Saturday, Jan 28

Hendrick Motorsports Media Advance: Homestead-Miami

 

5 KYLE LARSON

 

Age: 30 (July 31, 1992)

 

Hometown: Elk Grove, California

 

Resides: Mooresville, North Carolina

 

Crew Chief: Cliff Daniels

 

Standings: 9th

 
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No. 5 Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

 

NOT DONE YET: While Kyle Larson is ninth in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings and out of title contention this year, the No. 5 Valvoline team is still competing for the owner's championship. The No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports entry will need to erase a deficit of 25 points or win at least one of the remaining two races in the round to advance to the championship race at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 6.

LEADER OF THE PACK: In eight Cup Series starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Larson has four top-five finishes while pacing the field 330 times. In fact, since the Elk Grove, California, native made his first start at the south Florida track in a NASCAR Cup Series event in 2013, no other competitor has led more laps there. 

SUCCESS ON THE STAGE: Since the introduction of stage racing in 2017, Larson has never finished worse than sixth in the first two stages of a Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami. In those eight stages at the 1.5-mile track, the driver of the No. 5 Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has recorded a series-high three stage wins, two second-place finishes, and a third, fifth and sixth-place result.

GREAT MEMORY … FOR SOME: In the 2016 season finale at Homestead-Miami, No. 5 crew chief Cliff Daniels was a race engineer on the No. 48 team with Jimmie Johnson. Johnson bested Larson on a restart with two laps to go and raced his way to the win, earning his record-tying seventh championship.

WINNING ON THE WALL: Larson has a victory in a 2015 NASCAR Xfinity Series event at the Florida facility and led a race-high 118 laps en route to the win. In four Xfinity starts at the track, he has a 3.3 average finish. 

MOVING ON UP: With wins at Auto Club Speedway and Watkins Glen International in 2022, Larson now has 18 career wins in NASCAR’s premier series. The 2014 rookie of the year is currently tied with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott and six others for 47th in all-time wins. Larson’s next trip to victory lane could move him into the top 45 at only 30 years old.

SEEING RED: Valvoline will make its final appearance this year as the primary sponsor of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 this weekend at Homestead-Miami. 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.

 
 
 
 

9 CHASE ELLIOTT

 

Age: 26 (Nov. 28, 1995)

 

Hometown: Dawsonville, Georgia

 

Resides: Dawsonville, Georgia

 

Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson

 

Standings: 3rd

 
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No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

 

FIGHT TO THE FINISH: Following the opening race of the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, Chase Elliott is third in the standings and 17 points above the cutoff line to advance to the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway. This is the sixth consecutive season the driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Camaro ZL1 has advanced to the Round of 8. The previous two years he moved on to the Championship 4, earning his first career Cup Series title in 2020 after capturing the victory at Phoenix. While this weekend is the first time the series has raced at Homestead-Miami Speedway this year, they did compete at Martinsville Speedway – the final race in the Round of 8 – with Elliott finishing 10th after starting from the pole and leading 185 laps.

WELCOME TO MIAMI: Elliott has six Cup Series starts at Homestead-Miami with a best finish of second coming in 2020. In all, he’s led 31 laps (including 27 in 2020), earned two top-five finishes and three top-10s at the 1.5-mile track. His average finish of 9.0 at the south Florida track ranks second among all Cup Series drivers with more than two starts and is also a career-best for the driver on active 1.5-mile tracks. Elliott has also made three starts at Homestead-Miami across the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, driving to one top-five result and two top-10s.

1.5-MILERS: This weekend, Elliott will make his 74th start on a 1.5-mile track in the Cup Series. In his previous 73 races on that track length, Elliott has led 1,107 laps and earned three victories (Atlanta Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway). The 2022 regular-season champion has collected 23 top-five finishes – eight of which are runner-up results – and 38 top-10s on this track type. This season on 1.5-mile tracks, Elliott is tied with Ryan Blaney for the most stage wins with three. 

AG IN MIAMI: No. 9 crew chief Alan Gustafson has 17 Cup Series starts atop the pit box at Homestead-Miami with five different drivers (Kyle Busch, Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Casey Mears). The veteran crew chief earned a victory with NASCAR Hall of Famer Gordon in 2012 and has a combined four top-five finishes, eight top-10s and 251 laps led in those 17 races.

KEY EXPERIENCE: Gustafson has called the shots in 162 races on active 1.5-mile tracks in the Cup Series. The Ormond Beach, Florida, native has six wins, 41 top-five finishes and 76 top-10s, with 2,118 laps led on mile-and-a-half tracks. Three of those victories have come with Elliott – most recently at Atlanta in July – and the other half were with Gordon. 

FRONT RUNNER: Elliott’s series-high five wins this season is currently tied for the driver’s most in a single year, which he first earned in his 2020 title-winning season. The Hendrick Motorsports driver also leads his fellow competitors with a total of eight top-two finishes in 2022 – tied for his second most in a single season. Elliott had eight top-two finishes in 2020 and nine in 2021.

NAPA IS BACK: Atlanta-headquartered NAPA AUTO PARTS is back on board the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the final three races of the 2022 season, including this weekend at Homestead-Miami. NAPA has been the primary sponsor for Elliott and the No. 9 team for all five of their victories this year. In fact, the long-time partner of Elliott and Hendrick Motorsports has had its scheme visit victory lane in 13 of the Georgia native’s 18 career Cup Series wins. 

 
 
 
 

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 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

 

TWO MORE CHANCES: Last Sunday marked the first race in Round of 8 of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Following a 13th-place finish, William Byron is fifth in the standings, six points below the cutoff line. However, Byron is the defending race winner at the remaining two tracks in the round: Homestead-Miami Speedway and Martinsville Speedway. He won at Homestead-Miami in February 2021 and Martinsville in April 2022. 

PACKING IN THE POINTS: So far across the seven races of the 2022 playoffs, Byron has accumulated 252 points – the second-most of any driver in that same span behind Denny Hamlin (254).

PIT ROAD PROWESS: During the 2022 playoffs, the No. 24 pit crew has an average four-tire pit stop time of 11.048 – second-best in the field in the same timeframe. The No. 24 pit crew consists of Spencer Bishop (jackman), Jeff Cordero (front-tire changer), Orane Ossowski (rear-tire changer), Ryan Patton (tire carrier) and Landon Walker (fueler).

1.5-MILE MOMENTUM: Byron is no stranger to success on mile-and-a-half tracks during his Cup Series career. Since the start of 2021, Byron has two wins, one runner-up finish, five top-fives, and 11 top-10s on 1.5-mile tracks. In fact, four of those top-10 finishes on 1.5-mile tracks came in 2022. Also in 2022, Byron has collected 260 points on this style of track –the second-most in the field behind Ross Chastain (339 points).

HEADING TO HOMESTEAD: With four previous Cup Series starts under his belt at Homestead-Miami, Byron’s first two Cup Series starts didn’t go as he hoped but he has since turned his luck around. In his last two starts at the 1.5-mile track, Byron has collected one win – last year – and two top-10 finishes. In last year’s win, Byron led 102 laps – his fourth-most laps led in a single event.

SOUTH FLORIDA SUCCESS: The fifth-year Cup Series driver has two other races at Homestead-Miami on his résumé – one in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and one in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. In 2017, Byron started sixth and went on to finish third, locking up the Xfinity Series championship in the process. While in 2016, Byron started on the pole for the Truck Series race and led 31 laps en route to the win at the 1.5-mile speedway with Rudy Fugle on the pit box.   

RUDY RUNS MIAMI
: Last year marked Fugle’s first Cup Series start as a crew chief at this particular venue and it didn’t disappoint as he led Byron and the No. 24 team to the win. Fugle also has two Xfinity Series starts and seven Camping World Truck Series starts at the south Florida track. In those Truck Series starts, he visited victory lane two times – first with Kyle Busch in 2013 and then again with Byron in 2016. In fact, Fugle’s drivers have never finished outside the top eight in the series. Along with his two wins, he has collected five top-five finishes and seven top-10s with an average starting position of 5.7 and average finish of 3.4 with 180 laps led in Fugle's Truck Series starts at the track.
  
LIBERTY U IS BACK: For Sunday’s race, Byron will climb behind the wheel of the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Featuring a white base with navy flames and red accents, the Liberty University No. 24 will be sure to stand out on track. Liberty University has a long history with Byron starting back in 2014 in the late model ranks. 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 strategic communication, Byron is now in his junior year at Liberty University through its online program. For a better look at Byron’s Liberty University paint scheme, click here

 
 
 
 

48 Noah Gragson

 

Age: 24 (July 15, 1998)

 

Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

 

Resides: Charlotte, North Carolina

 

Crew Chief: Greg Ives

 

Standings: Alex Bowman - 15th

 
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No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

 

NO. 48: Homestead-Miami Speedway will mark the fourth consecutive race Alex Bowman will miss due to a concussion suffered Sept. 25 at Texas Motor Speedway. As Bowman recovers, substitute driver Noah Gragson will fill in at Homestead-Miami and in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season’s penultimate race at Martinsville Speedway. Gragson is the 48th driver to make a Cup Series start for Hendrick Motorsports.

HEATING UP: Gragson finished last Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway 11th – his best result in the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. His near top-10 result was also the best of all Hendrick Motorsports teammates at the 1.5-mile venue.

GRAGSON ON 1.5-MILERS: This year in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Gragson has notched seven wins – most of all drivers – including four consecutive victories in September. He has taken home the hardware in two of last three races on tracks of 1.5 miles in length (Kansas Speedway and Texas) and finished second in last weekend’s Xfinity event at Las Vegas.

IN THE 305: In his four appearances in the Xfinity Series at Homestead-Miami, Gragson has finished in the top five in all but one race. He was involved in an on-track incident in the closing laps of regulation, while leading, in the event in which he did not finish in the top 10. Across those four starts, the 24-year-old driver has led 208 laps at the 1.5-mile venue – most of all drivers without a win there.

IVES AT MIAMI: Greg Ives, crew chief of the No. 48 Ally Racing team, has enjoyed his share of celebrations at the Florida venue. While he was a lead engineer on the No. 48 team, the 43-year-old celebrated five consecutive championships (2006-2010) with Jimmie Johnson following the season finale held at Homestead-Miami. As a crew chief, Ives has two top-10 finishes including a ninth-place result in 2021 with Bowman. 

91 AND COUNTING: At 91 Cup Series wins, the No. 48 car is seventh all-time for most Cup Series wins by a car number. That total is one shy of the No. 21, which sits at 92 wins. Johnson accounts for 83 of the victories in the No. 48, while Bowman has five, James Hylton tallied two and Bill Norton won once.

 
 
 

HENDRICK

MOTORSPORTS /

Hendrick Motorsports
 
 

 

2022

 

 

All-Time

 

 

Homestead-Miami

 

Races

 

33

 

 

1,306

 

 

23

 

Wins

 

10*

 

 

290*

 

 

3

 

Poles

 

6

 

 

237*

 

 

3

 

Top 5

 

32*

 

 

1,188*

 

 

18

 

Top 10

 

56

 

 

2,039*

 

 

37

 

Laps Led

 

2,021

 

 

76,963*

 

 

681

 

Stage Wins

 

16

 

 

77

 

 

1

 

 

*Most **Most (tie)
 

LEADING THE WAY: With 10 wins through the 33 NASCAR Cup Series races in 2022, Hendrick Motorsports has earned the most victories so far this season. It is the organization’s 12th 10-win season – the most among all Cup Series teams. Hendrick Motorsports is the only team to see four drivers win a race this season. On top of that, Chase Elliott and William Byron rank first and second in laps led this year.

DOWN TO EIGHT: For the third straight season, Hendrick Motorsports has two drivers in the Round of 8 of the Cup playoffs with Elliott and Byron advancing. Elliott and teammate Alex Bowman reached the Round of 8 in 2020 while Elliott and Kyle Larson reached the round in 2021. Elliott and Larson won the championship in 2020 and 2021, respectively. 

GREAT IN THE ROUND OF 8: Since the elimination-style playoff format debuted in 2014, Hendrick Motorsports has a series-best 10 wins in the Round of 8. Sunday’s race marks the first time that Homestead-Miami Speedway has been one of the tracks in this round of the playoffs. From 2002 to 2019, the 1.5-mile track hosted the season finale event. 

SIX BY EIGHT: The Concord, North Carolina-based team has won the eighth race of the playoffs six times in the history of the NASCAR playoffs. That mark is the most among all teams in the Cup Series. Jimmie Johnson accounts for five of those wins, while Larson had one during his 2021 title run. 

MIAMI HEAT: Hendrick Motorsports has three wins at Homestead-Miami – site of this weekend’s playoff race. Byron, Johnson and Jeff Gordon each have one win at this venue. Johnson’s win in 2016 earned him his seventh and final Cup Series championship.

TRIP TOP 10S: On two occasions at the Florida facility, the Rick Hendrick-owned organization has earned three top-10 finishes as a team. The first came in 2002 when Joe Nemechek finished second, Gordon took fifth and Johnson placed eighth. The most recent came in 2021 when Byron was victorious, Larson finished fourth and Bowman was scored in ninth. 

SOUTH FLORIDA STREAK: Over the last 20 races at Homestead-Miami, the 14-time championship-winning team has had at least one driver finish in the top 10 at this track. That is the longest streak ever by a team at this location. During that stretch, nine different drivers – including all four members of the current driver lineup – have top-10 finishes.

MILE-AND-A-HALF MUSCLE: In eight races on 1.5-mile tracks this season, Hendrick Motorsports has earned three wins. Bowman went to victory lane at Las Vegas in March, while Byron and Elliott each won at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March and July, respectively. The team tops the series in wins (three), laps led (752) and stage wins (seven) on that track type in 2022. In fact, the organization has three of the top eight drivers in points on 1.5-mile venues. Byron is second with 260 points, Elliott ranks sixth with 237 points and Larson is tied for seventh with 236 points. 

PLAYOFF POWER: Hendrick Motorsports has posted a series-best 54 wins in the playoffs – 20 more than the next-closest team. Johnson has the most wins with 29. Among the current driver lineup, Elliott tops the board with seven wins, followed by Larson with five and Bowman with one. A Cup Series record nine different drivers have won a playoff race for the team. Hendrick Motorsports has won a postseason race in 18 seasons, which is the most among all Cup Series organizations.

 
 
 

QUOTABLE /

 

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on running the wall at Homestead-Miami Speedway: "I think this car is just a little different at Homestead-Miami (Speedway). Nothing crazy. I think running the wall is a little bit easier but maybe not way faster than it used to be compared to the other lanes. I still think it is just a lot easier to run the wall than before. You may see more people up there and it may be a little bit harder to pass than in the past."

Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on how a test helps the team get ready for Homestead-Miami: "The Next Gen car is definitely a different beast at Homestead-Miami (Speedway) than the car of the past. We had a good test there a couple of weeks ago. I'm sure the track will still be a little bit different when we get there and get all the cars out there and get some rubber on the track. With Kyle Larson's history of always running really well there, I have a lot of confidence in him. Hopefully, we can take what we learned at the test and put a good car on track for Sunday." 
 



Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on how to approach Homestead-Miami after a rough week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway: "The good news is I feel like we have a really smart and talented group of guys that are going to work on it. We’ve been talking a lot this week and if this weekend goes bad, I can assure you it will not be for a lack of effort. Great opportunity here for us right now and we’re still very much alive in this deal. We just need to go down there and just try to have a solid weekend. Do we have to go win the race? No, I don’t think you have to go win the race, but I think you put yourself in position, getting some solid stage points, being up front and being in the mix. Those are things that are going to hedge your bet of being happy after Martinsville (Speedway)."

Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on rebounding from Las Vegas: "The opening races in each round of these playoffs have not been good to our team. Unfortunately, that continued for us last week at Las Vegas (Motor Speedway). We were able to make it to the end, but we didn’t get the stage points or finish we needed to maintain our cushion. We know we have some work to do this week to make sure we’re prepared for Homestead-Miami (Speedway). Our goal is to get maximum points and just have a really solid race this weekend. That will help us going into Martinsville (Speedway).”
 



William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on what he expects at Homestead-Miami: "I’m excited to get back to Homestead-Miami (Speedway) this weekend. Obviously, the last time we raced there we got the win, but a lot has changed since then. We did test there about a month ago with the Next Gen car and it went really well. I think we have a lot of notes that we’re going to be able to apply and have a good starting point for the weekend. We’re only a few points outside the cutline, so we don’t need to do anything drastic during the race either. We just need to show up, execute everything we can control and maximize all the points we can."

Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on what he expects Sunday at Homestead-Miami: "I’m ready to get to Homestead-Miami (Speedway) this weekend. It’s a track I’ve always really liked racing at in any series. Just like most races this year with the Next Gen car, there’s still some unknowns. I think we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the test there recently as well as other intermediate track notes. Track position and pit stops are going to probably make the biggest difference on Sunday but with high tire falloff, varying strategies in the stages is also going to shuffle the running order. Like past races there, I think running the wall is probably going to be the fastest way around as the tires fall off. You just have to weigh the risk verse reward of doing that and possibly hitting the wall and breaking a suspension part."
 



Greg Ives, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on heading to Homestead-Miami this Sunday: "Homestead-Miami Speedway is unique from the mile-and-a-half tracks we visit. Thankfully, we learned a lot when we tested there last month. Our pit crew has been hitting their stride and we know that pit stops are going to be so important with the tire fall off. Noah (Gragson) likes running the wall and loves going to Homestead, so that confidence makes a huge difference. If we continue to maximize our opportunities and stay clean on pit road, I think we can put the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in victory lane."

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