TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY (2.66-MILE OVAL)
LOCATION: TALLADEGA, ALABAMA
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 13 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 3 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, JUNE 21 (FOX/MRN/SIRIUSXM)
No. 9 Mountain Dew/Little Caesars Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE
Driver Chase Elliott Hometown Dawsonville, Georgia
Age 24 Resides Dawsonville, Georgia
2nd in standings
1 pole position
6 top-five finishes
8 top-10 finishes
422 laps led
9 pole positions
50 top-five finishes
82 top-10 finishes
2,266 laps led
2 pole positions
3 top-five finishes
4 top-10 finishes
126 laps led
BANNER YEAR: With 12 races completed in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, Chase Elliott ranks second in the driver standings. His two runner-up results, six top-five finishes and 422 laps led are all career highs through 12 races. The driver of the No. 9 Mountain Dew/Little Caesars Chevrolet ZL1 1LE has five stage wins, which equal his total for all of 2019.
LEADING THE FIELD: So far in 2020, Elliott leads all drivers with five stage wins, 141 stage points and a series-best 6.65 average running position. His six top-five finishes and 10 races led are tied for the most in the series.
THE STREAK CONTINUES: Elliott currently is tied with Joey Logano for the longest active streak of consecutive races led with seven. It is tied for Elliott’s longest-career stretch of leading laps.
PIZZA! PIZZA!: Thanks to Mountain Dew and Little Caesars, the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE will have a familiar look for this weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway. The Mountain Dew/Little Caesars paint scheme adorned Elliott’s car when he won at Talladega in April 2019. For more information, head over to LittleCaesars.com.
THIS RACE IN ‘19: Last year during the spring race at Talladega Superspeedway, Elliott brought home his fourth career NASCAR Cup Series win and first of the 2019 season. En route to the victory, he collected his first stage win of the year and led a total of 45 laps in the 188-lap event. Elliott lives in Dawsonville, Georgia, which is less than three hours from the 2.66-mile track.
‘DEGA STATS: This weekend, Elliott is set to make his ninth Talladega start in the NASCAR Cup Series. His first win at the track in April 2019 was also his first superspeedway win at the Cup level. In his previous eight starts, the 24-year-old driver has started outside the top 10 only once and earned the pole position twice – his first start at the track in May 2016 and during the most recent visit in October 2019. He currently holds the best active and sixth-best all-time average finish at Talladega (13.25) of drivers with a minimum of three starts. Elliott has garnered three top-five finishes and led 126 laps in his Cup Series career at the Alabama track. He also has three starts at Talladega in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with one top-10 finish.
A TOP-FIVE TRACK: Talladega Superspeedway is one of four tracks – along with Martinsville, Bristol and Michigan – where Elliott has scored three top-five finishes in the NASCAR Cup Series. The only tracks where he has more career top-fives are Dover (6) and Kansas (4).
GUSTAFSON AT TALLADEGA: No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson will call his 31st Talladega Cup Series race from atop the pit box on Sunday. He collected his first superspeedway victory at 2.66-mile track on April 28, 2019, with Elliott and the Mountain Dew/Little Caesars team. In his previous 30 events calling the shots for five different drivers (Elliott, Kyle Busch, Casey Mears, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon), Gustafson collected seven top-five finishes, nine top-10s, 229 laps led and six pole awards there.
PIT CREW PROWESS: Among the teams competing in the NASCAR Cup Series, the No. 9 pit crew ranks third for the best average time for four-tire stops at 13.96 seconds through 12 races in 2020.
BEHIND THE 9: Gustafson is trying his hand as a host in a new Hendrick Motorsports video series called “Behind the 9” in which he interviews each member of the No. 9 crew. Fans can learn about where they came from and the role they serve on the team, with each bringing a unique personality and skillset. Episodes are released every Tuesday on the Hendrick Motorsports Facebook page and YouTube channel. The most recent episode features interior mechanic Scott Honan.
No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE
Driver William Byron Hometown Charlotte, North Carolina
Age 22 Resides Charlotte, North Carolina
15th in standings
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
4 top-10 finishes
15 laps led
5 pole positions
5 top-five finishes
21 top-10 finishes
309 laps led
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
0 top-10 finishes
32 laps led
HEATING UP IN HOMESTEAD: After starting 22nd for Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway and waiting through multiple weather delays, William Byron and the No. 24 team weren’t fazed by the ground they needed to make up. Methodically working his way through the field, the 22-year-old driver raced his way inside the top-five running order by the halfway point in the race. However, with track conditions changing into the night, the handling on Byron’s No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE became tight, hindering his forward progress. Despite the handling woes, the third-year driver crossed the finish line with a personal track-best finish of ninth.
LOOKING AT THE LAST FOUR: With Byron’s top-10 finish on Sunday, he is currently on a two-race streak of finishes within the top 10 and has posted three top-10s in the last four Cup Series races, including eighth-place finishes at Bristol Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway.
AT IT AGAIN WITH AXALTA: Heading to a superspeedway race for the second time in 2020, Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE will have the iconic Axalta flames. Axalta was on board the No. 24 car for the team’s most recent superspeedway race at the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, where Byron raced to a win in the second Duel and was running in the top five early in the DAYTONA 500 before he was collected in an on-track incident. In 2020, Axalta is the 22-race majority partner of the No. 24 team. The company’s relationship with Hendrick Motorsports was recently extended, taking one of the most enduring partnerships in sports through 2027.
‘DEGA DETAILS: Making his fifth Talladega start in the Cup Series on Sunday, Byron will try to change his luck at the 2.66-mile track. In all four previous races, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native had solid runs but only has a track-best finish of 20th (October 2018) due to the unpredictability of superspeedway racing. He looked poised to grab the victory last fall after winning Stage 1 and leading the field for 13 laps. However, while leading with 30 to go, an ill-timed push from behind sent Byron around and ended his day early.
KNAUS DIGS ‘DEGA: With a skill for superspeedway racing, crew chief Chad Knaus is set to call his 39th Talladega race in the NASCAR Cup Series when the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE hits the track Sunday. Racking up six pole awards at the 2.66-mile venue, including a streak of four in a row in his first four races as a Cup Series crew chief, Knaus also has two wins at Talladega, all coming with Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team. Knaus kept that momentum going with Byron and the No. 24 team last year. In both showings, they were in contention for the win until incidents late in the going ended their races early.
CLOSE TO HOME: Hailing from Pensacola, Florida, No. 24 team spotter Tab Boyd claims Talladega Superspeedway as his home track. Growing up a few hours away from the 2.66-mile superspeedway, Boyd has more than 20 years of experience in NASCAR. His previous team roles include tire changer and mechanical and fabrication positions before he ended up in the spotter’s stand. He is now currently in his third year as the “eyes in the sky” for Byron and the No. 24 team. When Boyd has time outside of the NASCAR schedule, he usually is still at a racetrack as a driver in the Street Stock Mid-Atlantic Series.
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 race, he will have three chances during the Open qualifying race by winning one of the race stages, or receiving the fan vote. 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.
No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE
Driver Jimmie Johnson Hometown El Cajon, California
Age 44 Resides Charlotte, North Carolina
11th in standings
0 pole positions
2 top-five finishes
6 top-10 finishes
98 laps led
36 pole positions
229 top-five finishes
370 top-10 finishes
18,932 laps led
1 pole position
7 top-five finishes
13 top-10 finishes
472 laps led
THREE OUT OF FOUR AIN’T BAD: Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Cliff Daniels have gained momentum throughout May and June. The No. 48 Ally team has scored three top-10 finishes in the last four races and is credited with an average finishing position of 11.80 – which currently is the seventh-best in the NASCAR Cup Series.
‘DEGA WINS: Hendrick Motorsports has 13 wins at Talladega Superspeedway. Of those 13, Johnson is the proud owner of two first-place trophies. His last win there was in 2011, and he has led 472 career laps around the historic track.
TEST OF TIME: Johnson is credited with the second-closest margin of victory in NASCAR history since the advent of timing and scoring. It came at Talladega on April 17, 2011, when he edged competitor Clint Bowyer by just 0.002 seconds.
SUPER SPEEDY: The No. 48 team’s superspeedway program has been stout. Johnson has had speed in qualifying and during the race, but unfortunately not the finishes to show for it. Last fall at Talladega, he started the race fourth behind teammates Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and William Byron. Johnson was caught in an accident on lap 106 and settled for a disappointing 38th-place finish.
THUMBING A RIDE: One of the most memorable “rides” Johnson has taken at Talladega came in 2012 when former Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. picked him up on the racetrack after the No. 48 Chevrolet was collected in a spectacular four-wide accident coming to the checkered flag in overtime. Johnson’s car was no longer able to carry on, so he rode on Earnhardt’s window back to the garage. It was announced Tuesday evening that Earnhardt will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2021.
MILESTONES ON THE HORIZON: Johnson has the most overall points-paying wins of all active drivers, and his next trip to victory lane will be his 84th in the NASCAR Cup Series. He secured his 83rd victory in June 2017 to tie NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough for sixth on the all-time list. An 84th win would tie Johnson with Hall of Famers Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison for fourth all-time. The No. 48 driver currently is 10 wins behind former Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon, who has 93 victories and is third on the list.
No. 88 Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE
Driver Alex Bowman Hometown Tucson, Arizona
Age 27 Resides Concord, North Carolina
8th in standings
0 pole positions
2 top-five finishes
3 top-10 finishes
369 laps led
2 pole positions
12 top-five finishes
29 top-10 finishes
843 laps led
0 pole positions
1 top-five finish
2 top-10 finishes
33 laps led
NEW LOOK FOR VALVOLINE: On Wednesday, Valvoline unveiled a special paint scheme for Talladega Superspeedway that Alex Bowman will pilot on Sunday. The updated scheme features the brand’s red, white and blue colors and the Valvoline logo prominently on the hood of the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. In January 2018, the leading worldwide supplier of premium branded lubricants and automotive services extended its partnership with Hendrick Motorsports through 2022. The Official Lubricants Partner for Hendrick Motorsports will be on board Bowman’s machine in four events this season and will continue to be an associate partner on the organization’s full stable of Chevrolets. Check out the new paint scheme here.
ABOVE AVERAGE: In the first 12 races of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, Bowman has the sixth-best average running position of 11.24. The No. 88 pit crew’s stops this year have been quick each week, as well. The team ranks fourth on the list of pit crews with an average four-tire stop time of 14.031 seconds.
BOWMAN AT ‘DEGA: Bowman will make his 10th Talladega start in the Cup Series on Sunday. The No. 88 driver’s best finish of second at the track came during the 2019 spring event after leading seven laps. He has led 33 laps total at the superspeedway and has two top-10 finishes. In 2013, Bowman made one start at the track in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and finished 13th after rolling off 14th.
VIRTUAL WINNER AT TALLADEGA: On April 26, 2020, Bowman captured his first iRacing victory in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series at Talladega Superspeedway. The 27-year-old driver led eight laps in the 74-lap event to bring home the virtual victory. Bowman secured four top-10 finishes in the Pro Invitational Series before the NASCAR Cup Series went back racing on May 17.
LEADING LAPS: Bowman has led four races for a career high 369 laps so far in 2020. In just 12 events, the 27-year-old driver has led 169 laps more than he did in 2019 and is currently ranked fourth in the NASCAR Cup Series in laps led this season.
STAGE POINTS: In 2020, Bowman has won four stages in 12 races. The Tucson, Arizona, native has captured 126 stage points this year, which is fourth overall in the NASCAR Cup Series.
TWOxSEVEN: Bowman has finished inside the top two on seven occasions in the last two Cup Series seasons. In 2019, the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet won at Chicagoland Speedway and finished second at Talladega, Dover, Kansas and the Charlotte road course. So far this year, the Valvoline driver has won at Auto Club Speedway in March and finished second at Darlington in May.
IVES IN ALABAMA: On Sunday, crew chief Greg Ives will call the shots for the 11th time at Talladega for the No. 88 team. The Bark River, Michigan, native has one win with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2015 after leading 67 laps, three top-five finishes and five top-10 results at the track. Ives’ drivers have an average start of 6.3 at the 2.66-mile facility. In 2017, the crew chief’s team started from the pole position and in 2018, Bowman led 26 laps to bring home an eighth-place finish. In total, Ives’ drivers have led 168 laps and have completed 88.9% of the total laps in 10 events. The crew chief’s resumé includes one win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the superspeedway with Regan Smith in 2013. Ives was a race engineer for the No. 48 team at Hendrick Motorsports from 2006-2012. During that time, he was a part of two wins, two pole awards and seven top-10 finishes at Talladega.
IVES HAS SUPERSPEEDWAY SUCCESS: Ives has earned two of his four points-paying Cup wins at superspeedways. In 2015, he visited victory lane twice with Earnhardt – once at Daytona and once at Talladega. Ives won a Duel qualifying race at Daytona in 2015 and 2016 with Earnhardt and has four superspeedway pole awards in the Cup Series, including three at Daytona.
HOME TRACK FEELS: Rowdy Harrell returns to his home state of Alabama this weekend for Sunday’s race at Talladega. The 30-year-old tire carrier for the No. 88 team grew up in the small town of Moundville, Alabama, which is near Tuscaloosa. He was a middle linebacker for the University of Alabama under coach Nick Saban and was part of three NCAA national championships in 2009, 2011 and 2012.
GOOD DISCOUNTS: During the month of June, No. 88 team sponsor ChevyGoods.com is providing discounts on all accessories, including Adam’s Polishes, NOCO and Truck Hero. Customers can receive 10% off MSRP with purchases of $100-$249 (offer code “GET10”), 15% off with purchases of $250-$499 (code “GET15”), and 20% off with purchases of more than $500 (code “GET20”). Free ground shipping is also available with offer code “FREESHIP.”
MEGA ‘DEGA: Hendrick Motorsports is the all-time leader in every major statistical category at Talladega Superspeedway. In NASCAR Cup Series competition, the team holds the track records for wins (13), pole positions (13), runner-up finishes (14), top-fives (58), top-10s (88) and laps led (2,843). Hendrick Motorsports’ most recent Talladega victory was April 2019 with Chase Elliott.
EIGHT AGAIN: Seven different drivers have contributed to Hendrick Motorsports’ 13 Talladega wins: Jeff Gordon (6), Jimmie Johnson (2), Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brian Vickers, Terry Labonte and Ken Schrader. Last month, Elliott became the eighth driver to visit victory lane for car owner Rick Hendrick at the Charlotte Motor Speedway oval – a new record for the most drivers to win for any team at any NASCAR Cup Series racetrack. A first-place finish Sunday at Talladega by William Byron or Alex Bowman would equal the mark.
NOT A TYPO: A Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet has led in each of the last 36 NASCAR Cup Series races held at Talladega Superspeedway, representing the longest active streak.
AS OF LATE: Hendrick Motorsports has scored at least one top-10 finish in the last six Cup races held at Talladega and has won a stage in each of the last two events there. The team qualified 1-2-3-4 at the track last October and has earned 10 Talladega pole positions in the last 10 seasons (since 2010).
2020 TOP-10 STREAKS: Hendrick Motorsports has placed at least one of its four cars inside the top 10 in the last 11 NASCAR Cup Series races and put two or more in the top 10 in four straight. Elliott, Byron and Johnson have each posted three top-10 finishes in the last four events.
LEADER OF THE PACK: Hendrick Motorsports continues to close in on another major milestone: 70,000 laps led in the NASCAR Cup Series. Its 69,793 laps led since 1984 is the all-time record and nearly 10,000 more than any other team. After 12 races in 2020, Hendrick Motorsports has led 904 laps, which is more than the team posted through 12 races in 2018 and 2019 combined.
PLAYOFF UPDATE: After 12 events, Hendrick Motorsports is the only organization to have four drivers in playoff position. By virtue of race wins, Elliott and Bowman have each clinched spots in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, while Byron and Johnson are currently in playoff position via points.
ALL-TIME NUMBERS: Since its inception in 1984, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 12 championships, 258 race victories, 226 pole positions, 1,081 top-five finishes and 1,860 top-10s in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led nearly 70,000 laps, which is the all-time record. Including 2020, the organization has won at least one race in 35 consecutive seasons, the longest-ever streak. Hendrick Motorsports is 10 wins away from tying Petty Enterprises’ all-time Cup Series record of 268.
Driver Chase Elliott on his 2020 performance thus far:
“I think bringing fast cars to the track is number one. I also think we have been executing a little better over these past few weeks. I felt like before the break we had fast cars and we were in positions or fast enough to win at times, but we were just not executing well. I wasn’t doing a great job, we were having some struggles on pit road, just kind of the whole nine yards. I feel like since the break, a lot of that stuff has been cleaned up. I don’t want to say it’s perfect, cause it’s certainly not, but we’ve been executing races better I feel like as a whole, which in my opinion has put us in more positions to win.”
Elliott on racing at Talladega:
“Last year worked out really well for us. It was kind of one of those races where things just kind of just fell in our lap there towards the end of the race. We were super patient and just very disciplined as a group. I’m looking forward to getting back to Talladega this weekend with the Mountain Dew/Little Caesars Chevy and trying to do it all again.”
Driver William Byron on heading to Talladega:
“I’m excited to get to Talladega. We always have fast cars as an organization. Talladega last year was really good for us as a team. We were leading and got pushed sideways, which ended our day. I think though that this weekend will be a good opportunity for us to do well. It is unpredictable but you have to do what you can to try stay in contention and be there at the end. You really look past your windshield during the race so to speak. You mainly watch the car running two spots ahead of you more than anything. This weekend will be no different. You have to watch the cars ahead to try spot potential wrecks before they happen to give yourself more reaction time. If we can do that and keep our nose clean, we’ll be in a really good spot to grab the win.”
Driver Jimmie Johnson on the strategy needed at Talladega:
“Talladega is its own beast. You go in wanting to be fast and stay clean for the race, to work well with others, but you have to also accept that you can’t control what might happen 99% of the time. It will be weird going there without the infield being jammed up because it’s such a party destination, which will probably be the biggest difference for me – not seeing thousands of fans having a blast in the infield. Our speedway program at Hendrick Motorsports has been really good so I feel like we will be fast off of the truck.”
Driver Alex Bowman on his experience at Talladega:
“Talladega is a track where we have been pretty good at in the past. I feel like any time Hendrick Motorsports goes to a superspeedway, we are solid. Last year in the spring we were really fast and had a great car. We came up short by one spot to Chase (Elliott), but that just shows how great these Hendrick Motorsports cars are at Talladega.”
Bowman on implementing his iRacing win at Talladega to the real deal:
“I don’t think I can apply anything from my virtual win at Talladega earlier this year to this weekend’s race. It is a completely different style of racing, but we typically bring fast cars to ‘Dega. It does not hurt to crash at the virtual Talladega, and I definitely used a ‘reset’ in that race. So that is not going to work on Sunday.”