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Hendrick Motorsports Media Advance: Talladega

Talladega Superspeedway
Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021
2.66-Mile Oval
2:00 PM ET
Location: Talladega, Alabama
TV: Fox
Event: NASCAR Cup Series (31 of 36)
Radio: SiriusXM, PRN

5 KYLE LARSON
Age: 29 (July 31, 1992)
Hometown: Elk Grove, California
Resides: Mooresville, North Carolina
Crew Chief: Cliff Daniels
Standings: 1st

No. 5 Cincinnati Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

TIDE CONTINUES TO ROLL: Kyle Larson has accumulated 60 playoff points – an average of two playoff points earned per event – this season through six race wins (five points per win), 15 stage victories (one point per stage win) and winning the NASCAR Cup Series regular season championship (15 points). He holds a 57-point advantage over the cutoff position entering Sunday’s Talladega Superspeedway race.

SECOND TO NONE: Through 30 of 36 Cup Series races, Larson leads the series in wins (career-best six), top-10s (career-best 22), stage wins (15), average start (6.7) and laps led (career-best 2,000) – 634 more laps led than his closest competitor. His career-best 16 top-five finishes are tied for the most in 2021.

TWO GRAND: Larson is one of only three Hendrick Motorsports drivers to lead 2,000 or more laps during a season. Jeff Gordon accomplished this feat three times (1995, 1996 and 2001) while Jimmie Johnson paced the field for more than 2,000 laps once (2009).

ONE OF TWO: Through four playoff races in 2021, two drivers have combined to win all eight stages. Denny Hamlin has secured five of those stage victories while Larson won the other three. The driver of the No. 5 Cincinnati Chevrolet ZL1 1LE has also posted top-10 results in all four races, the first Hendrick Motorsports driver to begin the playoffs with four consecutive top-10s since Johnson did so in 2013 – a season when Johnson also captured the Cup Series title.

BAKER’S DOZEN IN ‘BAMA: In 13 starts at Talladega Superspeedway, Larson has two top-10 finishes. He posted a ninth-place result in his first race at the Alabama track in 2014 while his best finish of sixth occurred in October 2016.

QUICK TIME: 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).

SECOND ONE: This Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway marks the second of two races that Cincinnati Incorporated (CI) will appear as the primary sponsor on the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. Cincinnati is a U.S.-based manufacturer of metal fabrication machinery and has shipped close to 60,000 machines in its 120 years of operation. On its 80-acre campus in Harrison, Ohio, sits a 500,000-square-foot plant, which manufactures CNC laser cutters, press brakes, shears, automation, powder metal presses, and additive manufacturing equipment. Learn more at www.e-ci.com or engage on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. To see Larson’s paint scheme for this weekend, click here.

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

ROUND OF 12: As the NASCAR Cup Series heads to the second race of the Round of 12, Chase Elliott currently sits sixth in playoff standings, 22 points above the cutline. For the sixth consecutive season, Elliott has advanced into the second round of the playoffs. In his previous 54 playoff races, he has collected six wins, 22 top-five finishes, 31 top-10s and led 1,651 laps.

SIX TO GO: With six races remaining in the 2021 Cup season, Elliott’s eight top-two finishes are tied for the most that he has collected in a single season and is also the second-most of all drivers this year. With 30 races in the books, the Dawsonville, Georgia, native has also picked up two wins, 13 top-five finishes, 18 top-10s and 525 laps led – fourth-most laps led of all drivers.

‘DEGA DOWNLOAD: On Sunday, Elliott is set to make his 12th Talladega Superspeedway start in the Cup Series. His win at the track in April 2019 was his first superspeedway win at the Cup level. In his previous 11 starts at the venue, the 25-year-old driver has earned the pole position twice – his first start in May 2016 and in October 2019. Elliott has garnered four top-five finishes and led 173 laps in his NCS career at the Alabama track. He also has three Talladega starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with one top-10 finish.

TALLADEGA PLAYOFF RECAP: When the series visited Talladega during the playoffs last season, Elliott and the No. 9 team led 41 laps and raced inside the top 10 for the majority of the race before finishing fifth.

SUPERSPEEDWAY STATS: Elliott has made 23 superspeedway starts in the Cup Series. In those races at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, the driver of the No. 9 Camaro has claimed one win, six top-five finishes and led a total of 299 laps.

LAST FIVE: In the last five superspeedway races, Elliott leads all drivers with two runner-up finishes, four top-10s and an 8.2-average finish. He also is tied for the most top-fives (three) in those five events with Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron.

GUSTAFSON AT TALLADEGA: No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson will call his 34th Talladega Cup Series race from atop the pit box on Sunday afternoon. He collected his first superspeedway victory at the 2.66-mile track on April 28, 2019, with Elliott and the No. 9 team. In his previous 33 events calling the shots for five different drivers (Elliott, Kyle Busch, Casey Mears, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon), Gustafson’s teams posted eight top-five finishes, 10 top-10s, 276 laps led and six pole awards.

PIT PERFORMANCE: The No. 9 team owns the third-best average time for four-tire pit stops at 13.73 seconds through 30 races. The A SHOC pit crew is comprised of jackman T.J. Semke, gasman John Gianninoto, tire carrier Jared Erspamer and tire changers Chad Avrit and Nick O’Dell.

A SHOC IS BACK: This weekend at Talladega, A SHOC will return as a primary partner with Elliott and the No. 9 team for the final time this season. Earlier this season, the brand made its Cup Series debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway in July. 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.

SEE ELLIOTT: On Sunday, Elliott will be making an appearance and participating in a Q&A session in the Talladega Garage Experience at 10:30 a.m. local time.

24 WILLIAM BYRON
Age: 23 (Nov. 29, 1997)
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
Resides: Charlotte, North Carolina
Crew Chief: Rudy Fugle
Standings: 9th

No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

TWO MORE CHANCES: Driving through the field to the front multiple times during Sunday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, William Byron suffered a flat right-rear tire in the closing laps of the race which left him with an 18th-place finish. He is now sitting ninth in the driver point standings, only four points below the playoff cut line. Byron and the No. 24 team still have two more races to make up the point gap and lock himself into the Round of 8 with two of his best tracks coming up.

BEST YEAR YET: With only six races left in the 2021 Cup Series season, Byron continues to have a career-best season at the highest level of competition in the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. So far, Byron has collected one win (Homestead-Miami Speedway), two pole awards (Road America and Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course – most by a driver this season), 10 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s all while leading 283 laps and collecting three stage wins. In his Cup career, these are the most top-five finishes, top-10s, laps led and stage wins the 23-year-old driver has collected in a single season.

SUPER ON SUPERSPEEDWAYS: Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway will be Byron’s 16th superspeedway start in the Cup Series. In his previous 15 starts, Byron has scored one win (Daytona, August 2020), four top-five finishes and four top-10s with 148 laps led. In the last five superspeedway races, Byron is one of three drivers (Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin) who have scored top-five finishes in three races – the most in the series.

TALLADEGA TELL-ALL: Byron will be making his eighth Cup Series start at the 2.66-mile oval when the No. 24 team hits the track Sunday. In his previous seven starts, Byron has a track-best finish of second coming in his last appearance at the Alabama-based venue (April 2021). In fact, Byron’s last two appearances at Talladega have been his best, with his runner-up result earlier this season and a fourth-place result in October 2020. He is the only driver to have finished in the top-five in the last two Talladega races.

DIGGIN’ ‘DEGA: When the Cup Series heads to Talladega for the second time this season, it will also mark Rudy Fugle’s second race at the venue as a Cup Series crew chief. In his first Cup start, Fugle helped Byron score his track-best finish of second after leading 12 laps. Aside from that, the Livonia, New York, native has seven starts at the 2.66-mile track already under his belt, all in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. In those seven races, Fugle has accumulated three top-five finishes and five top-10s. One of those previous starts was with Byron in 2016 when the duo started eighth and raced to a 10th-place result.

ALL ABOUT AXALTA: For the second race in the Round of 12, Byron will climb behind the wheel of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for Sunday’s race. Now in its 29th year of partnership with Hendrick Motorsports, Axalta will return as primary partner on Byron’s No. 24 for 14 races in 2021. For a better look at Byron’s No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, click here.

CLOSE TO HOME: Hailing from Pensacola, Florida, No. 24 team spotter Tab Boyd claims Talladega Superspeedway as his home track. Growing up a few hours away from the 2.66-mile superspeedway, Boyd has more than 20 years of experience in NASCAR, from various roles including a NASCAR Xfinity Series tire changer, as well as mechanical and fabrication positions before ultimately ending up in the spotter’s stand. When Boyd has time outside of the NASCAR schedule, he is usually still at the racetrack but behind the steering wheel of his Street Stock vehicle in the Street Stock Mid-Atlantic Series.

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

CAREER YEAR THUS FAR: Through 30 NASCAR Cup Series events this season, Alex Bowman is having one of his best seasons to date. The 28-year-old driver has three wins this season, which is tied for the third-most wins in the series (Richmond Raceway, Dover International Speedway, Pocono Raceway), seven top-five finishes and 14 top-10s. Bowman’s seven top-fives are tied for a season best (2019) and his 14 top-10s are just one short of his 2020 season high (15). Since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2016 as a replacement driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bowman has five wins, 23 top-five results, 55 top-10s, 1,062 laps led and three pole awards, including two in the DAYTONA 500.

TALLADEGA DAYS: Bowman has 12 starts at Talladega Superspeedway in the Cup Series. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE has one runner-up finish (2019), three top-10s and has led 45 laps total at the track. Bowman’s three top-10 finishes at the 2.66-mile venue are tied for the sixth-most since the start of 2018. Earlier this year at Talladega, the Ally Chevy was involved in an on-track incident on lap 123, concluding the team’s day after starting fifth. Last season, Bowman brought home a seventh-place finish in the spring and a 14th-place result in the fall event. In 2013, he made one start at the track in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and finished 13th after rolling off 14th. The Arizona native also made one start in the ARCA Series at the track in 2012 and finished 32nd.

IVES IN ‘DEGA: No. 48 team crew chief Greg Ives will call the shots for the 14th time at Talladega on Sunday. The Bark River, Michigan, native has one win there with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2015 after leading 67 laps, along with three top-five finishes and six top-10 results. His drivers have an average start of 6.2 at the 2.66-mile facility. In total, Ives’ drivers have led 180 laps in 13 Cup events. Ives’ résumé also includes one win in the Xfinity Series at the track with Regan Smith in 2013. He 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 seven top-10 finishes at Talladega.

TWO SPORTS COMING TOGETHER: On Tuesday, Ally unveiled the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro that Bowman will pilot at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL event next weekend. Ally has a partnership with the Charlotte MLS program and will feature the soccer branding on Bowman’s machine in NASCAR’s final race in the Round of 12. Bowman and Charlotte FC defender Christian Fuchs got together on the Hendrick Motorsports’ campus last month to film Ally’s “Unexpected Allies” series, with the final episode concluding Tuesday night. Members of the No. 48 team got a sneak preview of what it takes to be a professional soccer player and Bowman got to brush up on his goalie and soccer handling skills. To view the final episode of the series, click here.

WHERE’S ALEX?: Fans will have multiple opportunities to hear from Bowman this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. On Sunday, Oct. 3 the Ally driver will be out at the Chevrolet Stage at 9:25 a.m. local time for a question-and-answer session. Bowman will move over to the Talladega Garage Experience at 9:45 a.m. for another Q&A with fans.

PIT PERFORMANCE: After 30 Cup Series events this season, the No. 48 pit crew sits fifth on the charts for the fastest average four-tire stop time of 13.89. The team includes fueler Jacob Conley, tire carrier Allen Stallings, jackman Dustin Lineback and tire changers Scott Brzozowski and Devin DelRicco.

TALLADEGA HEIGHTS: Hendrick Motorsports holds the NASCAR Cup Series record for the most Talladega Superspeedway wins by a single organization with 13. It has sent seven different drivers to victory lane there: Jeff Gordon (six wins), Jimmie Johnson (two), Chase Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brian Vickers, Terry Labonte and Ken Schrader.

SUPER STATS: Going into Sunday’s race at Talladega, Hendrick Motorsports owns more combined superspeedway wins than any team in Cup Series history. At the big tracks of Daytona and Talladega, it has posted a record 28 victories with 11 different drivers.

QUOTABLE /

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on how he prepares for Talladega: “I’ve never really challenged for a superspeedway victory. It’s a different kind of race where you are in the middle of a draft for most of the race. I’ll look at past races and see what drivers did at the end of the stages or at the end of the races to see what might work or what I could possibly do different.”

Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on strategy at Talladega: “Talladega is a wildcard, for sure. We’re going to maximize points as best we can during the stages and we want to be there at the end. We’re going to have to call a smart race and work with our teammates. Hopefully we’re there at the end battling for the win.”

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on heading to Talladega: “Talladega is such a toss up with how crazy that place can be. I’m not sure you can ever really feel good about heading into Talladega. Maybe if we would’ve won at Las Vegas, I’d feel good about heading into the weekend. The next couple weeks are going to be wild. We are looking forward to it.”

Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on the No. 9 team: “We believe in each other and support each other. When it gets tough, that’s what matters. It’s kind of easy to get along when things are going well. It’s hard when it’s tough. This team has been together long enough. We’ve been through a lot of tough times, so we can navigate through different things and different scenarios. It’s a great team; a great group, and we all believe in each other and what we are trying to do. That can become a powerful thing.”

William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on focusing on racing at Talladega: “We’ll be aware of the point situation this weekend but we can’t focus on it since it’s not the final race of the round. It would have been nice going into Talladega above the cut line and with more of a cushion but that’s part of the playoffs. Talladega and the (Charlotte Motor Speedway) ROVAL are two of our best tracks, though. Both superspeedways and road courses can be unpredictable, but they are tracks that we have had some of the most success at. My first Cup Series win came on a superspeedway. I know Rudy (Fugle) and the guys will bring a fast Axalta Chevy – it will just be about execution and getting as many points as we can. That’s what our goal has always been.”

Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on the team’s goals for Talladega: “The bad luck we’ve had has definitely been frustrating, especially with how fast our car was in Las Vegas. That’s behind us now, though. What happened there doesn’t change how we approach this weekend at Talladega. We’re still going to prepare the best car we can to go out there and get the most amount of points we can and, hopefully, the win. Superspeedway racing is known to be a wildcard, so if you secure stage points early on, you’re in a better position. But we’re also not going to put William in a position where we’d be risking not being around at the end of the race, either. It’s a fine balance, but this style of races have been a strong point of not only William and the No. 24 team, but also Hendrick Motorsports. We’ll be ready.”

Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on the Charlotte FC scheme for the ROVAL: “I’m really excited about the No. 48 Ally/Charlotte FC paint scheme that we released on Tuesday. It was fun meeting Christian (Fuchs) and showing him around Hendrick Motorsports and giving him a ride in the pit practice car. I got to play a little soccer which was probably embarrassing that everyone got to see that on the “Unexpected Allies” series that was released. Having the Charlotte FC program on the car at the ROVAL is really cool and special that Ally do some cross-promoting.”

Bowman on preparing for Talladega this weekend: “I think some guys have Talladega figured out a little bit. I don’t think we have figured out the exact things we need at the track to make it to the end, but I feel like we are gaining on it. Superspeedways have been pretty rough on us this season, but hopefully we have built up some good fortune after the way Talladega and Daytona have been this year. The cars aren’t easy to drive in traffic, so it’s definitely nerve-wracking. This weekend gives us the opportunity to go out there and score a lot of points. Our Hendrick Motorsports cars are always super-fast at speedways, so I just need to go out there and do my job and stay out of the possible mess.”

Greg Ives, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on past success at Talladega: “We always have a fast car at Talladega and Alex seems to put himself in the right position. Whether we get wrecked leading or wrecked somewhere, we have a tendency to still have a strong day. We have to focus on going forward and strategizing ourselves to maximize points all day and you just never know what is going to happen. I think we are capable putting ourselves up front at Talladega.”



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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