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Hendrick Motorsports Media Advance: Martinsville

Martinsville Speedway
Saturday, April 10, 2021
.526-Mile Oval
7:30 PM ET
Location: Ridgeway, Virginia
TV: Fox logo
Event: NASCAR Cup Series (8 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: 4th

No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

LEADER OF THE PACK: Courtesy of a victory (five playoff points) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March and three stage wins (one playoff point each) in 2021, Kyle Larson has amassed eight NASCAR Cup Series playoff points – the most accumulated through seven races. The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series rookie of the year also leads the series in laps led (379) and is tied for most wins (one). Larson ranks second in laps run in the top five (845).

CAREER YEAR: Through seven races, Larson has collected three stage wins, five top-10s and has led 379 laps – all career highs for him through seven events to begin a season. He has won an event in the first seven races twice (2017 and 2021). In 2017, he led the Cup Series standings for 11 of 36 races – nearly one-third of the season.

MADDENING MARTINSVILLE: On a track Larson describes as “one of his worst,” the driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet has one top-five finish and two top-10s in 12 starts at Martinsville. His best finish of third on the paperclip layout occurred in spring 2016.

WATERED-DOWN TRACK: Last week, Larson and the No. 5 team participated in a NASCAR test with wet-weather Goodyear tires at the .526-mile Martinsville short track. NASCAR’s focus with the test was finding a way to race on smaller tracks under damp conditions.

SMOKEY MOUNTAIN RAIN: In the rain-delayed March 29 event on the dirt track at Bristol Motor Speedway, Larson started at the rear of the field in the 250-lap race due to an engine change but quickly showcased his dirt experience by maneuvering up to fourth in only 52 laps. Unfortunately, he was collected in an incident in turn two on lap 53 and ultimately finished 29th and five laps down due to damage sustained to his No. 5 Chevy.

LIVE 5 CREW: The No. 5 HendrickCars.com pit crew is ranked third in fastest average time for four-tire stops in 2021, posting a 13.77-second average. The team is comprised of front-tire changer Donnie Tasser, rear-tire changer Calvin Teague, tire carrier R.J. Barnette, fueler Brandon Harder and jackman Brandon Johnson.

CLIFF’S NOTES: No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE crew chief Cliff Daniels was atop the pit box for Jimmie Johnson during the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion’s final full-time season in 2020. In June at Martinsville Speedway, Johnson led 70 laps en route to the Daniels-led team finishing 10th in the 500-lap event. Previously, Daniels was a race engineer for Johnson, who posted nine Martinsville wins in his career.

YOUR CAR NEEDS: This weekend, Larson will again 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: 9th

No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

PAPERCLIP PERFORMANCE: Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, is set to make his 12th Martinsville Speedway start in the NASCAR Cup Series on Saturday night. The 25-year-old driver made his Cup Series debut at the track for Hendrick Motorsports on March 29, 2015, and has since led a total of 429 laps there – his most laps led at any track.

LAST TIME AROUND: In November at Martinsville Speedway, Elliott turned in a stellar performance by leading a career-high 236 laps en route to his first NASCAR Cup Series win at the track. The victory secured his first-ever berth in the Championship 4 and put him in elite company by joining champions Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon as Hendrick Motorsports drivers who secured a spot in the title-deciding race by winning at Martinsville.

MARTINSVILLE MANIA: In the last eight races at Martinsville, Elliott has finished inside the top 10 in five of the events – tied for the second-most top-10 results of all active drivers. The driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet is also one of only four Cup Series drivers to collect top-five finishes in both 2020 races at the .526-mile oval (fifth in June and first in November).

SHORT-TRACK STATS: On Saturday, Elliott will make his 33rd short-track start in the Cup Series. In those races, he has garnered nine top-five finishes, 16 top-10s and led 775 laps. Elliott currently has five consecutive top-10 finishes on short tracks – the longest active streak of all Cup Series drivers.

GUSTAFSON’S MARTINSVILLE HISTORY: No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson is set to call his 33rd Martinsville Speedway race from atop the pit box on Saturday evening. In his previous 32 Cup Series starts at the track, he has three wins – most recently with Elliott in November 2020 to solidify the No. 9 team’s spot in the Championship 4. Gustafson also has 14 top-five finishes and 23 top-10s. His other two wins at the paperclip-shaped track came with NASCAR Hall of Famer Gordon in 2013 and 2015.

SEVEN RACES IN: Coming off the first NASCAR Cup Series off weekend, Elliott has collected two top-five finishes – tied for the third-most among all drivers – and led a total of 73 laps in the first seven events. He has spent 275 laps inside the top five and 861 laps running in the top 10.

NAPA AUTO PARTS: This weekend at Martinsville, 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.

HONORING A CHAMPION: Last week, Elliott revealed the No. 9 Hooters Throwback paint scheme he will pilot at Darlington Raceway in May. The design honors Alan Kulwicki, who drove the Hooters look in 1992 when he won the NASCAR Cup Series title. Click here to check out the scheme.

24 WILLIAM BYRON
Age: 23 (Nov. 29, 1997)
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
Resides: Charlotte, North Carolina
Crew Chief: Rudy Fugle
Standings: 6th

No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, will be available to members of the media via video conference on Friday, April 9. Visit NASCARmedia.com for details.

MR. CONSISTENCY: So far in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, William Byron and the No. 24 team have been a model of consistency. After seven races, Byron is currently on a career-best streak of five consecutive top-10 finishes – the longest active streak in the Cup Series. His five top-10 finishes are the second-most by a driver this year behind only points leader Denny Hamlin with six. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native has spent 1,304 laps running inside the top 10 – the second-highest amount in the field behind Hamlin (1,443). Of those 1,304 laps, 594 were inside the top five, which ranks seventh-best. Currently, Byron has led 129 laps across three races – the fifth-most in the Cup Series. In fact, Byron has the fifth-best average running position so far in the 2021 season of 9.49.

MARTINSVILLE MINUTES: Despite his young age, Byron’s time at Martinsville Speedway goes back to when he attended his first Cup Series race as a fan at the paperclip-shaped track in 2006. Since then, the 23-year-old driver has moved through the NASCAR ranks and is now poised to make his ninth overall start at the half-mile venue and his seventh in the Cup Series. Of his six Cup Series starts there, Byron has a best finish of second from the fall of 2019. He also has two other Martinsville starts, both coming in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2016, when he qualified seventh for both events and raced to one top-five finish and another top-10.

FUGLE’S FONDNESS OF MARTINSVILLE: While this Saturday’s race will be Rudy Fugle’s first at the Cup Series level at Martinsville Speedway, the Livonia, New York, native has 14 starts at the paperclip-shaped track under his belt, all in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. In those 14 events, Fugle has one win (May 2019), six top-five finishes and 12 top-10s. Two of his previous starts were with Byron, both in 2016, when the duo started seventh in both races and raced to a third-place result in the spring and an eighth-place finish in the fall.

LIBERTY U ONBOARD: After a weekend off from racing, Byron will drive the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE when the Cup Series returns to the track Saturday. Redesigned for the 2021 season, the new paint scheme features a white base with navy flames and red accents, allowing the Liberty University No. 24 to stand out on track. Liberty University has a long history with Byron starting back in 2014 in the late model ranks. Liberty University has been Training Champions for Christ since it was founded in 1971. Located in the mountains of Central Virginia, Liberty is a liberal arts institution with 17 colleges and schools that offers more than 600 degree programs from the certificate to the doctoral level, on campus and online. Working on an undergraduate degree in 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: 16th

No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

CLICKING AT MARTINSVILLE: Alex Bowman impressed at Martinsville Speedway last season when he earned sixth-place finishes in both races. In 10 career starts at the half-mile venue, the Tucson, Arizona, native has three top-10 finishes and has completed 98.3% of the total laps.

2021 NUMBERS: The No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE team has earned 172 points so far this season and currently sits 16th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings after seven events. Bowman has one top-five result, three top-10 finishes and one pole award (the DAYTONA 500) after seven events this season. The 27-year-old driver has captured more top-10 finishes in the first seven races in 2021 than any of his previous seasons in the Cup Series. The Ally Chevrolet has run 344 laps inside the top five, which ranks ninth among active drivers, and 733 laps inside the top 10 in 2021, which ranks 11th.

NEXT GEN TEST: Although the Cup Series had the Easter weekend off, Bowman and members of the No. 48 team headed to Martinsville Speedway for the NASCAR Next Gen car with Chevrolet. The manufacturer brought a prototype of its new model for the 2022 Cup Series season to .526-mile venue for the first time. Bowman was able to get on the track for most of Tuesday, but rain ultimately halted the second day of testing on Wednesday. Chevrolet will unveil its new race car during a media event on May 5.

IVES IN VIRGINIA: Under the lights on Saturday night, crew chief Greg Ives will call the shots for the 13th time at Martinsville Speedway. The Bark River, Michigan, native has one top-five finish and five top-10s at the short track with a best finish of fourth coming in 2015 with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Bowman finished sixth in both events last season after 500 laps at the short track. Ives was a race engineer for the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team from 2006-2012 when he was a part of six wins, three pole awards and 12 top-10 finishes at Martinsville with Jimmie Johnson behind the wheel.

A GREAT PAW-PORTUNITY: Before strapping into the No. 48 Ally Camaro ZL1 1LE on Saturday night at Martinsville, Bowman will visit the Martinsville Henry SPCA located two miles from the track. He will get a behind-the-scenes look at the shelter and play with the dogs and cats that are available for adoption. Ally and Bowman will each make a $1,000 donation to the Virginia rescue following Saturday’s race. If the No. 48 team claims the victory, Ally will increase the donation to $10,000 for the Martinsville Henry SPCA.

FASTEST TIME: After seven events in 2021, the No. 48 pit crew continues to be the fastest pit crew based on average four-tire stop times in the NASCAR Cup Series. The five-man crew has an average four-tire stop time of 13.54 seconds. The team includes fueler Jacob Conley, tire carrier Allen Stallings, jackman Dustin Lineback and tire changers Scott Brzozowski and Devin DelRicco.

CLOSE TO HOME: No. 48 engine tuner Stephen Raynor calls Martinsville Speedway his home track. The 34-year-old team member grew up and currently resides in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which is approximately 50 miles from the Virginia venue. He has been with the Hendrick Motorsports engine department for nine years.

VICTORY-VILLE: In 74 appearances, Hendrick Motorsports has posted 25 points-paying victories at Martinsville Speedway, which is the all-time record for total team wins at any active or inactive NASCAR Cup Series racetrack. Junior Johnson and Associates posted 21 wins at Bristol Motor Speedway, followed by Hendrick Motorsports with 20 at both Charlotte Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway.

PAPERCLIP PERSPECTIVE: Hendrick Motorsports has posted 265 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series victories, just three from tying the team record of 268 held by the legendary Petty Enterprises. The organization’s 25 Martinsville wins alone would rank Hendrick Motorsports 21st on the all-time list. Rex White Racing is 20th with 26 Cup Series wins between 1958 and 1964, two ahead of Dale Earnhardt Inc., which raced from 1996 until 2008 and posted 24 total victories.

CLOCKING WINS: Six drivers have posted at least one Martinsville victory for car owner Rick Hendrick, who grew up two hours from the track in Palmer Springs, Virginia. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson each logged nine wins there during their legendary careers. Darrell Waltrip won four times at Martinsville for Hendrick Motorsports, with Chase Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Geoff Bodine each posting a victory.

FIRST THING’S FIRST: On April 29, 1984, Hendrick Motorsports posted its first of 265 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series wins in the team’s first appearance at Martinsville Speedway. The organization also led its first-ever laps (55) that day when Bodine drove the No. 5 Chevrolet to victory lane.

THE BIG SHORT: No active NASCAR Cup Series team has more short-track victories than Hendrick Motorsports. Going into Saturday night’s race at the half-mile Martinsville Speedway, the organization has 51 short-track wins – 10 more than next-best Joe Gibbs Racing.

FOLLOW THE LEADER: In the seven races prior to the NASCAR Cup Series’ annual Easter break, Hendrick Motorsports led nearly 100 laps more than any other team. The organization has led 582 laps in 2021, which is 94 more than second-place JGR.

THE NEXT SIX: Including its 25 victories at Martinsville, Hendrick Motorsports has won a combined 89 races at the next six tracks on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule. Following Saturday night’s event, the tour visits Richmond (10 Hendrick Motorsports wins), Talladega (13), Kansas (seven), Darlington (14) and Dover (20).

QUOTABLE /

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on Martinsville’s challenges: “Martinsville is probably one of my worst tracks – it’s been the toughest for me to figure out since there are so many challenges there. It’s a different style than what I grew up racing. You’re hard on the brakes and you need to be consistent with that while hitting your marks lap after lap. It’s such a challenge to do all that and keep up with the changing lines throughout the race. Hopefully, someday I can win a Martinsville clock.”

Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on working with Larson at Martinsville’s wet weather tire test last week: “Testing was cool, and it’s always good to have more time with Kyle. It helps our team continue the rhythm we’re in – just being able to cut laps around the place with him in one of our cars is always helpful. NASCAR has some good rain tire options if they choose to use them in the future.”

Daniels on finishing 10th with Jimmie Johnson in 2020: “We led a lot of laps early but didn’t keep up with the track as well as we should have. We were just an adjustment behind. We got up front, we led laps, and we knew the car was fast, but we didn’t want to over-adjust so we made small adjustments. After looking back at our notes, the track really tightened up throughout the race. Our teammates got aggressive with their changes and we were just a step behind.”

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE on returning to Martinsville: “Last year’s win at Martinsville was huge for us. It’s great to know that we’ve had some good runs there, but you always have to keep in mind that your past success doesn’t equal success in the future. It never has and I don’t think it ever will – that’s just racing. So, I think for us, we will have some good information from last year and I look forward to getting to Martinsville this weekend and seeing what we can do.”

Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on the challenges at Martinsville: “Rubber is the biggest challenge. The rubber lays down, the grip moves around and can change the line you need to run. Your car needs to do different things to run different lines. As the rubber lays down, you could be really good on a clean track and as the rubber moves then you have to move around and then your car doesn’t handle as well in those situations. I think that’s the toughest thing about Martinsville. Then under caution a lot of times you’ll pick it up so the cycle will kind of repeat itself. You want to make sure you can stay on top of it as much as you can.”

Gustafson on racing at Martinsville at night: “I don’t think there will be any huge differences to racing Martinsville at night. The track is typically less apt to lay rubber when it is cooler so that would be a change. You could get the same result on a cold day or an overcast day, but I think night will have the track a little less apt to lay rubber than it does in the daylight.”

William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on the challenges of racing at Martinsville: “Martinsville Speedway is always difficult no matter how many times you’ve raced there. You have to balance the entry of the corner to how you turn in the middle, all while not allowing the guy behind you to get underneath you on the exit of the corner. You want to be aggressive enough to make up ground but also not overly aggressive that you lose track position early on. It’s a track that requires patience and the knowledge of when to push it and when to save. It’s a challenge for sure but I enjoy it. It makes it tough on the drivers to get around there.”

Byron on adjusting to the removal of the infield grass at Martinsville: “I’m interested to see what it’s like with the grass removed but I don’t think it will change much on the racetrack. The only thing I think that will be different is your visual cues. You’ll have to get use to looking at the concrete at the start of the race and set new marks for yourself in the corners. That’s always critical there. It will make the first couple laps interesting but once you figure those marks out, it will get easier as the race goes.”

Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on preparing for Martinsville: “Martinsville Speedway is a tough track for anyone, even those who are statistically good there. When you look at William’s stats there, he either runs really well or he has an issue happen. That’s the two-fold thing we have to deal with this weekend. How do we make the car durable and make it last through a grueling 500-lap race while making it drive the way he wants and not taking all the speed out of the car? We’re trying to use some of the previous notes since William has ran well there in the Cup Series and the No. 9 team won there last. We have a lot of good notes to use; we’re just trying to balance car durability and survival versus speed and keeping track position.”

Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on getting back on track after the weekend off: “It was nice to have a weekend off last week. A week off is nice, but I am ready to get to Martinsville this weekend. We had two top-10 finishes at the track last season and I think we have a good notebook to lean on for Saturday night’s race. Hendrick Motorsports has been strong at Martinsville in the past and I feel like our teams can lean on each other a bit for this weekend’s race.”

Greg Ives, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on racing at night at Martinsville: “Anytime you have night races, you prepare a little bit differently depending on the track grip. There were times when you would start the race during the day and then it would end at night, but this is a true night race. Now we just have to worry about if the track is going to rubber up or not. I think it is generally going to be a clean track and hopefully we can get another groove in there. You might see some fender banging to make the pass. You might have some tempers flare, but it’s just short track racing.”


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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