway. He also advanced to the Championship 4 last season, ultimately finishing fourth in the standings. 

REGULAR SEASON RECAP: During the 26-race regular season, Elliott was a force to be reckoned with, capturing four wins during that span – Dover Motor Speedway, Nashville Superspeedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway – the most of any driver in the field. In addition, he was tops in the laps led category with 719 circuits at the front of the field and had a series-best average finish of 10.5. 

DARLINGTON STATS: Sunday marks Elliott’s 12th start at Darlington in the Cup Series. In his previous 11 races at the 1.366-mile oval, he has collected three top-five finishes and five top-10s. His best finish of fourth came in the first of the track’s three races in 2020. Earlier this year, Elliott finished fifth at the South Carolina track after starting at the back of the pack due to moving to a backup car. Outside of the Cup Series, the 26-year-old driver has made three Darlington starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, earning a win at the track during his rookie season in 2014.

ALAN THE CHAMP: Veteran crew chief Alan Gustafson has one Cup Series championship under his belt, which he earned with Elliott and the No. 9 team in 2020. The 2022 season marks his 15th appearance in the Cup Series playoffs, second all-time to only Hendrick Motorsports' Chad Knaus (17). Gustafson has 12 victories earned during the playoffs – six with Elliott – which is also second to Knaus on the all-time list among crew chiefs. 

GUSTAFSON AT DARLINGTON: Gustafson is set to call his 22nd Darlington race in the Cup Series. In his previous 21 starts at the track with five different drivers (Kyle Busch, Casey Mears, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Elliott), Gustafson has accumulated one win (2009 with Martin), five top-five finishes and nine top-10s with 222 laps led. 

DESI9N TO DRIVE: As part of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, the Chase Elliott Foundation has joined forces again with NAPA and Hendrick Motorsports for the sixth edition of its "DESI9N TO DRIVE" art collaboration with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. For this weekend's Cup Series race at Darlington, Elliott's No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and race uniform will feature a design that was sketched and submitted by 16-year-old Dani (Gamel) Cuevas who was diagnosed with Leukemia at age 13. Cuevas' design showcases the facility dogs that helped her cope with cancer treatment and therapy during many visits to Children’s before becoming cancer free late last year. Elements of Elliott's racing uniform are being auctioned off via The NASCAR Foundation’s auction page. The auction closes on Thursday, Sept. 8. 

ON BOARD THE NO. 9: At Darlington, the No. 9 will have the names of Kara Klein and facility dog Reggie on the right-side window for the industry-wide Workforce Appreciation campaign. Klein has been at Children's for 14 years; first as a certified child life specialist and now as the Canines For Kids senior program coordinator. Klein has been a handler with the program since 2010. In April, she became the handler for Reggie and together they work to help motivate patients on some of their hardest days. 

 
 
 
 

24 WILLIAM BYRON

 

Age: 24 (Nov. 29, 1997)

 

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

 

Resides: Charlotte, North Carolina

 

Crew Chief: Rudy Fugle

 

Standings: 5th

 
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No. 24 Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

 

PLAYOFF CONTENDER: With the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs set to kick off this Sunday, this will be William Byron’s fourth appearance in the 10-race battle for the championship. The driver of the No. 24 heads into this year’s playoffs seeded in the fifth position – his highest ranking yet in the reseeded points standings. In the upcoming 10 races, the Cup Series has run on six of those tracks already this season and Byron has one win (Martinsville Speedway) and an average finish of 11.33 – the best average finish of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates in those six races. 

UP FRONT: Byron has led the second-most laps so far this season with 612 behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott, who has led 719. Those 612 laps led by Byron are not only his most in a single Cup Series season but came across 13 races – the seventh-most races led by a driver this year.

DARLINGTON DEETS: With eight previous Cup Series starts at Darlington Raceway, Byron is looking to capitalize on his previously strong showings. Despite running well in most of his starts at the 1.366-mile track, Byron’s results don’t accurately represent the strength he had shown. While he has a track-best finish of fourth (May 2021), Byron has two top-five finishes and two top-10s. However, earlier this year, the 24-year-old driver was poised to take home the win at “The Lady in Black” until being moved out of the way for the victory with two laps to go, resulting in a 13th-place finish. In fact, in that race, he had a 6.11 average running position – his fifth-best race of the 2022 season (based on that statistic). Byron also has one NASCAR Xfinity Series start at the venue, where he qualified sixth and raced to a fifth-place result as well. 

THE FUGLE FILES: When the Cup Series returns to Darlington on Sunday, it will mark the fourth trip to the South Carolina track for crew chief Rudy Fugle at the top level of NASCAR. Earlier this year, Fugle and the No. 24 team started ninth and were leading before being moved out of the way for the win with two laps to go, resulting in a 13th-place finish. Last season, Fugle called the shots for Byron at Darlington twice, starting fifth and racing to a fourth-place result in the spring and in the fall, where the team was running within the top 10 before a flat tire ended the team’s race early. Prior to last season, Fugle had only three previous starts at Darlington Raceway – two in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and one in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.  

VALVOLINE RETURNS: Valvoline will be the primary sponsor of Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Darlington this weekend. This will be the third race that the Valvoline colors will be onboard Byron’s No. 24, with a fourth race coming at his hometown track for the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL. Valvoline Inc. (NYSE: VVV) is a leading worldwide marketer and supplier of premium branded lubricants and automotive services, with sales in more than 140 countries. Established in 1866, the company’s heritage spans more than 150 years, during which time it has developed powerful brand recognition across multiple product and service channels. Valvoline ranks as the No. 3 passenger car motor oil brand in the DIY market by volume. To learn more, visit www.valvoline.com

HONORING 'JUNGLE': For Sunday’s race at Darlington, the No. 24 will have a special passenger riding above the right-side window – Jim "Jungle" Gilbert – as a part of the Workforce Appreciation campaign that the industry is recognizing this weekend. Known as “Jungle” by his colleagues, Gilbert was a member of the NASCAR industry from 1989 to 2022 before having to retire due to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Spending his career as a transporter driver, Gilbert worked at Hendrick Motorsports on the No. 5 team with driver Kasey Kahne before moving to the No. 24 team with Byron. He was also involved with wheel force testing while with the company. 

SOUTH CAROLINA STATE OF MIND: While the fueler on the No. 24 team hails from North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, Landon Walker also has significant ties to the southernmost Carolina state, having played football at Clemson University. The former college offensive tackle earned a scholarship to Clemson in 2007 after being named an All-American offensive lineman in his hometown at East Wilkes High School. While playing at Clemson, Walker recorded 3,131 snaps with 49 starts at tackle through four seasons at the university. In 2011, Walker was named team captain, the same season Clemson went on to win the Atlantic Coast Conference championship. The college football standout was then recruited by Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 and earned a position as the starting fueler for the former No. 5 (now No. 24) team in 2015.

 
 
 
 

48 Alex Bowman

 

Age: 29 (April 25, 1993)

 

Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

 

Resides: Concord, North Carolina

 

Crew Chief: Greg Ives

 

Standings: 15th

 
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No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

 

HOW WE GOT HERE: Alex Bowman will make his fifth consecutive appearance in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs – all with Hendrick Motorsports – when the elimination-style format gets underway Sunday at Darlington Raceway. He punched his ticket to this year’s postseason with a win in the third race of the 2022 Cup Series season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In the regular season, Bowman tallied three top-five finishes and 10 top-10s, placing him 15th in the playoff standings. 

NOT TOO SHABBY: In his previous 10 starts at the South Carolina track, Bowman has one top-five finish – a runner-up result in May 2020 where he qualified second and led 41 laps in the 293-lap event – and two top-10s. The No. 48 driver has also completed 3,243 of 3,296 laps at the egg-shaped track – or 98.4 percent.

THE SHOWMAN: Since the start of the 2021 Cup Series season, Bowman has the third-most wins of all drivers with five. He took home hardware at Richmond Raceway (April 2021), Dover Motor Speedway (May 2021), Pocono Raceway (June 2021), Martinsville Speedway (October 2021), and Las Vegas (March 2022). The 29-year-old only trails Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott (6) and Kyle Larson (12).

QUITE THE PAIR: Bowman and crew chief Greg Ives have the fifth-most wins of all active driver-crew chief parings with seven. The duo is ranked right behind Larson, the 2021 Cup Series champion, and his crew chief Cliff Daniels (12). Last week, Ives announced that he would be stepping away from the pit box at the end of the 2022 season. 

IVES AT DARLINGTON: Ives is no stranger to success at “The Lady in Black,” notching one top-five finish and three top-10s in his 11 starts at the 1.366-mile track in the Cup Series. The 42-year-old crew chief also has two starts atop the pit box in the NASCAR Xfinity Series where he took home a win with Elliott in April 2014 and a seventh-place result in May 2013 with Regan Smith. 

WORKFORCE APPRECIATION: The No. 48 will have the name of Richard “Shannon” Meadows on the right-side window for the Workforce Appreciation Weekend at Darlington. Meadows joined Ally in 2011 to start up Ally’s Growth channel. In October of 2020, he moved to be part of Ally’s new opportunities team and was recently promoted to the Senior underwriter position. A visit to the Darlington spring race helped him fall in love with the track and the sport. 

SAVE THEM ALL: Each week of the season, Bowman and primary sponsor Ally have joined forces to contribute $4,800 to Best Friends Animal Society. If Bowman wins, the donation increases to $10,000. To date, a total of $134,800 has been donated to Best Friends Animal Society and its network partners in each race market the Cup Series visits.

 
 
 

HENDRICK

MOTORSPORTS /

Hendrick Motorsports
 
 

 

2022

 

 

All-Time

 

 

Darlington

 

Races

 

26

 

 

1,299

 

 

63

 

Wins

 

9*

 

 

289*

 

 

14*

 

Poles

 

6

 

 

237*

 

 

8

 

Top 5

 

27*

 

 

1,183*

 

 

52*

 

Top 10

 

45

 

 

2,028*

 

 

85*

 

Laps Led

 

1,667*

 

 

76,609*

 

 

3,593*

 

Stage Wins

 

12

 

 

73

 

 

2

 

 

*Most **Most (tie)
 

REVVING TO A MILESTONE: The engine shop at Hendrick Motorsports sits three wins away from 500 victories. To date, the company’s engine program is responsible for 337 wins in the NASCAR Cup Series, 123 wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, 22 wins in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and 15 wins in the ARCA Menards Series and the K&N Pro Series (now ARCA Menards Series East and West) ranks.

KEEP ON COUNTING: Sunday’s race at Darlington Raceway will be the 1,300th Cup Series race for 14-time Cup Series champs. That total ranks fourth on the all-time list of races by team.

LEADING THE WAY: With nine wins through 26 Cup Series races in 2022, Hendrick Motorsports has earned the most victories so far this season. It is the only four-car team to see all of its drivers win a race this season. The organization is the only one to have multiple drivers with at least two wins – Chase Elliott (four), Kyle Larson (two) and William Byron (two). On top of that, the 1,667 laps out front lead all teams in the series by 96 circuits. Elliott and Byron rank 1-2 in laps led this year. 

PLAYOFF POWER: The 2022 season marks the fifth time that the organization has had four drivers make the playoffs – the most ever by a team. It is the 15th season that the team has had at least three drivers in the postseason and the 17th consecutive season that at least two of its drivers have made the playoffs. The latter two marks are the most of all organizations. 

RECORD SETTERS: Hendrick Motorsports has posted a series-best 53 wins in the playoffs. Jimmie Johnson has the most with 29 victories. Among the current driver lineup, Elliott tops the board with six wins, followed by Larson with five and Alex Bowman has one. Nine different drivers have won a playoff race for the Concord, North Carolina-based team, which is the most in the Cup Series ranks. 

STREAK GOING STRONG: Dating back to the 2021 playoffs, Hendrick Motorsports has won five straight races in the elimination-style postseason. That mark is one shy of the record six won by one team. Larson won four of those five en route to the 2021 championship while Bowman took the other victory. 

ON TOP AT DARLINGTON: The company’s 14 wins at the South Carolina track are the most all-time by team – the Southern 500 has been won a record 11 times by the squad. NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon accounts for half of the 14 track wins with seven. Johnson posted three wins, while Terry Labonte, Mark Martin, Tim Richmond and Ricky Rudd each tallied one trip to victory lane at the track "Too Tough to Tame."

ENCORE, ENCORE: The No. 17 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro is making another Xfinity Series start beyond its initially announced three races. Larson will be behind the wheel at Darlington – he was previously announced to be driving the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro – in Saturday’s race. Kevin Meendering will serve as the team’s crew chief. The organization has 26 wins in the series with Tony Stewart recording the last win to date at Daytona International Speedway in 2009. Larson, Bowman and Byron have each driven the No. 17 this year at Road America, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course and Watkins Glen International, respectively. Those starts marked the organization’s first in the Xfinity ranks in 13 years.

EDGE OF SEVENTEEN: The No. 17 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro in the Xfinity Series carries special significance to the Hendrick Motorsports family. It is the same number Ricky Hendrick drove in the Truck Series. That number has won 39 times in Xfinity Series history and two of the four drivers to win in it – Darrell Waltrip and Labonte – would go on to win in the Cup Series with the Rick Hendrick-owned organization. 

 
 
 

QUOTABLE /

 

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on Darlington Raceway and the Round of 16: "We had a really fast car last time before we had trouble. The first round has a lot of really good tracks for us. Darlington (Raceway), Kansas (Speedway) and Bristol (Motor Speedway). Those are honestly three of my best racetracks. I really like that round and hopefully we can do well in it and get some wins and get some bonus points. I have always run really well at Darlington, but have not gotten a win there yet. I finished second three times in a row before this year, so would love to be one spot better there and finally get that Darlington win that I have been close to getting."

Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on the challenge of setting a car up for Darlington: "It drives me crazy trying to set the car up but Darlington (Raceway) is hands down my favorite track on the circuit with Bristol (Motor Speedway) probably close behind that. Darlington is such a challenge. The track itself, how to race it, how to run your own race, executing the pit stops and the green-flag strategy. Everything around Darlington is a true, gritty, racer-type feel to the track and race – it just has that aura. I enjoy it but I am pulling my hair out every second of the day trying to get it right, have a good plan and have a good car to do the things we need to do but that is part of what makes it fun."
 



Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on this weekend’s "DESI9N TO DRIVE" paint scheme and program: "Partnering with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has been going on for about five years now, but last year was the first year we kind of brought it to life on track. That came through an opportunity with NAPA AUTO PARTS, which is my primary sponsor and has been a great partner. When you have a partner that is willing to give up its race to let someone design the car, get behind the foundation and try to make a difference in the community, I think that really says a lot. You don’t see that very often. I’m looking forward to having Dani, the young lady that designed the car, and her family at the track this weekend and hosting them. I’m hoping everyone loves that paint scheme as much as I do."

Elliott on kicking off the playoffs in Darlington: "Darlington (Raceway) is the beginning of a long road ahead. A lot can happen in 10 weeks. A lot can happen in one race weekend, much less 10. So, you know, it’s baby steps and one weekend at a time. Darlington is that first stop and you want to try to get off on a good note and see where it takes you. We’re happy to have those 15 bonus points. We’ve never been in a position to have many bonus points going into the final 10. Hopefully, we can take those points we’ve accumulated and help us get through these rounds. Hopefully, we don’t need them, but if you do have a bad day, you have a little bit of something to fall back on which is always nice. I’m looking forward to getting going and seeing where we stack up this first week and where we need to go from there."
 



William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on his thoughts for the first race of the playoffs: "I’m optimistic heading back to Darlington (Raceway) for the second time this year. We had the speed we needed in the spring to be in the lead when it mattered. The fall race is always a challenge though when it comes to heat and the transition throughout the race. I’m confident in Rudy (Fugle) and my team, though, that we’ll be prepared for every scenario. Getting off on the right foot for the first race of the playoffs is crucial so you’re not feeling like you are trying to play catch-up throughout the round. If we put together solid races and control the factors we can control, I think we can end the race with a win or at least a good result, which will set us up well for the next two races."

Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on what he expects from Sunday’s race: "We ran well in the spring race at Darlington (Raceway) but this weekend’s race will be about as different as can be. It’s a longer race for starters, so there will be a bigger emphasis on strategy, especially with how high tire fall off is there. Sunday’s race is going to be much hotter than it was earlier this year. I do think we have some good notes to work off of since this race starts in the daytime. The biggest thing will be making changes to keep up with the track as it transitions from day to night. I think whoever keeps up with those changes the best will be the ones who find themselves running up front towards the end. Hopefully that’s the No. 24 team and we can kick off the first race of the playoffs with a good run."
 



Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1on making the playoffs for a fifth consecutive year with Hendrick Motorsports: "I am super happy to make the playoffs again and I think it shows the strength of our organization. We have a lot of really smart people working on our cars and giving me the best equipment each weekend to go out there and compete for wins. Greg (Ives) and myself have made the playoffs every season we have been together, and I am looking forward to getting another shot to compete for a championship."

Greg Ives, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on going into his last playoffs as a crew chief: "It’s bittersweet for me. Obviously, I have had a lot of success in the past, but this is my last shot to get a Cup Series championship. I think we have the team capable of contending every weekend and a driver that can get it done. We just have to continue to work hard, stay focused on each weekend and capitalize on every opportunity we get. I have enjoyed my career as a crew chief, and I will take in every moment as I close out this season."

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