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Hendrick Motorsports Media Advance: Atlanta

Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sunday, July 11, 2021
1.5-Mile Oval
3:30 PM ET
Location: Hampton, Georgia
TV: Fox logo
Event: NASCAR Cup Series (21 of 36)
Radio: SiriusXM, PRN

5 KYLE LARSON
Age: 28 (July 31, 1992)
Hometown: Elk Grove, California
Resides: Mooresville, North Carolina
Crew Chief: Cliff Daniels
Standings: 2nd

No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

ON THE MARCH: In March at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Kyle Larson led 269 of 325 laps but was passed with nine to go and finished second. The driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE won both stages and now holds the best average finish (12.14) at the 1.5-mile track among active drivers.

PETTY, PEARSON AND LARSON: Larson has led the most laps in each of the last four races held on 1.5-mile tracks, tying Richard Petty and David Pearson all-time for most consecutive on 1.5-mile tracks. The Elk Grove, California, native can set the new mark if he leads the most laps on Sunday in Atlanta.

TWO-FER: Entering 2021, Larson had never won in the NASCAR Cup Series on a 1.5-mile track. He snapped that streak of 0-for-71 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March and followed that up in May with another victory at the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway. Overall this season on 1.5-mile tracks, Larson is the only competitor with multiple stage wins (seven) and he has led 55% (836) of the laps on those intermediate-style tracks.

CLOSING IN: Following the season’s 11th race at Kansas Speedway in May, Larson ranked ninth in the driver standings, 144 markers behind the leader. In nine points-paying events since, Larson has scored eight top-10s including three wins and four second-place finishes. In that span, he has moved up seven spots to second in the standings and now trails by only three points.

NEARLY HALF: Larson has finished first or second in nine of 20 (45%) Cup Series races this season. He won at Nashville Superspeedway, Sonoma Raceway, Charlotte and Las Vegas while posting second-place finishes at Pocono Raceway, Circuit of The Americas, Dover International Speedway, Darlington Raceway and Atlanta. He also won the non-points NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway in June.

TOP OF THE BOARD: Through 20 of 36 Cup Series races, Larson leads the series in wins (four), second-place finishes (five), stage wins (12), playoff points (32), and laps led (1,441). He is tied for most top-five finishes (11), most top-10s (14) and most pole positions (one).

SUMMER ROAD TRIPPING: Last week, Larson participated in several Pennsylvania Sprint Car Speedweek events. On Monday night at Lincoln Speedway, the 28-year-old driver finished third. On Tuesday at Grandview Speedway and Wednesday at Port Royal Speedway, Larson crossed under the checkered flag first. This week, he will swap disciplines and is scheduled to race a dirt late model at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, South Carolina, on Thursday before heading to Maryville, Tennessee, Friday and Saturday for events at Smoky Mountain Speedway.

FOUR LESS: At 13.65 seconds, the No. 5 pit crew owns the quickest average time for four-tire pit stops in 2021. The over-the-wall crew is comprised of gasman Brandon Harder, jackman Brandon Johnson, tire carrier R.J. Barnette and tire changers Donnie Tasser (front) and Calvin Teague (rear).

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.

WE’RE HIRING: Hendrick Automotive Group is hiring more than 300 technicians at its dealerships throughout the country. Positions are open for all skill levels and offer tuition and training reimbursement. Interested people can apply at HendrickCars.com.

9 CHASE ELLIOTT
Age: 25 (Nov. 28, 1995)
Hometown: Dawsonville, Georgia
Resides: Dawsonville, Georgia
Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson
Standings: 6th

No. 9 A SHOC Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

DOMINATING DAY: Chase Elliott continued his road course dominance on Sunday at Road America, starting 34th and surging to the front to lead 24 laps and capture his second win of the 2021 season. This victory is his seventh of the last 11 road course races. The Georgia native owns the record for the most wins at different road course venues (five) and is just two wins shy of the NASCAR Cup Series all-time record (nine) set by NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon.

PEACH STATE PERFORMANCE: Elliott has made 10 total starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway across NASCAR’s top-three levels – six in the Cup Series, two in the Xfinity Series and two in the Camping World Truck Series – and only finished outside the top 10 on three occasions. Earlier this season at the 1.5-mile track, Elliott raced from the rear of the field into the top 10 before a mechanical issue ended the No. 9 team’s day in the final stage at Atlanta.

FIRE UP THE SI-REEN: On Sunday, Elliott could become just the second Georgia-born driver to win a Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, joining his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, who won five times at the track.

ENGINE NO. 9: This weekend, Elliott has the chance to become the third driver to win at AMS with the No. 9 car number. The five victories for the No. 9 have come with two drivers: Elliott’s father, Bill Elliott (three), and Kasey Kahne (two). Kahne collected the most recent Atlanta win for the No. 9 in June 2008.

2021 RUNDOWN: With the series heading into the 21st event of the 2021 season, Elliott has two wins – his most in a season through 20 races. He is tied for second for the most top-five finishes (nine), has 11 top-10s and led a total of 153 laps. Elliott currently sits sixth in the driver point standings, 124 points behind leader Denny Hamlin. He has garnered more wins, runner-up finishes, top-five finishes and top-10s than he collected last year at the 20-race mark.

WELCOME TO THE TEAM, A SHOC: This weekend will mark A SHOC’s first of two Cup Series primary races (Atlanta and Talladega Superspeedway) with Elliott and the No. 9 team. In January, it was announced that A SHOC, the fast-growing, performance energy beverage distributed by Keurig Dr Pepper, would join Hendrick Motorsports as a sponsor of the defending Cup champion.

CHECK OUT THAT CAN: In June, A SHOC announced the release of Elliott’s signature can that commemorates the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion. The limited-edition can features Elliott celebrating alongside the No. 9 A SHOC Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE that he will pilot this weekend. These special cans are available nationwide for a short time only.

GEORGIA ON MY MIND: In addition to Elliott hailing from Dawsonville, Georgia, which is just 83 miles north of AMS, No. 9 team partners NAPA AUTO PARTS, Hooters and Kelley Blue Book all have major presences in Atlanta. NAPA will serve as majority sponsor for Elliott and the No. 9 team for 25 Cup Series races this season and Hooters will return at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course event in August. Cox Automotive, the parent company of team partner Kelley Blue Book, will have its first appearance as Elliott’s primary sponsor at Richmond Raceway in September.

CHAMPS GRANDSTAND: Atlanta Motor Speedway is honoring Georgia’s NASCAR Cup Series champions – Elliott, 1988 champion Bill Elliott and two-time Cup title winner Tim Flock – with championship banners that will hang in the concourse of the Champions Grandstand. Elliott’s banner, representing the 2020 championship season, will be revealed for the first time during driver introductions on Sunday.

24 WILLIAM BYRON
Age: 23 (Nov. 29, 1997)
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
Resides: Charlotte, North Carolina
Crew Chief: Rudy Fugle
Standings: 3rd

No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

BEST YEAR YET: Entering the back half of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, William Byron is having his best season yet at the highest level of competition in the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. So far, he has collected one win (Homestead-Miami Speedway), one pole (Road America), eight top-five finishes and 14 top-10s (tied for the most by a driver this season) all while leading 245 laps and collecting three stage wins. His eight top-five finishes are the most the 23-year-old driver has had in a season at the Cup level and his 14 top-10s tie his previous best in a season, as well.

20/20 VISION: After 20 races, Byron has been seen running in the front of the field consistently every week. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native has spent 3,854 laps running in the top 10 – the second-most in the series – and 2,147 laps in the top five – the third-most throughout the field. Byron maintains the second-best average running position in the Cup Series of 8.36 and an average finishing position of 11.05, allowing him to maintain third place in the point standings.

1.5-MILE MOMENTUM: With the Cup Series racing at five 1.5-mile tracks so far this year, Byron has finished inside the top 10 in each event, tied for the most this season with Kyle Busch. So far in 2021, the driver of the No. 24 has a 6.0 average-finishing position on tracks 1.5 miles long – the third-best behind Busch and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson. Even going back as far as the last nine races on 1.5-milers, Byron has secured seven top-10 finishes – tied for the second-most behind Busch and Martin Truex Jr (eight).

THE ATL ARCHIVE: With four previous Cup Series starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Byron had his best run at the 1.5-mile track earlier this season, starting ninth and racing to an eighth-place finish. Other than his four Cup Series starts, Byron has two other NASCAR starts at the 1.5-mile track, one in the NASCAR Xfinity Series where he finished seventh, the third-highest result of the Xfinity Series regulars. He also has one start at Atlanta in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, where he was running second before losing an engine, leaving him with a 32nd-place finish.

RUDY RUNS THE ATL: Returning to a track for the first time as a Cup Series crew chief, Rudy Fugle is ready to capitalize off the run the No. 24 team had in March earlier this year. Rolling off the grid in ninth, Byron and Fugle raced their way to a top-10 finish, crossing the finish line in eighth. Fugle also has six NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at Atlanta, including two pole awards and two wins. His drivers have collected four top-three finishes in six events, along with five top-10s. Fugle only has one finish worse than seventh coming with Byron in 2016 when the duo was running second before suffering an engine failure, resulting in a 32nd-place finish.

ALL ABOUT AXALTA: Returning to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the second time during the 2021 Cup Series season, Byron will climb behind the wheel of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for Sunday’s event. However, Byron’s No. 24 will also feature Axalta’s partner Maaco, America’s Body Shop and leader in the automotive pant and collision industry. For a better look at Byron’s No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for Atlanta, click here.

WATCH MAACO GO: Earlier this week, Maaco announced their social media campaign “Watch Maaco Go” will run through Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. For the contest, fans can share a screenshot on social media with the hashtag #BetterGetMaaco every time they see the Maaco logo featured on the No. 24 Axalta Chevy throughout the week on social media or during on-track coverage on NBCSN. One lucky fan will be selected to win the ultimate race experience, including the TV panel off the No. 24 Chevy from the Atlanta race.

48 Alex Bowman
Age: 28 (April 25, 1993)
Hometown: Tucson, Arizona
Resides: Concord, North Carolina
Crew Chief: Greg Ives
Standings: 11th

No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

ATLANTA STATS: Earlier this season, Alex Bowman finished third at Atlanta Motor Speedway after 325 laps in his sixth start at the facility. The driver’s best finish prior to the spring event at the 1.5-mile venue was 12th, which came from the 2020 event. On tracks measuring 1.5 miles in length, Bowman has finished in the top 10 seven times in the last nine races. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has one start there in the NASCAR Xfinity Series where he qualified 18th in 2013. In 2017, Bowman ran in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event and finished sixth after qualifying fifth.

2021 AT A GLANCE: So far this season, Bowman has three wins, five top-five finishes and 10 top-10s, which is tied for the eighth-most top-10 results in the series with Martin Truex Jr. and Tyler Reddick. The 28-year-old has led 151 laps and is currently ranked seventh in the NASCAR Cup Series playoff standings after 20 events. Bowman’s three wins this season are tied for second with Truex in the Cup Series. All five of Bowman’s Cup victories came on a different track and all three of his wins in 2021 occurred in the last 12 events.

1.5-MILE ROLL: Bowman’s last six outings at 1.5-mile tracks resulted in three top-five finishes, five top-10s and 54 laps led. He has 62 Cup starts at intermediate tracks, which include one win, six top-five finishes and 16 top-10s. Bowman’s first Cup win came in 2019 at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway after leading 88 laps. He captured three stage wins at 1.5-mile tracks in 2020, the third-most behind Denny Hamlin and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott.

IVES IN ATL: No. 48 crew chief Greg Ives will call the shots at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the eighth time on Sunday afternoon. The Bark River, Michigan, native has three top-five finishes at the track, which include a runner-up result with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2016. At the 1.5-mile facility, Ives has two career NASCAR Xfinity Series starts as a crew chief. In 2014, his driver sat on the pole for the 195-lap event and led 36 laps en route to a fifth-place finish. From 2006-2012, Ives was a race engineer for the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team. During that time, he was a part of two wins and one pole award at Atlanta Motor Speedway with driver Jimmie Johnson.

PIT ROAD STATS: So far in the 2021 season, the No. 48 pit crew ranks fifth for the fastest four-tire pit stop average in the NASCAR Cup Series. The team has an average four-tire stop time of 13.81. The No. 48 pit crew includes fueler Jacob Conley, tire carrier Allen Stallings, jackman Dustin Lineback, and tire changers Scott Brzozowski (front) and Devin DelRicco (rear).

IN MEMORY: This Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the four Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE race cars of Hendrick Motorsports will carry a special decal in memory of longtime team member Mark Graves, who passed away over the weekend. Graves was hired in 1984 by legendary engine builder Randy Dorton and built the engine that powered Hendrick Motorsports’ first NASCAR Cup Series race win. He retired from the team’s engine department at the end of the 2014 season.

WIN 10: On Sunday at Road America, Chase Elliott delivered Hendrick Motorsports’ 10th win in 20 NASCAR Cup Series races held thus far in 2021. The all-time record for wins at this point in a Cup Series season is 16 by Carl Kiekhafer Racing in 1956, followed by five different teams that won 10 of the first 20 on six different occasions. Hendrick Motorsports is the only organization to accomplish it twice (2007 and 2021).

ROAD BOOKENDS: Going back nearly a full season, Hendrick Motorsports has won 15 of the last 34 NASCAR Cup Series races – or 44%. The team’s roll began in August 2020 with an Elliott victory at the DAYTONA Road Course. In the prior 133 races, Hendrick Motorsports had 14 points-paying wins.

EIGHT WEEK STREAK: Including the June 13 NASCAR All-Star Race won by Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports has posted a Cup Series victory in eight straight weeks, winning eight of a possible nine races. The team’s only loss in that timeframe came June 27 in the second event of the Pocono Raceway doubleheader.

TO THE POINT: In the last eight points-paying NASCAR Cup Series races, Hendrick Motorsports has won seven times, finished 1-2 four times and placed second five times. With 32 total entries in those eight events (four cars per race), the team has posted 18 top-five results and 22 top-10s. It has won 10 of 17 stages and led 1,242 of 1,578 laps (79%).

STAGE GAUGE: Hendrick Motorsports’ 16 stage wins in 2021 are the most ever by a team through the first 20 races of a season. The NASCAR Cup Series incorporated stage racing in 2017.

TRACKING INTERMEDIATES: Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway will be the sixth of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season on a 1.5-mile track. At the intermediate venues this year, Hendrick Motorsports leads all organizations in wins (three), pole positions (one), top-five finishes (10), top-10s (14), laps led (1,037), average finish (9.55) and stage wins (eight). Its 1,037 laps led are the most in history by a team through the first five intermediate races of a season.

ATL CONTROL: With 14 NASCAR Cup Series wins at Atlanta, Hendrick Motorsports is the track’s winningest team. It is tied with Wood Brothers Racing for the most different AMS winners (six) and has gone to victory lane in four of the last 11 races there. Jeff Gordon (five wins), Jimmie Johnson (five), Kasey Kahne, Jerry Nadeau, Ken Schrader and Darrell Waltrip have all won for car owner Rick Hendrick at the Georgia track.

LEADING ATLANTA: Hendrick Motorsports is 80 laps from breaking the Atlanta Motor Speedway track record for laps led by a team, which is held by Wood Brothers Racing (3,407 led). Most recently, Hendrick Motorsports led 271 laps there in the March 21 Cup Series event.

QUOTABLE /

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on leading laps but finishing second at Atlanta in March: “I definitely learned a lot in the moment, but I can learn even more by rewatching the race. You learn from everything – the good races and you definitely learn from the ones you feel got away. The track will certainly be different with the temperatures and the heat, so we’ll need to learn quickly and adapt quickly so we can hopefully battle for stage wins, the race win and the playoff bonus points that goes along with that.”

Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on Atlanta in July versus March: “The track will be a lot different. In March, the track temperature was not warm and the ambient air temperature was pretty mild. We’re trying to anticipate what the track will do with more sunlight exposure, a hot ambient temperature and a really hot track temperature that will take a lot of grip out of the cars, in general, and change the balance. Hopefully, we anticipate that correctly and also just make sure we manage the race correctly – not going too hard at the beginning of the run to ensure we have enough at the end of a run. I think we have learned a lot since then, so hopefully we can apply that and be really good on Sunday.”

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on racing at his home track: “I am super excited for Atlanta this weekend for a lot of different reasons. Number one is obviously it’s my home track and that’s always an important thing for any driver – to want to do well at your hometown track. A place where you have a lot of family and friends that tend to want to go and watch and support. It just means a lot to me to be racing there. And then number two, we are bringing on a new partner this weekend with A SHOC. It’s a race, I think, we have all been really excited for and looking forward to for a while. This partnership has been a lot of fun and it’s always exciting to bring a new partner into the sport, and we just hope we can bring them in the right way and have a good run for them here in Atlanta. It is good to see them on board and I’m looking forward to a fun week down there.”

Elliott on how drivers have to adapt to Atlanta’s unique track: “You know, Cup racing at Atlanta and kind of the way it has evolved, you are saving, but you are also not. It’s really more about having your car driving really good so that you can push hard and not slip tires and that has really become the game, I feel like. It’s not as much riding around and just kind of biding your time and waiting for the last 15-20 laps of a run because you can’t make up those big chunks of time at the end of a run like you maybe could years ago. Nowadays, it’s just hard to do. It’s more about being able to push, having your car just perfect so that you can run as hard as you need to run and slip your tires the least amount as you can. That to me results in the best finish nowadays, in my opinion.”

William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on returning to Atlanta: “Atlanta is typically a track where you’re always fighting loose with really limited rear grip. You’ll also have some front grip issues, as well, with the way tires wear. It’s really about managing it all throughout the run. You want to be able to wrap that white line and be good down low for as long as possible in a run. Hopefully for us, we have that grip in the car that we need.”

Byron on returning to a track in the Cup Series for the first time with crew chief Rudy Fugle: “I feel really good about going back to a track for the first time with Rudy in the Cup Series. We can really work on those little details this time that we wanted to work on before but opted to get a good baseline the first time around. So far, the things we have worked on in the simulator recently for Atlanta seem really good. I’m excited to get back there and I think we’ll run better than eighth like we did in the spring.”

Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on returning to Atlanta: “I’m excited to be going back to Atlanta this weekend. I enjoy the challenge that Atlanta brings and how weather sensitive it can be. I think I’m more excited that this will be the first racetrack we’re going back to that I now have experience with the Cup cars. We formed a good baseline in the March race, and while conditions won’t be the same as it was then, I think we’re going to be rolling off the truck a lot closer to where we want to be, setup-wise. Sunday’s race will be more about executing the small details and putting the ‘full package’ together, where last time we we’re just trying to learn as much as we could as a group and find what William wanted most out of the car. I think Sunday will be a good race to show just how far this No. 24 team has come so far this season.”

Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on the conditions at Atlanta: “Going to Atlanta this weekend, it is going to be a super hot and slick for 400 miles. It’ll be a good time. I think Atlanta is a great racetrack. We had a good run there earlier this year and ended up third. We need a good solid finish this weekend and the No. 48 Ally team has been working hard on our intermediate Chevrolet.”

Greg Ives, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on the strategies at Atlanta: “Atlanta has been a good track for our team. We have been able to come out of there with some good runs. The track has some high tire fall off, but you are going to have some teams short pitting and other strategies going on throughout the field.”



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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