Hendrick Motorsports Media Advance: Kansas

Kansas Speedway
Sunday, May 2, 2021
1.5-Mile Oval
3:00 PM ET
Location: Kansas City, Kansas
TV: Fox
Event: NASCAR Cup Series (11 of 36)
Radio: SiriusXM logo PRN logo

Age: 28 (July 31, 1992)
Hometown: Elk Grove, California
Resides: Mooresville, North Carolina
Crew Chief: Cliff Daniels
Standings: 9th

No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

FIRST TIMER: Kyle Larson led a race-high 103 laps en route to his victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway earlier this season. Prior to the win, he had scored nine runner-up finishes – the most all-time without a NASCAR Cup Series victory – in 71 career starts on 1.5-mile tracks. One of his second-place finishes came at Kansas Speedway in 2014.

JUST A LONER: The 28-year-old Larson is the lone driver to post top-five finishes in all three Cup Series races on 1.5-mile tracks this year. Along with his win at Las Vegas, Larson finished second at Atlanta Motor Speedway and fourth at Homestead-Miami Speedway – an event won by Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron.

LEADER OF THE PACK: On intermediate tracks in 2021, Larson leads the series in average finish (2.33), stage wins (three) and laps led (377), which represent 44% of all laps run on 1.5-mile tracks this season. The driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE is tied for the most wins (one), second-place finishes (one) and top-10s (three) in those three events.

I SECOND THAT: Through 10 races in 2021, Larson has one win, four top-five finishes, secured eight playoff points and has led 379 laps – all second-most in NASCAR’s premier series. He currently sits ninth in the Cup Series driver point standings.

FOUR SCORE: In his last four Cup Series starts at Kansas Speedway, Larson has finished in the top 10 three times and led 161 of a possible 1,082 laps (15%). Overall, he has three top-five finishes and five top-10s in 12 starts at the Midwest track.

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.

Age: 25 (Nov. 28, 1995)
Hometown: Dawsonville, Georgia
Resides: Dawsonville, Georgia
Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson
Standings: 8th

No. 9 UniFirst Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

TEN-RACE MARK: With the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season at the 10-race mark, Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 UniFirst Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, has posted two runner-up results, four top-10 finishes and has led a total of 76 laps. He has spent 618 laps inside the top five and 1,421 laps running in the top 10.

KANSAS STATS: On Sunday, Elliott is set to make his 11th Kansas Speedway start at the NASCAR Cup Series level. In his previous 10 races at the track, he garnered one win, four top-five finishes, six top-10s and led 145 laps. He has finished inside the top 10 in four of the last five races at the 1.5-mile venue. Elliott also holds the third-best average finish (11.0) at Kansas, behind only Kevin Harvick (9.3) and Cole Custer (10.5).

LAST FIVE: In the last five events at Kansas, Elliott is tied for the most top-10 finishes (four) and averages the best finishing position of all drivers (5.0).

1.5-MILE STATS: This weekend, Elliott will make his 60th start on a 1.5-mile track in the NASCAR Cup Series. In his previous 59 races, Elliott has led 764 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.

UNIFIRST IS BACK: This weekend, UniFirst Corporation (NYSE: UNF), a North American leader in providing customized work uniform programs, corporate attire and facility service products, will serve as the primary sponsor on the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. It will be the second of three races (Phoenix, Kansas and Daytona) that UniFirst will be the primary partner and have its newly revamped green corporate logo adorning the No. 9 Chevrolet. In 2016, Unifirst and Hendrick Motorsports announced an eight-year partnership. UniFirst will continue to serve as the Official Workwear Provider of Hendrick Motorsports, supplying work clothing and uniforms to the team and sister company Hendrick Automotive Group, the largest privately held retail automotive organization in the United States.

BACK HOME: No. 9 team jackman T.J. Semke hails from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, less than 40 miles from Kansas Speedway. Before stepping on the football field at the University of Kansas in 2012, Semke was a part-time bounty hunter. The 28-year-old was a defensive lineman for the Jayhawks for three years, earning Academic All-Big 12 Second Team honors twice. Semke signed with Hendrick Motorsports in October 2016.

Age: 23 (Nov. 29, 1997)
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
Resides: Charlotte, North Carolina
Crew Chief: Rudy Fugle
Standings: 4th

No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

ON A ROLL: Dating back to his win at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Feb. 28, William Byron has been on a hot streak of top-10 finishes. The 23-year-old driver has now extended his consecutive top-10 results to eight races – the longest active streak in the NASCAR Cup Series. Byron’s eight total top-10s in 10 races is tied for the most by a driver this year. In fact, Byron has the longest top-10 streak by a Hendrick Motorsports driver since Dale Earnhardt Jr. between 2013 and 2014. He is also the third-youngest driver of all time to reach an eight-race top-10 streak in his Cup career behind only Richard Petty and Ricky Rudd. If Byron collects a top-10 finish at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, he will become the youngest driver to reach a nine-race top-10 streak – a record currently held by Jeff Gordon.

FIRST 10: So far in the 2021 Cup Series season, Byron and the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE team have been a model of consistency. After 10 races, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native has spent 2,186 laps running inside the top 10 – the second-most in the field behind only points leader Denny Hamlin (2,407). Of those top-10 laps, 879 have been inside the top five, which is the sixth-most of all drivers. Currently, Byron has led 150 laps across five races, also good for sixth in the Cup Series. He has the fourth-best average running position of 8.99 so far in 2021.

1.5-MILE MOMENTUM: With three races on 1.5-milers so far in the 2021 season, Byron is one of four drivers who have finished in the top 10 for all three. He captured the win at Homestead-Miami Speedway, finished eighth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and scored an eighth-place result at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In those three 1.5-mile races, Byron has led the second-most laps (129) behind only Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson (377).

HOT START AT KANSAS: Right out of the gate, Byron found success at Kansas Speedway in his first two NASCAR national series starts. With one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start in 2016 and one NASCAR Xfinity Series start in 2017, Byron started from the pole position in the Truck Series race and sixth in the Xfinity Series race, finishing no worse than fourth in both events. In fact, in his debut at the intermediate oval in 2016 – just his fifth truck race – Byron started from the top spot, led 34 laps and collected his first win, kickstarting the most successful season by a rookie in the history of the series.

MIDWEST MOJO: Byron has six Cup Series starts at Kansas Speedway. While he faced bad luck in his first three races, which included a mechanical failure, a late-race on-track incident and a pit road penalty, he has since turned that bad fortune around. In his last three starts at the 1.5-mile track, Byron has collected one top-five finish and three top-10s. His three-consecutive top-10 results at Kansas are tied for the longest active top-10 streak at the intermediate venue. Kansas Speedway is also tied for second of the tracks where Byron has the most top-10 finishes behind Phoenix Raceway and Pocono Raceway, where he has four top-10 results.

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE KANSAS: Heading to Kansas Speedway for his first start as a Cup Series crew chief, Rudy Fugle has 10 previous appearances at the 1.5-mile oval, all coming in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. In those events, Fugle’s drivers have started from the pole four times, led 391 laps, and collected two wins (2016 and 2018), five top-five finishes and six top-10s. His 2016 win came with Byron, who captured his first truck victory in the duo’s fifth start together.

ALL ABOUT AXALTA: Returning for this Sunday’s race at Kansas, Byron will have Axalta on board his No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. Now in its 29th year of partnership with Hendrick Motorsports, Axalta returns as primary partner on Byron’s No. 24 for 14 races in 2021. For a better look at Byron’s new No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, click here.

WELCOME VALVOLINE: On Tuesday, long-time partner Valvoline expanded its partnership with Hendrick Motorsports to add primary sponsorship of the Nos. 5 and 24 teams for a combined five races. The Valvoline colors will be on board Byron’s Chevy for the upcoming race at Darlington Raceway on May 9 and will return in the playoffs for his hometown race at the Charlotte Roval on Oct. 10. In conjunction with the announcement, Valvoline also unveiled its Darlington throwback scheme that Byron will pilot, which pays tribute to legendary driver Neil Bonnett.

48 Alex Bowman
Age: 28 (April 25, 1993)
Hometown: Tucson, Arizona
Resides: Concord, North Carolina
Crew Chief: Greg Ives
Standings: 14th

No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

1.5-MILE STATS: Alex Bowman has 63 starts in the NASCAR Cup Series on tracks measuring 1.5-miles in length. The Ally-sponsored driver captured his first career victory at Chicagoland Speedway on June 30, 2019, after leading 88 laps. Bowman has seven top-five finishes, 17 top-10s and has led 458 laps total at 1.5-mile facilities. In his last seven appearances at these venues, he has four top-five results, which are tied for the most in that timeframe, and six top-10s, which are tied for second-most among drivers.

NO PLACE LIKE KANSAS: Bowman will make his 12th start at Kansas Speedway on Sunday afternoon. Last season, the Tucson, Arizona, native brought home an eighth-place result in the spring race and a fifth-place finish during the fall playoff race at the venue. The driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE is tied for first with five drivers for the most top-10 finishes (four) at Kansas in the last five events and was the highest-finishing Hendrick Motorsports driver in three of the last four races there. Bowman has two top-five finishes, five top-10s and has led 76 laps at the 1.5-mile track. He made one start at the venue in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2013 and finished 11th at the end of the 200-lap event. Bowman made two Kansas starts in the ARCA Series and brought home the win in both races, including from the pole position in 2012.

START NO. 200: When the field takes the green flag on Sunday, Bowman will be making his 200th career NASCAR Cup Series start. Since his first race in 2014, the 28-year-old driver has three wins, 18 top-five results and 45 top-10s. Bowman has captured three pole positions, including two for the DAYTONA 500, with Hendrick Motorsports since 2016 and has led 925 laps total. Only four drivers have claimed a victory in their 200th start, with the most recent winner being Kevin Harvick in 2006.

2021 AT A GLANCE: After 10 races in 2021, Bowman has one win, two top-five finishes, four top-10s and one pole award (the DAYTONA 500). The No. 48 Ally team has spent 1,313 laps running inside the top 10 – the 12th-most in the series. Out of those laps, 649 have been inside the top five, which is eighth-most of current drivers. Bowman led the final 10 laps during the event at Richmond Raceway en route to his first short-track victory in the NASCAR Cup Series.

IVES IN KANSAS: Crew chief Greg Ives has called the shots 12 times at Kansas Speedway in the Cup Series. The Bark River, Michigan, native’s drivers have three top-five results, seven top-10s and have led 78 laps at the 1.5-mile facility. Ives’ best finish of second came in the spring of 2019 after the team rolled off fifth and led 63 laps. The crew chief’s résumé includes one top-five finish and two top-10s at the venue in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. In 2013, Ives’ driver led 81 laps en route to a third-place result at the facility. Ives was a race engineer for the No. 48 team at Hendrick Motorsports from 2006 until 2012. During that time, he was part of two wins, two pole awards and eight top-10 finishes at Kansas.

HOME-TRACK FEELS: The fueler for the No. 48 team, Jacob Conley, grew up approximately 204 miles from Kansas Speedway in Omaha, Nebraska. Conley went to Doane University in Crete, Nebraska, and graduated with a degree in sociology in 2012. While at the university, Conley played offensive tackle for the Tigers and was a starter during all four years of college.

PIT PERFORMANCE: Just 10 events into the 2021 season, the No. 48 pit crew continues to be the fastest in the NASCAR Cup Series based on average four-tire stop times. The five-man over-the-wall crew has an average four-tire stop time of 13.59 seconds. The team includes fueler Conley, tire carrier Allen Stallings, jackman Dustin Lineback and tire changers Scott Brzozowski and Devin DelRicco

KANSAS CHIEFS: Entering Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports owns the track records for wins (seven), runner-up finishes (six), top-fives (36) and top-10s (66). Its average finish of 13.14 is the best of all teams.

RECENT HISTORY: In three of the last four Cup Series races held at Kansas, Hendrick Motorsports has placed three cars inside the top-10 finishers. In fact, the organization has placed at least three cars in the top 10 there on 14 different occasions. No other team has done it more than six times.

WE’RE STREAKING: At least one of Hendrick Motorsports’ Chevrolet race cars has finished inside the top 10 in each of the last 28 NASCAR Cup Series events – the longest active streak. Team Penske is second with top-10 results in the last seven races.

CHECK THE RECORD: Hendrick Motorsports is the winningest NASCAR Cup Series team on 1.5-mile tracks. It holds the all-time record with 62 victories on intermediates – nine more than next-best Joe Gibbs Racing.

INTERMEDIATE MASTERS: Thirteen different Hendrick Motorsports drivers have recorded at least one Cup Series victory on a 1.5-mile track. The list is led by seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson with 28 and four-time champ Jeff Gordon with 17. They are joined by Darrell Waltrip (three wins), Chase Elliott (two), Kasey Kahne (two), Terry Labonte (two), Ken Schrader (two), Alex Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson, Mark Martin, Casey Mears and Jerry Nadeau.

AFTER 10: Three different Hendrick Motorsports drivers have gone to victory lane in the first 10 races of 2021, marking only the eighth time in NASCAR Cup Series history a team has done so. Hendrick Motorsports also accomplished it in 2007 and 2009, while Joe Gibbs Racing did it in 2016 and 2019. Other teams with three different winners in the first 10 events: Roush Fenway Racing in 2005, Peter DePaolo Racing in 1957 and Carl Kiekhafer Racing in 1956. The earliest in a single season a team has won with four different drivers is race No. 12 by Hendrick Motorsports in 2007 and JGR in 2016.

TWO TO TIE: Hendrick Motorsports entered 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. Hendrick Motorsports has earned 266 points-paying Cup Series wins since Rick Hendrick founded the team in 1984 and currently needs just three to break the record at NASCAR’s highest level.


Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on 1.5-mile success: “I’m excited to get to Kansas. It’s a track I’ve run well at in the past. It seems I’ve always had speed there. Our Hendrick Motorsports Chevys have had really good speed on the mile-and-halfs this year, so that’s makes me even more excited to get there. Kansas is the track that I feel is the most similar to Las Vegas where we won earlier this year.”

Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on 1.5-mile success this year and characteristics of Kansas Speedway “Kansas is unique. It’s getting some age, which is interesting to say about Kansas since it’s new compared to other tracks. But while it has aged, it’s still relatively flat and not super bumpy, and that’s unique to the shape and geometry of the track. We have a strong intermediate program and there are some things learned this year that will apply this weekend at Kansas.”

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE on Kansas: “We had a pretty good run at Kansas last fall, so we should have some notes that we can bring back this weekend. Kansas is a track, to me, that just feels different compared to other mile-and-a-half tracks. With the way the corners are shaped and with it being progressively banked, the top side is going to become dominant and, in my opinion, those tracks typically put on good shows.”

Elliott on varying tracks coming up on the schedule: “We are looking forward to all the tracks coming up – new and old. It doesn’t matter to me where we go, where we race or what style of racetrack. I always enjoy the challenge of everything that comes with it and trying to run well. I feel like that’s how our entire team approaches it. We are looking forward to all these places coming up, especially with the diversity of tracks over the next month or so. We expect there to be challenges. We’ve certainly had some this year, but we look forward to trying to improve on all those things and make ourselves better as we go along.”

William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on the racing at Kansas: “All 1.5-mile tracks are definitely not the same. Kansas is probably the most similar to Las Vegas but, even in that aspect, Kansas has less grip. It’s a very temperature-sensitive racetrack. You have to be able to run the bottom effectively but then be able to run the top lane just as strong the longer the race goes along. I think we were good in both races last year, but I think the June race was the best shot we have had at winning there. I’m excited to get back and see what we can do this time.”

Byron on his connection and success with crew chief Rudy Fugle: “Everyone talks about the drivers being the stars, but it takes more than just us to be successful. If you look at the top five or six teams, they’ve all been together with their crew chiefs and having success for multiple years now. It’s important to find those guys that can really click for you and that you can have success with long term. I feel like Rudy and I are just building the foundation for what is next to come when it comes to us working together. We’re in a really good place right now. We’re just starting to get our rhythm which is definitely a good thing for us. We have started the year strong and we’re only going to continue to build momentum from here.”

Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on strong runs at Kansas: “Kansas is a track where I feel like we have a really good notebook. We have been great here in the past and our intermediate program at Hendrick Motorsports is strong. I feel like we always have a chance to win when we come here and that is credited to the No. 48 team. Last week didn’t end how we would have liked it to, so we are hoping for some redemption on Sunday.”

Greg Ives, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on what makes Kansas unique: “The ability to move around multiple grooves makes Kansas Speedway a track where we look forward to running. Goodyear does such a good job with the tire there. There is fall-off, and pit strategy definitely comes into play there. Do you short pit or go long? Unlike some tracks, I think all the drivers say that they can’t wait to get back to Kansas. Not like you can’t put any extra effort into races, but I think a lot of guys circle that on the calendar and think they can have a lot of fun there.”

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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