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Hendrick Motorsports Media Advance: DAYTONA 500

5 KYLE LARSON
Age: 28 (July 31, 1992)
Hometown: Elk Grove, California
Resides: Mooresville, North Carolina
Crew Chief: Cliff Daniels
Standings: N/A

No. 5 NationsGuard Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

NEW BEGINNING: In October 2020, Hendrick Motorsports announced Kyle Larson would partner with crew chief Cliff Daniels in the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, beginning with the 2021 DAYTONA 500. Larson has six NASCAR Cup Series victories, all with Chip Ganassi Racing.

OH SO CLOSE: In 2017, Larson led the field with one lap to go in the DAYTONA 500. However, his Chevrolet ran out of fuel on the final lap and he coasted to a 12th-place finish. In 13 starts at the 2.5-mile track, Larson has four top-10 finishes, including a 10th-place result in last year’s DAYTONA 500.

WINNER AT DAYTONA: In July 2018, Larson won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway. The Elk Grove, California, native led a race-high 40 laps en route to victory.

HOT START: In 2020, Larson scored three top-10 finishes through the first four races of the season prior to the schedule being paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only Kevin Harvick, who finished in the top 10 in all four races, had more.

A RETURN: The 28-year-old Larson will pilot the No. 5 NationsGuard Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE in the season-opening DAYTONA 500, marking the return of the organization’s flagship car number. The No. 5 entry has 45 wins in NASCAR’s premier series with Hendrick Motorsports collecting 38 of those checkered flags. Larson will be the 10th driver to field the number for the organization and will look to be the seventh to record a Cup win behind the wheel. It was most recently fielded by Hendrick Motorsports in 2017.

ON GUARD: NationsGuard, a program that gives car dealers control of their F&I products and customer experience, will adorn the No. 5 Chevrolet during “The Great American Race” at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 14. It will also appear as the primary sponsor on the car at the DAYTONA Road Course on Feb. 21 and at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Feb. 28. For more information about NationsGuard, visit NationsGuard.com.

TWO-FOR-TWO: In January, Larson collected his second consecutive Chili Bowl Nationals victory, an annual dirt track event held in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He followed it with a win in a late model dirt car at All-Tech Raceway in only his second start of the new year. In 2020, Larson had one of the most successful years in the history of dirt track racing, winning 46 total events across various series.

BACKING THE 5: On Tuesday, Feb. 2, it was announced that Cincinnati Inc. and Freightliner have joined Larson and the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE team as primary sponsors beginning in 2021. Read more about it here.

9 CHASE ELLIOTT
Age: 25 (Nov. 28, 1995)
Hometown: Dawsonville, Georgia
Resides: Dawsonville, Georgia
Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson
Standings: 1st (2020)

No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

DEFENDING CHAMP: Last year proved to be one for the record book for Chase Elliott and the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS team. In 2020, the emerging star won a personal best five races, including the season finale at Phoenix Raceway where he out-dueled three of the best drivers in stock-car racing to become the third-youngest champion in NASCAR Cup Series history. Elliott also scored career highs in top-five finishes (15), top-10s (22) and laps led (1,247). In addition, his banner season included a thrilling victory in the NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, where he picked up a $1 million bonus.

WHAT OFFSEASON?: While many filled the offseason with rest and relaxation, Elliott kicked his competitive spirit into high gear. The 25-year-old driver laid down laps behind the wheel of different race cars in three different series: a late model in the Snowball Derby, midget dirt car at the Chili Bowl Nationals and sports car in the Rolex 24 at DAYTONA. He finished third in the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway, seventh in the Chili Bowl F-Main, and most recently sixth in the DPi class and eighth overall in the Rolex 24. Along with Mike Conway, Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr, Elliott spent more than five hours on the track and helped rally the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac after a broken gear lost the team 22 laps with five hours left in the race.

SPEED STREAK: Elliott has seen his share of success during Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway. In 2016, he won the NASCAR Xfinity Series season opener, followed in 2017 by his first career Duel qualifying race victory and a second consecutive Duel win in 2018. In addition to those victories, Elliott was in position to win the 2017 DAYTONA 500 before running out of fuel from the lead on Lap 198 of 200.

POLE WINNER: Crew chief Alan Gustafson won consecutive DAYTONA 500 pole awards in 2015 with four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, in 2016 with then-rookie Elliott, and again with Elliott in 2017. He is tied with NASCAR Hall of Famer Waddell Wilson and Elliott’s uncle, Ernie Elliott, for the most DAYTONA 500 pole wins in a row by a crew chief. Wilson earned three straight with drivers Buddy Baker, Bobby Allison and Benny Parsons from 1980-1982. Ernie Elliott accomplished the feat with Chase’s father, Bill Elliott, from 1985-1987.

ELITE COMPANY: On Valentine’s Day, Elliott could become the fifth NASCAR Cup Series champion to hoist the Harley J. Earl trophy in the following season. Dale Jarrett (2000), Gordon (1999), Cale Yarborough (1977) and Richard Petty (1973) are the only four champions who started the following season with the DAYTONA 500 victory.

WORK FROM HOME: For Daytona Speedweeks, defending NASCAR Cup Series champion crew chief Gustafson will make his annual return home to the “Birthplace of Speed.” He hails from Ormond Beach, Florida, just down the road from Daytona International Speedway. After graduating from Seabreeze High School, Gustafson enrolled at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to study mechanical engineering. He returns to Daytona for his 17th full-time season as a crew chief and his sixth year with Elliott.

GUSTAFSON AT DIS: In 2020, Gustafson notched his first home track points win at the inaugural DAYTONA Road Course event. In addition, he has collected two Duel qualifying race victories (2017, 2018) with Elliott. The 45-year-old crew chief has three runner-up finishes on the 2.5-mile Daytona oval: two with driver Kyle Busch (2006 and 2007) and one with Elliott last August. The 2007 margin of victory between Busch and winner Jamie McMurray was the closest ever in the summer race at DIS (0.005 seconds). Gustafson has also won the pole award at Daytona five times with three drivers (Elliott, 3; Gordon, 1; Mark Martin, 1). He is tied with Wilson and Leonard Wood for the most DAYTONA 500 pole awards for a crew chief with four.

NAPA RETURNS FOR 500: For the sixth consecutive year, NAPA AUTO PARTS will kick off the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season on the hood of Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for the DAYTONA 500. Elliott has never started the “The Great American Race” without primary sponsorship from the Atlanta-based company.

WELCOME TO THE TEAM: In December, Hendrick Motorsports announced Eastman Performance Films LLC, a subsidiary of Eastman Chemical Company (NYSE: EMN), would become a primary sponsor of 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion Elliott and the No. 9 team after extending its relationship for three more years. The sponsorship, which features the LLumar® brand of window film and paint protection film, will serve as a primary sponsor at the Clash at DAYTONA and the inaugural Cup Series event at Circuit of the Americas. Click here to check out the paint scheme.

24 WILLIAM BYRON
Age: 23 (Nov. 29, 1997)
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
Resides: Charlotte, North Carolina
Crew Chief: Rudy Fugle
Standings: 14th (2020)

No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

2020 REARVIEW: With a third full year of NASCAR Cup Series competition under his belt, William Byron is ready to keep the momentum going when the 2021 season kicks off at Daytona International Speedway. Byron opened 2020 by adding to his already impressive résumé with a win in the Duel qualifying race at Daytona last February. He followed that with his first points-paying Cup Series win during the August race on the 2.5-mile oval. That first victory at NASCAR’s highest level came at the perfect time, locking Byron into the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs for the second consecutive season. When 2020 came to a close, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native was 14th in points with one win, four top-five finishes, 14 top-10s and 140 laps led.

THREE IS THE LUCKY NUMBER: Byron’s first trip to victory lane added his name to an impressive list of drivers who captured their first Cup Series win in their third season. Hall of Famers Bobby Labonte, Alan Kulwicki, and Rusty Wallace, along with Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson, all earned their first win during their third full Cup Series season.

OLD SCHOOL, NEW TWIST: While the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet has been synonymous with the iconic flames paint scheme, 2021 brings a new look for Byron’s Camaro ZL1 1LE. Keeping an old-school flair with a twist, Axalta Coating Systems unveiled its new colors for the No. 24 team in January. Utilizing a matte black base, Byron’s Chevy features bright stripes in an array of colors that will be impossible to miss on the track. Now in its 29th year of partnership with Hendrick Motorsports, Axalta returns as a primary partner on Byron’s No. 24 car for 14 races in 2021. For a better look at Byron’s new No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, click here.

COMING FOR THE CLASH: With his first career points-paying NASCAR Cup Series win in 2020, Byron locked himself into the 2021 Clash at DAYTONA event that kicks off the new season. When the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet unloads at Daytona, it will mark the 23-year-old driver’s second start in the exhibition race. In last year’s event, Byron ran up front, leading four laps before eventually being collected in an on-track incident that ended his night early.

TWENTY-FOUR TO THE TOP: In four of the last six DAYTONA 500 races, the No. 24 Chevrolet has started from the pole position: 2015 with Jeff Gordon and in 2016 and 2017 with Elliott. Byron most recently added to that statistic by becoming the second-youngest DAYTONA 500 pole winner in 2019, which also marked the Charlotte, North Carolina, native’s first pole award in the Cup Series.

DAYTONA DUELS: Byron will make his fourth start in the Daytona Duel qualifying races next Thursday, Feb. 11. In last year’s qualifying race, Byron lined up in the fourth position and patiently remained in the top half of the field within striking distance of the lead. As the laps wound down, the driver of the No. 24 made a move with two laps to go to take over the top spot, holding on to capture his first win in a Cup Series car and securing a fourth-place starting position in the DAYTONA 500.

BACK AT THE BEACH: The last time Byron was at Daytona International Speedway he ended the day in victory lane. When he and the iconic No. 24 team return, they hope to pick up where they left off – this time with a win in the DAYTONA 500. In fact, Byron has finished first or second in two of his last three races at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, and he’s led 80 laps over his six total Cup starts there – his most at any track. Byron’s success at Daytona doesn’t end there. During his 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship campaign, he qualified third in the July race and led 29 laps to score the victory, becoming the youngest driver with an Xfinity Series win at Daytona at 19 years, 7 months and 1 day.

RUDY, RUDY, RUDY: The No. 24 team has a new crew chief calling the shots for the 2021 season: Ryan “Rudy” Fugle. While 2021 will be Fugle’s first year at the Cup Series level, his voice will be a familiar one to Byron over the radio. The driver-crew chief combo previously worked together in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series during Byron’s rookie year in 2016. They notched a record-breaking season with seven victories and led 21% of all laps run. The duo also scored three pole awards before narrowly missing the driver title, but they still collected the owner championship and driver rookie of the year honors. Before joining Hendrick Motorsports, Fugle spent eight seasons at Kyle Busch Motorsports, amassing 28 total truck wins as a crew chief, which tie him for second all-time in the series. The Livonia, New York, native accumulated 24 poles, 78 top-five finishes and 119 top-10s across his 168 races on top of the pit box for the organization. In those events, Fugle worked with 15 different drivers and visited victory lane with six of them – the third-most by a truck crew chief. Of those six, Byron’s seven wins are the second-most Fugle scored with one driver, behind his 10 with Kyle Busch.

AXALTA ELECTROLIGHT: On Thursday, Axalta unveiled the newest addition to the Axalta Injector at Daytona International Speedway – a newly painted No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports car that will be on display for fans to see all year long. The car on display combines Axalta’s new solventbourne basecoat, Cromax XP, with its 2021 Color of the Year, Electrolight. The refreshing green-yellow hue has been formulated with mobility-technology while utilizing the easy-to-use solventborne basecoat that delivers a high-quality finish.

BEACH BUMS: Kicking off the 2021 NASCAR season in the Sunshine State, three crew members on the No. 24 team will make their way back home. Longtime Hendrick Motorsports rear-tire changer Johnny Roberts hails from Titusville, Florida, just down the coast from Daytona Beach, where he spent much of his time surfing before making his way to North Carolina and trying out with Hendrick Motorsports in 2010. Engineer Brandon McSwain grew up approximately 100 miles from the “World Center of Racing” in Auburndale, Florida. Just a few miles down the road from where McSwain grew up, engine tuner Ben Proctor calls Lakeland, Florida, home.

48 ALEX BOWMAN
Age: 27 (April 25, 1993)
Hometown: Tucson, Arizona
Resides: Concord, North Carolina
Crew Chief: Greg Ives
Standings: 6th (2020)

No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

NEW NUMBER, SAME TEAM: Alex Bowman will have a new car number and a new primary sponsor beginning in 2021. In October, Hendrick Motorsports announced the move of Bowman and crew chief Greg Ives to the storied No. 48 Chevrolet with full-season support from Ally. Bowman will continue working with his playoff-contending road crew and pit crew from the 2020 season, including veteran car chief Austin Konetski. The 2021 No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE has a fun, retro feel that was designed collaboratively between Ally, Bowman, Ives and Sean Cain of Blackbeard Designs. The seafoam, grapefruit and plum colors give the car a fun, retro feel. Check it out by clicking here.

THE CLASH: On Tuesday night, the 27-year-old Bowman will make his fourth career start in the non-points Clash at DAYTONA. In 2017, the driver finished third in his first-ever Clash race, which he qualified for after capturing the pole position at Phoenix Raceway in 2016. In 2019, he started the event fifth and led 11 laps en route to a fifth-place finish. Last season, Bowman started eighth in the Clash and finished 15th after getting caught in a wreck on Lap 74. This year, the Clash will take place on the DAYTONA Road Course, where he finished 12th in the inaugural event last season.

FRONT ROW SUCCESS: In his three DAYTONA 500 qualifying efforts with Hendrick Motorsports, Bowman has sat on the front row each season. The Tucson, Arizona, native captured the pole position for the 60th running of the prestigious race in 2018 and qualified second both in 2019 and 2020. Bowman’s average start in the DAYTONA 500 for the last three years is a remarkable 1.7.

DUELING AT DAYTONA: Bowman will make his sixth start in the Duel qualifying races on Thursday, Feb. 11. The driver of the Ally machine ran the event in 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019 and 2020. Last season, he started from the lead in the second Duel after qualifying on the outside pole for the DAYTONA 500. He kept his Camaro ZL1 1LE clean and finished 15th after 60 laps.

IVES’ PLATE TRACK SUCCESS: Two of Ives’ five points-paying Cup wins have come at plate tracks. In 2015, the No. 48 team crew chief visited victory lane three times with driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., including at the Daytona oval and Talladega Superspeedway. Ives won a Duel at Daytona in both 2015 and 2016 with Earnhardt and has three plate-track pole awards, including two at Daytona. In addition, Ives called the shots for Regan Smith in the 2013 NASCAR Xfinity Series and led the driver to a win at Talladega. From 2006-2012, Ives was a race engineer on the No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. During that time, he was part of one win (2006), one pole award (2008) and one runner-up finish (2009) at Daytona International Speedway with driver Jimmie Johnson.

BUILDING ON ’20: In his third full-time season with Hendrick Motorsports in 2020, Bowman had his most successful year to date. He led 440 laps in 36 events, which marked a career best. He captured his second NASCAR Cup Series win after leading 110 laps at Auto Club Speedway, and the team recorded six top-five results and 15 top-10s. In the final 12 events of 2020, Bowman captured nine top-10 finishes, which was the most of all drivers in the series. He secured his third playoff berth and advanced to the Round of 8. The driver finished a career-best sixth in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series standings.

PRESEASON WINNING: On Jan. 26, the Hendrick Motorsports pit crew athletes representing each team competed in a preseason scrimmage in preparation for Daytona. The scrimmage was valuable practice for the over-the-wall crew and the team members who play crucial roles behind pit wall during a stop. The No. 48 pit crew is comprised of tire changers Scott Brzozowski and Devin DelRicco, tire carrier Allen Stallings, jackman and tire carrier Dustin Lineback, and fueler Jacob Conley. At the conclusion of the 2021 scrimmage, the No. 48 team earned the win with the overall best performance.

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: In 2020, the former No. 88 team lost some of its valued members. On Aug. 19, aerodynamics engineer Bryce Whitson Jr. passed away after a three-year battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. When the COVID-19 pandemic paused the NASCAR season and the series participated in iRacing events, Whitson helped Bowman and Ives. On Nov. 24, just three days after getting married, tire carrier Rowdy Harrell and wife Blakley were tragically killed in a head-on collision while on their honeymoon in the Florida Keys. Harrell was a stand-out performer for Hendrick Motorsports for the last eight seasons. Before joining the organization, he won three national championships as a walk-on middle linebacker for the University of Alabama football team. Throughout 2021, the No. 48 Chevrolet will carry a special decal in remembrance of Whitson and the Harrells.

MEDIA DAY: On Monday, Feb. 8, beginning at 9 a.m. ET, car owner Rick Hendrick and the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers will be available to members of the media via video conference as part of NASCAR’s 2021 DAYTONA 500 preview. Schedule and participation details are available at NASCARmedia.com.

CHASING PETTY: Hendrick Motorsports enters the 2021 season within striking distance of one of stock car racing’s most enduring achievements: Petty Enterprises’ all-time team record for NASCAR Cup Series victories. The legendary Petty organization captured the wins record from Carl Kiekhafer Racing more than 60 years ago when Lee Petty took the checkered flag at Orange Speedway on May 29, 1960, for the team’s 53rd victory. Its 268th and final win was delivered by driver John Andretti on April 18, 1999, in the organization’s 1,703rd race (when Hendrick Motorsports’ victory total stood at 88). Since its inception in 1984, Hendrick Motorsports has earned 263 points-paying Cup Series wins and currently needs six more to break the record at NASCAR’s highest level. Owner Hendrick’s organization has won at least six races in 22 of its 37 seasons, including 2020 when the team recorded seven victories.

HIGH-WATER MARKS: Going into 2021, Hendrick Motorsports holds the NASCAR Cup Series team records for championships (13), different drivers to win a title (four), different drivers to win at least one race (19), consecutive seasons with a victory (35), runner-up finishes (240), top-five results (1,101), top-10s (1,900) and laps led (70,823). The organization is currently tied with Petty Enterprises for the most total seasons with at least one points-paying race win (36).

BE MINE: The 2021 DAYTONA 500 will take the green flag on Sunday, Feb. 14, which is the anniversary of Jeff Gordon’s 1999 victory in “The Great American Race.” The NASCAR Hall of Famer and four-time Cup Series champion led 17 laps to win from the pole position and earned his second of three career Harley J. Earl trophies. It also marked the fourth DAYTONA 500 triumph for Hendrick Motorsports.

DAYTONA HISTORY: Hendrick Motorsports has notched eight DAYTONA 500 wins, which is one shy of tying Petty Enterprises’ record of nine. The team’s victories have come with five different drivers: Gordon (1997, 1999, 2005), Jimmie Johnson (2006, 2013), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2014), Darrell Waltrip (1989) and Geoff Bodine (1986). It has won “The Great American Race” in a record-tying four different decades: the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s.

SPEEDWEEKS STREAK: In each of the last eight seasons, Hendrick Motorsports has visited victory lane in at least one event during Daytona Speedweeks in February. The team won the DAYTONA 500 in 2013 and 2014, at least one Duel qualifying race from 2015-2018, the Clash at DAYTONA in 2019, and another Duel qualifier in 2020.

POLE-STERS: Hendrick Motorsports has won the DAYTONA 500 pole position a record-setting 13 times, including five of the last six and eight of the last 13. The team has won the pole for 35% of the DAYTONA 500s in which it has competed (13 of 37) and 21% of all poles in the event’s 62-race history.

DAYTONA DATA: In addition to poles, Hendrick Motorsports enters the 63rd running of the DAYTONA 500 as the event’s all-time leader in top-five finishes (28), top-10s (47) and laps led (1,295).

ADD ’EM UP: Hendrick Motorsports has 43 combined wins at the Daytona International Speedway facility. In addition to its eight DAYTONA 500 victories, the team has seven points-paying Cup Series wins in the annual summer oval event and one on the venue’s road course. It has recorded 16 victories in the DAYTONA 500 Duel qualifying races and seven in the annual Clash at DAYTONA exhibition. In addition, Hendrick Motorsports has four NASCAR Xfinity Series wins at “The World Center of Racing.”

YOUNG GUNS: With an average age of 26 years old to start the season, Hendrick Motorsports will field its youngest four-driver lineup since 2005 – and youth has proven to be a benefit in DAYTONA 500 qualifying. In fact, five of the six youngest pole winners in the history of “The Great American Race” have been Hendrick Motorsports drivers. Chase Elliott is both the youngest (2016) and third-youngest (2017) DAYTONA 500 pole sitter. Teammates William Byron (2019) and Alex Bowman (2018) rank second and fifth, respectively. The pole won by Johnson in his 2002 rookie season puts the recently retired seven-time NASCAR champion as the sixth-youngest. Hendrick Motorsports also fielded the oldest DAYTONA 500 pole winner: Mark Martin, who won it in 2010 at 51 years old.

YOUNG GUNS II: Although Hendrick Motorsports will field the youngest multi-car team in the Cup Series this season, you wouldn’t know it by looking at the statistics. At NASCAR’s top level, the organization’s four drivers – Bowman, Byron, Elliott and newcomer Kyle Larson – have won 20 combined points races, secured 14 playoff berths, earned three Cup Series rookie of the year awards and won two NASCAR All-Star Races. Elliott is the defending Cup Series champion and has been voted the series’ most popular driver three consecutive times.

CAR SHOW: With the return of the No. 5 Chevrolet and the No. 9 team coming off a championship season, Hendrick Motorsports will field all four of its title-winning car numbers in 2021. Of the organization’s record 13 NASCAR Cup Series championships, seven have come with the No. 48, four with the No. 24 and one each with the Nos. 5 and 9.

QUOTABLE /

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on returning to the DAYTONA 500: “I’m excited for Daytona for a lot of reasons. It’s great to be back in a Cup car with such an amazing organization that just won a championship. I’m looking forward to getting back in the garage with a lot of friends, competitors, and just getting into battles on the racetrack.”

Larson on being back in a Cup race car for the first time since last March: “I don’t know what to think about that. I’m nervous. I’m excited. Normally when you go to a new race team you can get some sort of testing to see how the cockpit feels or if you need to work on this or work on that. So far, I sat in the car and drove it around the parking lot at Hendrick Motorsports and we made a couple of adjustments.”

Larson on working with Cliff Daniels: “I’m definitely excited to have Cliff as my crew chief. He has a totally different style compared to other crew chiefs I’ve had before. He’s driven and he’s a perfectionist.”

Larson on getting acclimated to Hendrick Motorsports: “Hendrick Motorsports seems twice as large as what I’m used to. Meeting everyone is a bit difficult right now – especially when you can only see half of their face! But it’s cool to experience the winning culture and see all the resources. There are a lot of talented people that I’m excited to work with.”

Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on his team’s goals for the year: “Our goal is to win races and contend for the championship. How do you do that? You do that by stacking the fundamental building blocks. That’s communication, the way we work through problems and issues, the balance of the car, find speed in the car, make Kyle comfortable. All those things are the foundation. We want to set a path to get that established early.”

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on his outlook for the 2021 season: “Coming off our championship last year, the good thing for myself and the No. 9 team is that we still have improvements to make. I don’t think we were at our best in every single area throughout the entire season that we could be. I think that’s really cool to know – that we had such a successful year and we still have areas we can improve on. We’re looking forward to doing more of that in 2021.”

Elliott on what the DAYTONA 500 means to him: “Since I was a kid, the DAYTONA 500 has always been a larger-than-life event. From the history of the race to the hype around the event, it all sets the 500 apart from every other race. It’s just such a big deal for all the drivers and teams. When I was growing up, I felt like the race was something that everyone knew about, watched and supported. As a kid, that has a big impact on you and makes you appreciate it more as you grow up.”

Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on his outlook for 2021: “The No. 9 team will have the same group, and we’re excited to move on into the new season. We like to be around each other, we like to compete together, and I think stability is a big deal. Having stability and being able to continuously make progress is important. A lot of times, with someone new you have to take a step back and kind of re-train. That’s not always a terrible thing, but we like the group we have, and fortunately for us we like to be around one another, and we are going to keep pushing forward as a team.”

Gustafson on the Clash at DAYTONA and having Elliott behind the wheel during road course races: “There’s a lot of times that the fastest setup is really one of the most difficult to drive, and you have to have somebody who can manage it and handle the car. Road racing is a series of compromises – you’re turning left, you’re turning right, slow speed, fast speed, brake zones, different styles of brake zones. At some point in time the car is not going to be ideal, so you can look at the areas of the track that are ultimately going to give you the most performance, and then there are other areas where you are not going to be able to optimize the car and the driver is going to have to deal with it. Chase certainly does that with flying colors. He enables us to put the fastest, most aggressive car on the track, and he manages it really well. It’s definitely a luxury, and everybody who has been fortunate enough to work with a guy of that caliber knows that’s a key component.”

William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on being eager for the start of the 2021 season: “I’m excited to get back to Daytona and get the season started. I’ve put in a lot of work in during the offseason preparing for this year, and I know Rudy (Fugle) and the team guys have done the same. We want to be as prepared as we possibly can be to get the season started off on the right foot. Good finishes in the first few races of the year can really change the strategy and dynamic compared to a few bad ones that put you in a hole. As a team, we’re all on the same page and all have the same goals, and that is to improve off last year, get as many wins as we can and hopefully be in contention for a championship at the end of it. I think we’re fully capable of that.”

Byron on working with Fugle again: “It’ll be great to work with Rudy again. We had a lot of success together in the truck series. Since then, I have gained a lot of on-track and off-track knowledge. Rudy’s worked hard to get adjusted this offseason, and I think all of our efforts will benefit us. We’ve always had a good working relationship and level of communication with each other. I feel like we have basically picked up where we left off and that familiarity will hopefully translate to our on-track performance.”

Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on the offseason prep with his new team: “While I’m new to Hendrick Motorsports and the No. 24 team, it really has been a pretty smooth transition getting ready for the season. I’ve done what I can to learn the processes and get up to speed, and now we’re working on improving as one unit. William has definitely put in extra time this offseason as well to take us to that next level. Every week is going to be a building block to put us in the position we want to be in. I fully believe that this team is capable of winning races early on and that’s going to be our goal.”

Fugle on the opportunities Daytona offers: “I think Daytona provides a good opportunity to get the season started off on the right foot. We have so much track time between the Clash, the Duels and practice sessions, that you really should have your car and strategy dialed in when you get to the start of the DAYTONA 500. If you get through that opening week of racing with good results, that only strengthens your team and gives you an extra boost of confidence heading into the few weeks.”

Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on starting his first race with full-season primary sponsor Ally: “Hendrick Motorsports has seen a ton of success at superspeedways in the past, and that is a great feeling going into the first race of the year with Ally. Daytona is a place where anything can happen at any moment and you must try to stay out of trouble. This No. 48 team worked hard over the offseason to build off the momentum that we ended with last season. Every year, we bring a fast Chevrolet to Daytona, and I’m excited to finally be able to get on the track with Ally on board. It feels like it has been forever since we announced the move to the (No.) 48 with Ally’s support, so we are pumped to finally be able to go.”

Bowman on the various components of Daytona Speedweeks: “Daytona Speedweeks has so many different elements with the Clash, qualifying, Duels, and the DAYTONA 500. It’s going to be exciting and interesting to run the Clash under the lights on the DAYTONA Road Course. Last year, we battled some issues (on the road course) here and there, but we fought hard and finished inside the top 15. Our summer run on the oval ended with a top 10, and that provides some good momentum going into the Duels and the 500. We’ve qualified well at Daytona in the past, and that will determine the strategy for the Duel event.”

Greg Ives, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on carrying momentum into the 2021 season: “The excitement of heading to Daytona has always been prevalent throughout each offseason. The design of the new paint schemes, uniforms, equipment redone, and improvements to the team as a whole bring anxiousness to get to the track. Add in the fact that we will be working with Ally and bearing the (No.) 48 has us wanting to continue the prestigious history. Our 2020 playoff run is the level where our team needs to continue to perform, and, with the consistency in the team we have, there’s no doubt we can pick up where we left off.”



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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