POCONO RACEWAY (2.5-MILE TRIANGLE)
LOCATION: LONG POND, PENNSYLVANIA
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACES 14 AND 15 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 3:30 P.M. ET, SATURDAY, JUNE 27 (FOX/MRN/SIRIUSXM)
4 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, JUNE 28 (FS1/MRN/SIRIUSXM)
No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE
Driver Chase Elliott Hometown Dawsonville, Georgia
Age 24 Resides Dawsonville, Georgia
4th in standings
1 pole position
6 top-five finishes
8 top-10 finishes
425 laps led
9 pole positions
50 top-five finishes
82 top-10 finishes
2,269 laps led
0 pole positions
2 top-five finishes
6 top-10 finishes
67 laps led
OUT FRONT: In the first 13 races of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, Chase Elliott has led a total of 425 laps – the third-highest in the series. He needs 177 more to surpass his Cup Series career-high of 601 laps led.
TRENDING UPWARD: Elliott, the driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, continues to lead all Cup drivers with five stage wins, 143 stage points and a series-best 7.39 average running position. His 11 races led are tied for the most in the series.
THE STREAK CONTINUES: Elliott is tied with Joey Logano for the longest active streak of consecutive races led with eight. It is Elliott’s longest career stretch of races with laps led.
TOP-10 TRACK: As the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway for a weekend doubleheader, Elliott currently holds six top-10 finishes at the “Tricky Triangle,” which tie his results at Dover for the second-most total top-10s he has at any track.
NO STRANGER TO POCONO: Elliott has made eight Cup Series starts at Pocono and collected two top-five finishes. His lone NASCAR Xfinity Series race there came in 2018 when he started 10th and notched a runner-up finish in the 100-lap event. In his first of two ARCA Series starts at Pocono, Elliott started 32nd and went on to lead 21 laps before earning his first career ARCA win in June 2013.
NAPA DOES THE DOUBLE: The familiar blue, white and yellow NAPA AUTO PARTS paint scheme will return to the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for both races this weekend at Pocono Raceway. The Atlanta-based company is serving as majority sponsor for Elliott and the No. 9 team for a total of 26 NASCAR Cup Series races this year.
ENGINE, ENGINE NO. 9: This weekend, Elliott could become the third driver to win at Pocono with the No. 9 car. The iconic number is currently tied with the Nos. 2 and 24 for third for the most victories at the track with six. Elliott’s father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, garnered five of those wins and Kasey Kahne collected the most recent victory in the No. 9 in June 2008. Only the Nos. 11 and 88 have more Pocono wins.
GUSTAFSON AT THE ‘TRICKY TRIANGLE’: No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson has called 30 races from atop the pit box at Pocono, and he will add two more to his resumé this weekend. In his previous starts at the 2.5-mile triangle with five different drivers (Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Casey Mears and Kyle Busch), Gustafson has collected two wins (with Gordon in June 2011 and August 2012), seven top-five finishes and 17 top-10s.
HOME SWEET HOME: As the Cup Series heads north for the Pocono doubleheader, there are two members of the No. 9 team who call the Keystone State home. Car chief Matt Barndt hails from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and primary truck driver Heath Edler is from Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
PIT CRUISING: Among the teams competing in the NASCAR Cup Series, the No. 9 pit crew ranks second in best average time for four-tire stops at 13.96 seconds through 13 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 tire changer Chad Avrit.
No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE
Driver William Byron Hometown Charlotte, North Carolina
Age 22 Resides Charlotte, North Carolina
14th in standings
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
4 top-10 finishes
26 laps led
5 pole positions
5 top-five finishes
21 top-10 finishes
320 laps led
1 pole position
1 top-five finish
3 top-10 finishes
35 laps led
SHIFTING MOMENTUM: While the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season may not have started like William Byron and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team hoped, they have diligently worked to build positive momentum. During the first seven races this year, Byron had one top-10 finish, three top-15s and led four laps en route to an average finish of 22nd. In the last six races, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native has collected three top-10s, five top-15s and led 22 laps, all while holding a 13.5 average finishing position. Even with the unfortunate luck early this season, Byron is sitting 14th in the driver point standings compared to 15th at the same point in 2019.
KEEPING THE STREAK ALIVE: Byron has one of the best chances to capitalize on this weekend’s doubleheader at Pocono Raceway, which is one of his best tracks on the NASCAR circuit. Byron is riding a streak of three consecutive top-10 finishes at the “Tricky Triangle” dating back to the July race during his 2018 rookie season. This three-race top-10 stretch is the longest for Byron at any track. The third-year driver is tied for second on the list of longest active top-10 finishes at Pocono behind Kyle Busch who has seven consecutive top-10 results there.
PREVIEWING POCONO: In his four Cup Series starts at Pocono, Byron has one pole award coming in the June race last season, as well as one top-five finish and three top-10s. He led 35 laps in two of those events. With a personal track-best finish of fourth during his last trip to Pocono Raceway, Byron holds a 9.25 average finish, which ranks second-best all-time behind Erik Jones, who has an 8.33 average.
PAST POCONO WINNER: Byron isn’t a stranger to victory lane at Pocono. After starting from the pole in 2016, he dominated the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race, leading 44 out of 60 laps before capturing the checkered flag.
NO TRICKING KNAUS: Making his 38th and 39th starts as a Cup Series crew chief at Pocono Raceway, Chad Knaus leads active Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs in best finishes there. With three wins at the 2.5-mile triangular track, Knaus swept both races in 2004 and captured the win again from the pole in the spring of 2013 with Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team. Last year, he called the shots for Byron during their first two trips together to Pocono. In June, the duo captured the pole position, led 25 laps and scored a ninth-place finish. Despite starting at the rear of the field in late July, Knaus and Byron utilized pit strategy to put the No. 24 in contention, scoring a fourth-place finish.
AXALTA’S HOMEBASE: Byron has extra motivation during this weekend’s doubleheader at Pocono Raceway, racing in primary sponsor Axalta’s backyard. With its headquarters located less than 100 miles from the “Tricky Triangle” in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the third-year driver will pilot the iconic Axalta flames for both races this weekend. 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.
DISHING ON ‘DEGA: Despite having a weather-postponed race and starting at the tail end of the field at Talladega Superspeedway due to inspection issues, Byron wasted little time making it into the top-five running order – five laps to be exact. With weather looming during the Monday event, Byron showed his drafting prowess by running within the top 10 for the majority of the race, including leading 11 laps. Getting shuffled out of line with less than 30 laps to go, he tried to fight his way back to the front, ultimately scoring a personal track-best finish of 11th at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.
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 Camaro 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 event, he will have three chances during the Open qualifying race by winning one of the race stages or receiving the coveted fan vote. Fans can place their vote once per day with votes shared on social media counting double at NASCAR.com/fanvote until noon 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
99 laps led
36 pole positions
229 top-five finishes
370 top-10 finishes
18,933 laps led
4 pole positions
11 top-five finishes
20 top-10 finishes
743 laps led
THREE-TIME WINNER: Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is the proud winner of three NASCAR Cup Series events at Pocono Raceway. He swept back-to-back races in the summer of 2004 and won again in 2013. The only other Hendrick Motorsports driver who has more Pocono victories than Johnson is NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon, who won six times in the Keystone State. Ironically, Gordon secured his 84th points-paying win at Pocono Raceway in June of 2011. Johnson currently has 83 career victories.
LEADING THE WAY: Of the 13 races run this year, Johnson has led laps in six of them for 99 total laps. Johnson needs 73 more laps led in 2020 to lead more than the prior two seasons combined.
LAST WIN AT POCONO: Johnson’s last win at Pocono came on June 9, 2013, when the driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE dominated the 400-mile event by leading 128 of 160 laps.
START-FINISH LINE: In addition to other accolades Johnson will receive throughout the weekend, Pocono Raceway will paint the El Cajon, California, native’s name on the start-finish line in honor of his three wins at the track and in appreciation and recognition of the seven-time champion’s successful career as he races on the Pocono asphalt for the final time.
ROCK AND ROLL: Pocono has many iconic, quirky characteristics. One of the most popular attributes is how the track has commemorated many of the greatest race car drivers across the history of the track in stone as guarding the entrance to the driver/owner motorhome lot and media center in a series of large rocks painted in black and gold. The rocks bear the names and car numbers of iconic drivers such as Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip, Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt and the late Doc Mattioli, the founder of Pocono Raceway. This weekend, in honor of Johnson’s final events, the track has added a rock with the No. 48 in Johnson’s honor.
LEGACY GIFT: The Mattioli Foundation, in conjunction with Pocono Raceway, have established the Jimmie Johnson Legacy Scholarship for students pursuing professional skills at the Monroe Career & Technical Institute (MCTI), a Bartonsville, Pennsylvania-based learning institution. This scholarship recognizes and celebrates the achievements of seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Johnson. The Jimmie Johnson Legacy Scholarship will provide $4,800 to students at MCTI for the next 23 years – the number of seasons in which Johnson has competed in at least one NASCAR-sanctioned race. Those eligible to receive portions of this scholarship include students who have demonstrated professional skills throughout their time at MCTI.
SEMIFINALISTS ON DECK FOR JJ FOUNDATION: The Jimmie Johnson Foundation has selected 10 Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope semifinalists and the public vote is open from now until June 30. The five semifinalists who garner the most votes will each receive a $25,000 grant, a Blue Bunny Ice Cream party and will have their logo featured on Johnson’s helmet during the race at Dover International Speedway. To vote, go to www.JimmieJohnsonFoundation.org.
DOG DAYS OF ‘DEGA: Although the finish of 13th at Talladega wasn’t what Johnson and the No. 48 Ally Racing team expected after they positioned themselves at the front of the pack with five laps to go, it solidified that the team has the speed to contend for its 84th victory. After being caught up in a spin in the final 10 miles, Johnson and crew were able to recover to a top-15 finishing position.
No. 88 ChevyGoods.com/Adam’s Polishes 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
4 top-10 finishes
381 laps led
2 pole positions
12 top-five finishes
30 top-10 finishes
855 laps led
0 pole positions
1 top-five finish
1 top-10 finish
0 laps led
SEVENTH IN ‘DEGA: After weather postponed Talladega Superspeedway to Monday, Alex Bowman rolled off the grid in eighth for the 500-mile race. The Hendrick Motorsports driver quickly got to the bottom lane in the 188-lap event to line up with his Chevrolet teammates. On Lap 46, the No. 88 machine was out front leading the field. Bowman ended up second in Stage 1 after the stage ended under the yellow flag. Battling loose conditions throughout the second stage, Bowman crossed the line in 16th after electing to save fuel at the conclusion of the segment. Crew chief Greg Ives knew that fuel mileage was key in this event, so any chance he had he brought the driver to pit road for fuel. While leading on Lap 163, Ives relayed that Bowman would be one lap short on fuel. The team decided to back off the lead in order to get better fuel mileage before the end of the race. Through a series of cautions at the conclusion of the race, Bowman crossed the line seventh.
WELCOME BACK, CHEVYGOODS.COM: The black and yellow ChevyGoods.com paint scheme featuring Adam’s Polishes will be on board Bowman’s No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE during this weekend’s events at Pocono Raceway. Adam’s Polishes produces high quality products for auto detailing enthusiasts. In January, Hendrick Motorsports announced its partnership with ChevyGoods.com, which includes primary sponsorship of Bowman for 26 events. Associate brands that will be featured throughout 2020 are Adam’s Polishes, NOCO and Truck Hero.
BOWMAN STATS AT THE ‘TRICKY TRIANGLE’: Bowman is set to make his ninth and 10th Cup Series starts at Pocono Raceway during doubleheader events this weekend. The Tucson, Arizona, native earned his best start (10th) and best finish (third) at the track in July 2018. He has completed 99.4% of the total laps at the 2.5-mile track. Bowman has one start in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the Long Pond, Pennsylvania, venue, starting and finishing 10th in 2016. The 27-year-old driver also has two starts in the ARCA Series at the track in 2012, when he finished third in both events.
2020 STANDINGS: After 13 races this season, Bowman and his No. 88 team are sitting in eighth place in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings. The Chevrolet driver has one win (Fontana), two top-five finishes and four top-10s. Following Monday’s event at Talladega Superspeedway, Bowman has led 381 laps in 2020 and has led laps in six out of 13 events. He has captured four stage wins thus far and has an average running position of 11.24, which is sixth in the series in 2020.
POCONO RACEWAY CREDENTIALS: Ives has called the shots for the No. 88 team at Pocono Raceway 10 times since joining the team in 2015. The Bark River, Michigan, native’s resumé includes three top-five finishes and four laps led. Ives’ best result at the track came in 2016 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished runner-up in the 160-lap event. Before moving to the No. 88 team, Ives was a race engineer for the No. 48 team between 2006 and 2012. During that time, the driver Jimmie Johnson captured 11 top-10 finishes and one pole award at the track.
HOMETOWN TRACK: Jason Seitzinger, shock engineer for the No. 88 team, grew up in Shartlesville, Pennsylvania, which is located about 70 miles from Pocono Raceway. His first job was for Penske Racing Shocks in Reading, Pennsylvania, where he worked in the parts room. Seitzinger has been with Hendrick Motorsports for 18 years.
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.”
CHIPPING AWAY AT 70K: Hendrick Motorsports is quickly approaching 70,000 laps led in the NASCAR Cup Series. Its 69,820 laps led since 1984 is the all-time record and nearly 10,000 more than any other team. After 13 races in 2020, the organization has led 931 laps, which is more than it posted through 13 races in 2018 and 2019 combined. Hendrick Motorsports, which has led laps in every race this season, needs to lead 180 more laps to reach the 70,000 mark. There are 270 laps up for grabs during this weekend Pocono Raceway doubleheader.
NOT EVEN CLOSE: In NASCAR Cup Series competition at Pocono Raceway, Hendrick Motorsports is the all-time leader in wins (17), pole positions (13), top-five finishes (70), top-10s (126) and laps led. The organization’s 3,270 laps led at the 2.5-mile triangular track is nearly twice the total of the next-best team (Team Penske has 1,641).
LUCKY SEVEN: Seven different drivers have won NASCAR Cup Series races for Hendrick Motorsports at Pocono: Jeff Gordon (6), Jimmie Johnson (3), Tim Richmond (3), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2), Geoff Bodine, Terry Labonte and Kasey Kahne. The all-time record for different winners by a team at any Cup racetrack is eight, which was set by Hendrick Motorsports earlier this season at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
ON THESE DATES: The Cup Series doubleheader weekend at Pocono falls on historically successful dates for Hendrick Motorsports. The team has raced three times on June 27 and won them all: Johnson at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2010 and Gordon at Sonoma Raceway in 2001 and 1999. Hendrick Motorsports has posted one victory on June 28: Gordon at Sonoma in 1998.
12 AND COUNTING: Alex Bowman’s seventh-place performance Monday at Talladega Superspeedway extended Hendrick Motorsports’ run of consecutive Cup races with at least one top-10 finish to 12, the longest active streak. The last time the organization did not put a car in the top 10 was the 2020 DAYTONA 500 in February.
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 1,861 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 record of 268.
Driver Chase Elliott on strategy for doubleheader at Pocono:
“So far, our prep hasn’t been any different for this weekend’s doubleheader. We ultimately want to run one car the whole weekend. I think keeping that in mind during the race on Saturday, but at the same time I don’t know that you are really going to approach it much different. You always want to try and finish, and finish toward the front, so I don’t think that is going to change. I do think track position is going to be really important with the shorter races, though, especially lining yourself up for the last stage in each event because it is going to be so short. It’s going to be hard to make up a lot of ground in a hurry.”
Crew chief Alan Gustafson on the challenges of a Pocono doubleheader:
“The doubleheader at Pocono is a bit of an unknown because we haven’t done it before. You want to go run well in the first race and not have any issues and not have any failures, damage or anything. I think that’s the biggest thing, performing well in the first race and understanding that even if it goes smooth, what parts are we going to have to change, the condition of the parts and pieces, thoroughly going over the car for the second race. That is going to be challenging. Then, if you aren’t very good in the first race, being able to adapt quickly and make the adjustments necessary to improve for the second race. There’s just not a lot of time. Those are the two things that really stand out to me. On one hand, if you run really well you want to make sure the condition of your car is good for the next day and on the other hand, if you don’t run well you want to be able to adapt and make as many of the correct adjustments as possible.”
Driver William Byron on the recent string of hot races:
“This is a good time of year in Pocono with the weather being nice. It will probably be one of the cooler race weekends we have had since we returned to racing. Every weekend has been extremely hot and we don’t typically run races in the South at this time of year. Typically, we’re up north during the months of June and July, so that’s been an adjustment.”
Byron on the Pocono doubleheader:
“I think, overall, it’s going to be a fun weekend. I really enjoy racing at Pocono. I think it’s one of those racetracks we go to that’s cool to race at but is also really tough to get around. The restarts are really difficult and usually pretty treacherous. It’s important to have good, clean and consistent restarts there. You also need a good long-run car that turns well to make speed. Now adding in back-to-back races there, I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to bring a new challenge, and I think we’re up for it. We’ve ran well at Pocono in the past, so this is a chance for us to really capitalize.”
Byron on Pocono car setup:
“I think there’s still some truth to when people say you need to have your car set up better in one corner than the others at Pocono Raceway. However, I think nowadays with the way engineering is, you have to figure out how to make it work in all three corners pretty well more than you used to. You have to be close to exceptional in all three turns to be competitive, but I think Turn 3 is the most important, personally. The way that corner is and how difficult it is for the majority of the field, you want to be better there than everyone else. I always look at racetracks and try to see where the majority of the field will be weak, and usually the best cars throughout the race excel in those areas of weakness. With that being said, I think the saying still holds true today with the three corners and having to be good at one end over another.”
Crew Chief Chad Knaus on his attitude toward a doubleheader:
“I’m excited for the doubleheader and the challenges it’s going to bring. I do think though that with us in a new normal of no practice and no qualifying that it almost makes this weekend’s doubleheader a bit easier. We don’t have to worry about the mileage on pieces and parts of the car as much as we would have. Of course, there will be some parts of the car that we’ll go over more closely no matter what just because of how rough Pocono is and the amount that these bodies shift over bumps. I think the biggest challenge will be the strategy aspect not just for the best outcome on Saturday but to set yourself up for a good result in Sunday’s race as well. Honestly though, I’m just really excited to get to the track and see how this whole thing works out. Pocono is a track I love going to and has always been one of my favorites.”
Driver Jimmie Johnson on racing two races in one weekend at Pocono:
“A doubleheader at Pocono will require some stamina. I’m seeing that my physical fitness focus is really paying off during these races that are on top of one another and the work I’ve done to stay fit really is paying off. When it comes to the track itself, Turn 3 is the most important and difficult one to get right. A small mistake in Turn 3 can really hurt you down the front stretch. The restarts are nutty and then everyone divebombs into Turn 1, it’s quite crazy at times.”
Crew chief Cliff Daniels on being prepared for Pocono’s races:
“Going to Pocono this weekend for the doubleheader is going to present some new and exciting challenges. I think our No. 48 team is up for it. There has been so much planning and preparation that have gone into the car for the first race and then we have a checklist of things to change over to make sure we are mechanically sound for the second race. It’s going to be pretty fun — something we have not had to do before.”
Driver Alex Bowman’s thoughts on Pocono:
“Pocono is a really fun track. It is one of my favorite tracks we go to. We are typically really fast there. This track is an interesting track because there is a big compromise in all three corners. It is definitely one of the more technical places that we go to.”
Bowman’s thoughts on the ability to pass at Pocono:
“Pocono is a tough place to pass cars. One of the keys is to qualify decent, but since we aren’t qualifying, we need to hope we get a good draw. The track is really a one-groove track, and since it doesn’t widen out a lot, it is tough to get by cars. Hendrick Motorsports is building some fast cars right now and I know when we go to Pocono this weekend, that is what we will have.”
Crew chief Greg Ives on preparing for a doubleheader weekend:
“The Pocono doubleheader will be the first for the Cup teams, so there is a lack of knowing how it all will play out. The Xfinity cars did have a doubleheader at Homestead a few weeks ago, so we are able to pull from JR Motorsports’ experience there. When preparing you have to assume the worst scenarios so that you have what you need on the hauler. Experience is always the best knowledge when approaching these types of races, and we are getting a condensed course on that as it unfolds. As we have seen with the weather lately, that always can take your plans and make you adjust quickly.”