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Hendrick Motorsports Media Advance: Las Vegas

Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Sunday, March 7, 2021
1.5-Mile Oval
3:30 PM EST
Location: Las Vegas
TV: Fox
Event: NASCAR Cup Series (4 of 36)
Radio: SiriusXM logo PRN logo

5 KYLE LARSON
Age: 28 (July 31, 1992)
Hometown: Elk Grove, California
Resides: Mooresville, North Carolina
Crew Chief: Cliff Daniels
Standings: 8th

No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

RECENT RECAP: Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, finished fourth at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday – his first top-five finish for Hendrick Motorsports and second top-10 finish of 2021. He led five laps in the 267-lap race won by teammate William Byron. Larson is eighth in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings, 42 markers back from leader Denny Hamlin.

OH-SO-CLOSE ON 1.5-MILERS: Larson has yet to visit victory lane in 71 career Cup Series starts on 1.5-mile tracks, but the 2014 NASCAR rookie of the year has nine second-place finishes, 21 top-five finishes, six stage wins and has led 799 laps in those events. His nine runner-up finishes on 1.5-milers are the most all-time without a victory.

GOOD ODDS FOR TOP-10: In nine previous Cup starts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Larson has three top-five finishes and six top-10s, including a ninth-place finish in this event last year. He posted runner-up results at LVMS in 2017 and 2018.

DOUBLE TAKE: The No. 5 HendrickCars.com paint scheme Larson will drive in 2021 will look familiar to longtime NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports fans. Ricky Hendrick, the late son of Rick Hendrick, drove a similar scheme to victory in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Kansas Speedway in 2001. In 2002, the paint scheme appeared on the No. 5 Chevrolet entry driven by Hendrick during the NASCAR Xfinity Series season. For a close-up look of Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet, click here.

CLIFF’S NOTES: No. 5 crew chief Cliff Daniels was atop the pit box for seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson during the 2020 season. In this race last year, Daniels helped guide Johnson to a fifth-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

YOUR CAR NEEDS: This weekend, Larson will drive the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. From the convenience of home, customers can select the category, make, model and vehicle packages that are important to them from the nearly 30,000 new, high-quality pre-owned and certified cars, trucks and SUVs available at HendrickCars.com. The website also makes it easy for customers to find one of Hendrick Automotive Group’s 93 dealership locations nationwide.

9 CHASE ELLIOTT
Age: 25 (Nov. 28, 1995)
Hometown: Dawsonville, Georgia
Resides: Dawsonville, Georgia
Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson
Standings: 5th

No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

KEEPIN’ THE STREAK ALIVE: Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet, has led laps in the last five NASCAR Cup Series events and is tied with Joey Logano for the longest active streak. In the five-race span that dates back to last season, Elliott has led the most total laps (440) out of all Cup Series drivers and has led the most laps in three of the last five events.

LAS VEGAS STATS: On Sunday, Elliott is set to make his ninth NASCAR Cup Series start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In his previous eight starts, he has collected two top-five finishes, three top-10s and led 155 laps. The 25-year-old driver’s 155 laps led at LVMS is the second-most that he has at a track without a points-race win (Bristol – 310).

1.5 MILERS: Elliott will make his 58th start on a 1.5-mile track this Sunday while in Sin City. In his previous 57 races, he has led 742 laps. Last season, he scored his second career 1.5-mile track win at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 28. Along with two victories, Elliott has collected 18 top-five finishes – five of which are runner-up results – and 29 top-10s on 1.5-milers.

2020 1.5-MILE TRACK STATS: In the 11 1.5-mile races during the 2020 season, Elliott collected one win, three top-three, five top-10s and led 310 laps – the fourth-most laps led of all drivers. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native also garnered the most stage wins (four) on 1.5-mile tracks of all drivers in 2020. Three of those stage wins came at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

THIS RACE LAST SEASON: Last year during the spring race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Elliott started from the 10th position and won stage one and stage two. He led a total of 70 laps before a flat left-rear tire during a green-flag run relegated him to a 26th-place finish.

GUSTAFSON AT LVMS: This weekend, No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson will call his 20th race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway from atop the pit box. In his previous 19 events at the venue, Gustafson has garnered five top-five finishes, eight top-10s and 164 laps led.

COTA TEST: On Tuesday, Elliott and the No. 9 team participated in a one-day tire test at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. The test was the first time NASCAR Cup Series cars have been on track at the 20-turn road course.

NAPA KNOW HOW: This weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the No. 9 Chevrolet will don the familiar blue, white and yellow NAPA AUTO PARTS paint scheme. The Atlanta-based company is serving as majority sponsor for Elliott and the No. 9 team for 25 NASCAR Cup Series races this season.

CHECK OUT THOSE HATS: During the month of March, the No. 9 team will wear special limited-edition NAPA hats at the track. The hats are part of NAPA AUTO PARTS’ March in-store promotion. Throughout the month when customers spend $25 in store, they will receive the No. 9 NAPA Racing/Chase Elliott hat while supplies last.

24 WILLIAM BYRON
Age: 23 (Nov. 29, 1997)
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
Resides: Charlotte, North Carolina
Crew Chief: Rudy Fugle
Standings: 13th

No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

HOMESTEAD DOMINATION: Starting Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway from the 31st position, William Byron went to work and powered his No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE toward the front of the field before the end of Stage 1. Continuing to run up front for the majority of the race, Byron won stage two before leading the final 57 laps of the 267-lap event, scoring his second NASCAR Cup Series win. With his win Sunday, Byron became the youngest winner at Homestead-Miami Speedway and gave crew chief Rudy Fugle his first Cup win after just three races in the series.

WILLY B BROUGHT THE HEAT: Not only did Sunday mark Byron’s second Cup win, but it was statistically his best overall race to date in the series. Despite starting 31st, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native rocketed to the front of the field and spent 80 percent of the race in the top five; his highest percentage ever. Of the event’s 267 laps completed, Byron spent 115 running in the top-two positions, also his most ever in a race. Byron ended the night with an average running position of 3.9, another personal best.

LOCKED IT IN: With his win Sunday, Byron has all but secured a position in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. Currently he has six playoff points to his credit – the most of any driver so far this season.

EYES OUT FRONT: Just three races into 2021, Byron has already led 102 laps – the second-most by any driver in the field. Denny Hamlin leads the category with 103 laps out front, just one more than Byron. The 23-year-old led the final 57 laps at Homestead, and his 102 laps led during the event was more than double his total prior laps led in any Cup race.

LOOKING FOR LUCK: When the No. 24 Liberty University Chevy Camaro ZL1 1LE unloads for Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it will mark Byron’s seventh Cup Series start at the 1.5-mile track. In his six previous starts, Byron has a track-best finish of seventh (September 2019). However, the driver’s stats at Las Vegas don’t accurately represent the strength the No. 24 team has displayed there. Last February, Byron ran solidly inside the top five before a flat tire late in the race resulted in a 22nd-place finish. In September, he rallied through the field to find himself within the top-10 running order, but an incident with six laps to go relegated him to a 25th-place result.

VIVA LAS RUDY: Hot off his first win in the NASCAR Cup Series, Fugle is confident heading to a track where he has had success in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Calling the shots for 10 truck races, Fugle has one win (March 1, 2019) with driver Kyle Busch, four top-five finishes, six top-10s, three pole awards and 238 laps led at Las Vegas. In 2016, Byron and Fugle qualified 10th and raced to a fifth-place finish at the 1.5-mile venue.

WELCOME BACK LIBERTY U: For the first time in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, Byron will sport his new Liberty University paint scheme. Now 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’s has a history of sponsoring Byron dates back to 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 communications, Byron is in his junior year at Liberty University through its online program. For a better look at Byron’s new Liberty University paint scheme, click here.

48 ALEX BOWMAN
Age: 27 (April 25, 1993)
Hometown: Tucson, Arizona
Resides: Concord, North Carolina
Crew Chief: Greg Ives
Standings: 17th

No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

BOWMAN IN VEGAS: Alex Bowman has eight Las Vegas Motor Speedway appearances in the NASCAR Cup Series. In the fall race last season, he recorded both his best starting position (eighth) and best finish (fifth). Bowman’s average running position in the 2020 playoff race at Vegas was 5.5, which was the third-best of all drivers. Since the start of the 2019 season, the Tucson, Arizona, native’s average finish at LVMS is 8.75, which is the fifth-best among active drivers. In his lone start at the track in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Bowman finished eighth after qualifying 18th for the 200-lap event in 2013.

1.5-MILE STATS: In 61 career NASCAR Cup Series starts on 1.5-mile tracks, Bowman has one win, six top-five finishes and 16 top-10s. The Ally-sponsored driver is tied with Martin Truex Jr. for the most top-10 finishes (five) in the last five events on 1.5-milers, which is the longest active streak. Bowman also has finished inside the top five in three of the last four races on 1.5-mile venues, including Las Vegas in September. The 27-year-old driver’s first Cup win came in 2019 at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway after leading 88 laps. Bowman captured three stage wins at 1.5-mile tracks in 2020, the third-most behind Denny Hamlin and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott.

TOP 10 IN MIA: Bowman and the No. 48 team captured their second top-10 result of 2021 after finishing ninth Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. After starting at the rear of the field, Bowman advanced to fifth by the end of stage one for his first top-10 stage finish this season. With continued momentum, the Ally driver ran inside the top 10 for most of the second stage and finished ninth when the green-white checkered flag waved. The Ally Chevrolet Camaro received rear damage in the final stage, which affected the car’s handling. Despite this, Bowman focused and pushed the No. 48 Chevrolet to his second top-10 finish in a row. Sunday’s result also was Bowman’s second top-10 result at the 1.5-mile venue. The No. 48 team now sits 17th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings after three events.

ROLLING THE DICE: Greg Ives will call his 10th Las Vegas Cup Series race this weekend. In his nine previous starts at the 1.5-mile facility, the No. 48 crew chief has two top-five results and four top-10s with a best finish of fourth in 2015 with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Ives also has two starts there in the NASCAR Xfinity Series including one top-five finish with Elliott in 2014 and one top-10 with Regan Smith in 2013. From 2006-2012, Ives was a race engineer for the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team with seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson. During that time, he was part of three wins and four top-five finishes at Las Vegas.

WASTING NO TIME: Sunday’s win at Homestead-Miami Speedway was the first in the NASCAR Cup Series for the combination of driver William Byron and crew chief Rudy Fugle. The victory came in the pair’s third Cup race together, making Fugle the second-fastest full-time (non-interim) crew chief to notch a points win for Hendrick Motorsports. Only Gary Nelson, who won in his first attempt with the team – the 1986 DAYTONA 500 with Geoff Bodine – posted a victory in fewer tries. Other quick Hendrick Motorsports winners include Steve Letarte (sixth race with Jeff Gordon), Harry Hyde (eighth race with Bodine) and Robbie Loomis (ninth race with Gordon). Hendrick Motorsports signed Fugle last October for the 2021 season.

BROKEN RECORD: Hendrick Motorsports’ victory at Homestead snapped NASCAR’s all-time team record for total seasons with at least one Cup Series win, breaking a tie with Petty Enterprises. The team has now recorded a victory in 37 of its 38 seasons since 1984, missing only 1985 when it finished second three times. 2021 also marks Hendrick Motorsports’ 36th straight year with a first-place finish, extending its all-time record for consecutive winning seasons.

HIT ME: Byron’s win at Homestead-Miami Speedway was the 61st for Hendrick Motorsports on a 1.5-mile track in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. The team will seek its record-extending 62nd 1.5-mile victory on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

UPPING THE ANTE: With his Homestead performance, Byron became the 12th different driver to win for Hendrick Motorsports on a 1.5-mile Cup Series track. He joined Jimmie Johnson (28 wins), Gordon (17), Darrell Waltrip (three), Chase Elliott (two), Kasey Kahne (two), Ken Schrader (two), Terry Labonte (two), Alex Bowman, Mark Martin, Casey Mears and Jerry Nadeau.

WEST COAST BLING: Hendrick Motorsports has brought home more trophies from West Coast racetracks than any other NASCAR Cup Series organization. The team has won the most combined races (22) at the three venues on the 2021 schedule – Las Vegas, Phoenix and Sonoma – and 36 overall in the states of California, Arizona and Nevada. It has earned 11 points victories at both Phoenix Raceway and Auto Club Speedway, six at Sonoma Raceway, five at Las Vegas and three at the defunct Riverside International Raceway.

FAST FIVE: When Labonte joined Hendrick Motorsports in 1994, he didn’t waste any time – winning at North Wilkesboro Speedway in just his seventh start for the team. Since the organization’s inception in 1984, no driver has recorded a Cup Series victory in fewer races for car owner Rick Hendrick. Geoff Bodine and Martin came close, with each posting a win in their eighth race. In fact, the five quickest Hendrick Motorsports winners all piloted the No. 5 Chevrolet: Labonte, Bodine, Martin, Mears (12 races) and Kahne (12). Newcomer Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, will make his fourth start for the team Sunday at Las Vegas, where he has two career runner-up finishes.

YOUNG GUNS: With an average age of 26 years old, Hendrick Motorsports fields the youngest multi-car team in the NASCAR Cup Series and its youngest four-driver lineup since 2005. With Sunday’s Homestead victory, the organization’s drivers – Bowman, Byron, Elliott and Larson – have won 21 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.

QUOTABLE /

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on the Las Vegas track characteristics: “I’m excited to get to Las Vegas – it’s a track that has suited my driving style in the past. It’s usually pretty warm, so the track gets slick and slower. You can move around and even run the top, and you can position your car in certain ways to get through the bumps in turns one and two. A key to running well is being able to move around and adjust your line throughout the race. Hopefully we can go there and get a win. I have been close a few times. Now that I’m driving for Hendrick Motorsports, I’m interested to see if the car drives differently, especially over the bumps in (turns) one and two.”

Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on having Larson’s feedback after completing a race on a 1.5-mile track: “It’s so tough to go into some of these races now with no data point of what Kyle needs. We went into Homestead with some old notes based on our teammates from last year and the car ran okay, but not as well as we expected for ourselves. We should have been better. But to be a little bit off and to still finish top six in each stage and finish fourth in the race was okay. But now that we have that mark in the sand – that data point – of what he needs, it’s helping so much as we prepare for Vegas. Just from that one data point, there are a lot of dots we can connect.”

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on racing at Las Vegas: “I thought we were pretty good at Las Vegas last year in the spring race. We struggled a little bit in the fall, but there are certainly some things we can learn and take from both of those races. I think more importantly, we can take the things we saw at Homestead last Sunday, where we need to improve, and apply those to this weekend.”

Elliott on the team’s test this week at Circuit of the Americas: “The track’s been fun. Anytime you go somewhere new is refreshing for race car drivers. I’ve enjoyed the challenge. There’s lots of places on the track (where) I haven’t made a ton of laps, so just really trying to understand: Is this the right way or is this the wrong way? It’s tough because when you’re new and you’re trying to get going, you might hit the first part of the track pretty good, then you might miss two spots back here. Your lap time doesn’t tell the whole story, right? So you really have to piece that together and understand what you think you did good and what you didn’t and then go put the pieces of the puzzle together and try to put the whole thing in the works.”

Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on racing at intermediate tracks: “With this weekend being another race on an intermediate track, I think we learned a lot last week at Homestead. We figured out the areas that we need to improve on and focus on for Las Vegas. We brought pretty strong Chevrolets to the track last year in Vegas so we just have to work hard this week on getting everything right and I think we will be ok.”

William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on being virtually locked into the playoffs so early in the season: “We can be more aggressive now. At the same time, we know what it takes to win and be successful, so we don’t have to do anything much different, either. We can be a little more aggressive with the calls on pit road and the strategy calls to get track position and hold it. I feel like at Las Vegas we can be strong. We just need to go there and execute similarly to how we did last weekend in Homestead.”

Byron on racing at Las Vegas: “Vegas has become really fun to race and a really good track for us on the No. 24 team. It’s a challenge, though. You need to have a car that can be dynamic and change lanes around the track. The top of turns three and four is a really good place to run, especially if your car is a little loose. I think Vegas puts on a really good race with this aero package and it brings out the best. You can draft up on guys but still get clean air in the corners to make a pass on someone. Plus, the restarts are crazy. I really enjoy it.”

Byron on the bumps at Las Vegas Motor Speedway: “The bumps there are a bit challenging. You have to hit them facing the right way and not pointing up the track. It can really kill momentum if you’re carrying too much speed over them because the front of the car or the back of the car, even both, gets out of the track. It’s really important to time those well. There’s so much speed made in having a smooth turn one and turn two that it’s really important to get through there fast and carry good momentum. It’s a challenge, for sure, but it’s fun to maneuver as a driver.”

Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on the team’s confidence heading into Vegas: “I’ve said it before but the No. 24 team has all the pieces it needs to be successful and win races. There are areas we need to work on, but we’ll keep getting better and better as time goes on. We know we’re capable of winning races. Now it’s working on becoming a championship team, and that will happen if we all keep putting the work in like we have. We’re all very driven to reach our goals, and nothing pushes someone harder than success. We have win number one under our belts. Now it’s time to focus and execute on this weekend’s race.”

Fugle on what it takes to run well at Vegas: “Racing in Vegas during March will bring cooler temperatures than when we race there during the playoffs. Partner that with the 550 (horsepower) package we run and it’ll make for an interesting race. You’ll see some drafting throughout the day. The important thing is that you have a car that has enough speed but also handles really well. It’s a fine line of balance. Vegas is also a track where the restarts are more intense than ever, so track position is also a key factor.”

Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on racing at Las Vegas: “Las Vegas is a track where we have had a lot of speed in the past and were in a position to go to victory lane in both events last season. Our 1.5-mile program is so strong at Hendrick Motorsports, and we have really dialed in our Chevrolet Camaros on these tracks. Coming off two top-10 finishes gives our Ally team a little bit of momentum, but we are hungry for more.”

Greg Ives, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on preparing for Las Vegas: “I feel like we are going to have a fast Ally Chevrolet when we get to Las Vegas. Alex is pumped up and ready to go. I know we are a little disappointed after last week and finishing ninth, but we have some fast race cars and a good history at Vegas. We have knocked on the doorstep of a win out there a few times. We have to do a little homework and execute the way we need to and be there at the end of the race.”


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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