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Hendrick Motorsports Media Advance: Texas

Texas Motor Speedway
Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021
1.5-Mile Oval
2:00 PM ET
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
TV: Fox
Event: NASCAR Cup Series (33 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 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

MAKING HISTORY: Kyle Larson and the No. 5 HendrickCars.com team overcame an alternator issue to win the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL event on Sunday. It marked his seventh victory of 2021 and 13th career win in the NASCAR Cup Series. Along with his wins at Sonoma Raceway in June and Watkins Glen International in August, Larson is the only driver in Cup Series history to win three road course races in one season.

MAKING A POINT: Larson has accumulated 65 playoff points this season through seven race wins (five points per win), 15 stage victories (one point per stage win) and winning the Cup Series regular season championship (15 points). He enters the Round of 8 with a 35-point advantage over second place and a 42-point advantage over the cutoff position.

SECOND TO NONE: Through 32 of 36 Cup Series races, Larson leads the series in wins (career-best seven), stage wins (15) and laps led (career-best 2,011) – 614 more laps led than his closest competitor. His 17 top-five finishes and 23 top-10s are both career-bests and tie him for the most in 2021.

OVER 40: Along with seven wins, Larson has also posted runner-up finishes in six races. The driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE has finished in the top two in 41 percent of the Cup Series races held this year.

YOU’RE AN ALL-STAR: In June at Texas Motor Speedway in the annual NASCAR All-Star Race, Larson battled Brad Keselowski and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott late before maneuvering into first and leading the final seven laps to capture the $1 million payday. It marked the second win for the 29-year-old in the annual exhibition race where no championship points are awarded.

UPPING THEIR GAME: At 13.65 seconds, the No. 5 pit crew owns the quickest average time for four-tire pit stops in 2021. During the playoffs, the team’s average time is even quicker with a series-best 13.24 seconds. 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.

NOW THE RACE IS ON: In March, Larson announced the launch of the Kyle Larson Foundation, which was established to better serve today’s youth, families and communities in need through hands-on support. The Sanneh Foundation and the Urban Youth Racing School are the primary beneficiaries of the foundation, which will also work closely with Hendrick Cares, the corporate social responsibility program of Hendrick Automotive Group. To kickstart the “Drive for 5,” Larson pledged a personal donation of $5 for every Cup Series lap he completes this season and will contribute another $5,000 for every top-five finish he earns. Through 32 races, he has already pledged more than $122,000 and raised more than $190,000. To learn more, please visit KyleLarsonFoundation.org.

9 CHASE ELLIOTT

Age: 25 (Nov. 28, 1995)

Hometown: Dawsonville, Georgia

Resides: Dawsonville, Georgia

Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson

Standings: 6th

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No. 9 Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

WELCOME TO THE ROUND OF 8: For the fifth consecutive season, Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, has advanced to the Round of 8. Elliott is currently sixth in playoff standings, 43 points behind leader Kyle Larson. The 25-year-old driver has found victory lane at two of the three tracks in the upcoming round (Kansas, Martinsville). In his previous 56 playoff races, he has collected six wins, 22 top-five finishes, 31 top-10s and led 1,653 laps.

PLAYOFF PERFORMANCE: Through the six playoff races in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, Elliott has led 190 laps and spent 726 laps inside the top five and 1,254 laps running in the top 10.

2021 RUNDOWN: Only four races remain in the 2021 season and Elliott’s eight top-two finishes are tied for the most he has collected in a single year and is also the second-most of all drivers this season. With 32 races in the books, the driver of the No. 9 has also picked up two wins, 13 top-five finishes, 18 top-10s and 527 laps led.

DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS: Elliott will make his 11th Cup Series start at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday. He has garnered two top-five finishes, five top-10s and led a total of 44 laps in those 10 previous starts. Earlier this season, Elliott finished third in the All-Star Race at the 1.5-mile track. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native collected his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at the 1.5-mile track in April 2014. In five Xfinity Series starts there, Elliott accumulated three top-five finishes and five top-10s.

GUSTAFSON IN THE PLAYOFFS: No. 9 crew chief Alan Gustafson leads all active crew chiefs for the most wins garnered during the playoffs (12), the second-most all-time behind only Chad Knaus (29).

KELLEY BLUE BOOK IS BACK: The navy and gold colors of Kelley Blue Book will return to Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for the final time this season on Sunday at Texas. KBB.com is the vehicle valuation and information source trusted and relied upon by both consumers and the automotive industry. Each week, the company provides the most market-reflective values in the industry on its top-rated website, www.KBB.com.

PIT CREW POWER: The No. 9 team owns the second-best average time for four-tire pit stops at 13.29 seconds during the playoffs. The Kelley Blue Book 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.

24 WILLIAM BYRON

Age: 23 (Nov. 29, 1997)

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

Resides: Charlotte, North Carolina

Crew Chief: Rudy Fugle

Standings: 11th

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No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

OH SO CLOSE: Basically in a must-win situation to advance on to the Round of 8 of the playoffs last Sunday, William Byron and the No. 24 team came up just shy of getting the job done at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL. Running up front all race long, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native led 30 laps – the most laps of any driver – before a late-race caution erased his lead. After contact from a competitor relinquished him to just outside the top-10 running order, Byron powered his way back through the field and reached the third position with seven laps to go. However, in the final laps, Byron got off track trying to catch the leaders on old tires, eventually crossing the stripe in 11th and ending his playoff run.

BEST YEAR YET: With only four races left in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, Byron is continuing 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 Indy road course – most by a driver this season), 10 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s all while leading 313 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.

1.5-MILE MOMENTUM: With the Cup Series racing at seven mile-and-a-half tracks so far this year, Byron has finished inside the top 10 in five of those events. Going back as far as the last 11 races on 1.5-milers, Byron has secured seven top-10 finishes on that configuration of track.

TRUCKIN’ IT IN TEXAS: Byron’s success at Texas Motor Speedway began almost five years ago in his first start at the 1.5-mile oval with crew chief Rudy Fugle on the pit box. Starting from the sixth position, the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie led six laps before capturing the checkered flag becoming the youngest to ever win a Truck Series race at Texas.

TEXAS TOUGH: Texas Motor Speedway is a track where Byron has ran well at throughout his entire NASCAR career, even if the statistics don’t always reflect that. In six points-paying Cup Series starts at the Lone Star State track, Byron has two top-10 results, including a track-best finish of sixth in March 2019. In his 1,924 laps run at Texas across his six starts, he has spent 678 laps running inside the top 10 (35.2%). Byron also has four other starts at the 1.5-mile oval with an average finish of 3.5 in two Truck Series starts and 8.0 in two NASCAR Xfinity Series races. Byron also competed at Texas earlier this season for the All-Star Race, where he led the most laps (30) and was in contention to win before finishing the exhibition race in seventh.

FUGLE HAS ‘NO LIMITS’: While the Cup Series raced at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this year for the All-Star Race, this Sunday’s event will mark Fugle’s first points-paying event as a Cup Series crew chief at the 1.5-mile oval. However, Fugle is no stranger to success at Texas. With 15 starts at the 1.5-mile oval, all coming in the Truck Series, Fugle has visited victory lane at the “No Limits” track five times – the most for him at any track on the circuit – most recently in 2019 when he swept both races with Kyle Busch in March and with Greg Biffle in June. Of those five wins, one includes a victory with Byron in June 2016. In his 15 previous starts, Fugle’s drivers have also racked up seven top-five finishes and 11 top-10s with 493 laps led.

ALL ABOUT AXALTA: Heading to the Lone Star State for Sunday’s race, Byron will climb behind the wheel of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. 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.

48 Alex Bowman

Age: 28 (April 25, 1993)

Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

Resides: Concord, North Carolina

Crew Chief: Greg Ives

Standings: 12th

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No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

TOP 10 AT ROVAL: During Sunday’s 109-lap event on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, Alex Bowman and the No. 48 team claimed a top-10 result after finishing 10th. The team suffered an electrical issue on lap 34 and elected to change the battery during the stage two caution. Bowman battled his way back up through the field to capture his fourth top-10 finish in four career starts at the ROVAL. Unfortunately, the team’s championship hopes concluded following the event after not advancing into the Round of 8.

FINDING SUCCESS IN 2021: Through 32 NASCAR Cup Series events this season, 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 15 top-10s. Bowman’s seven top-fives are tied for a season best (2019) and his 15 top-10s are tied for a career best in a single season (2020). Since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2016 as a replacement driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bowman has five wins, 23 top-five results, 56 top-10s, 1,066 laps led and three pole awards, including two in the DAYTONA 500.

BOWMAN AT TX: Bowman has 11 points-paying starts at Texas Motor Speedway since 2014. The driver’s best finish of fifth came in the fall of 2019 and again at the fall event of 2020. The Ally driver is tied for the most top-five results (two) in the last three Texas events, and he has led 57 laps at the 1.5-mile venue. The Tucson, Arizona, native also has two starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2013. Bowman qualified for the pole in both events and led a combined seven laps. He captured a 14th- and 18th-place finish in those races.

IVES’ TEXAS STATS: Crew chief Greg Ives will call his 13th Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend. In his 12 previous starts at the 1.5-mile facility, the No. 48 crew chief has five top-five results and six top-10s with a best finish of second coming in 2016 with Dale Earnhardt Jr. The crew chief also has four starts in the Xfinity Series at Texas, including one win with Chase Elliott when he led 38 laps to bring home the victory in 2014. As a race engineer for the No. 48 team at Hendrick Motorsports from 2006-2012, Ives was part of two wins, nine top-10 finishes and one pole award with driver Jimmie Johnson.

PIT PERFORMANCE: The No. 48 pit crew sits sixth on the charts for the fastest average four-tire stop time of 13.92. The team includes fueler Jacob Conley, tire carrier Allen Stallings, jackman Dustin Lineback and tire changers Scott Brzozowski and Devin DelRicco.

SEVENTH HEAVEN: Following Kyle Larson’s performance Sunday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, Hendrick Motorsports has accumulated 49 all-time wins during the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs – 16 more than next-best Joe Gibbs Racing (33) and more than double third-place Penske Racing (24). In six playoff events this year, the team has won twice – both coming courtesy of Larson. Hendrick Motorsports has gone to victory lane in the seventh race of the playoffs a record seven times.

OOPS … WE DID IT AGAIN: Hendrick Motorsports has now won five consecutive Cup Series playoff elimination races dating back to last season. In 2020, Chase Elliott won the final three cutoff events – held at the ROVAL, Martinsville Speedway and Phoenix Raceway – en route to winning the Cup Series championship. This year, Larson won at Bristol Motor Speedway, which hosted the first elimination race of the 2021 playoffs, and Sunday’s event at the ROVAL.

FOLLOW THE LEADER: Sunday’s showdown at Texas Motor Speedway will mark the eighth NASCAR Cup Series race held at a 1.5-mile venue in 2021. This season, Hendrick Motorsports has led 1,153 laps on intermediate tracks – the most ever by a team in the first seven events.

BATTING .500: In the last 20 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series races, Hendrick Motorsports has recorded 10 victories. No other organization has more than four in that span.

EVERYTHING’S BIGGER: Entering Sunday’s playoff race at Texas, Hendrick Motorsports owns or shares the track records for points-paying wins (nine; tie), pole positions (seven; tie), top-five finishes (40) and top-10s (72). The organization is second in laps led there – just 13 behind leader Roush Fenway Racing.

QUOTABLE /

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on outlook for this round: “We’ve been good on the intermediate tracks this year and we have two to start this round. We weren’t as good as I would have liked at Texas, but we were able to get the victory in the All-Star Race. And we led a lot of laps at Kansas, so we are looking forward to getting back there. We ran top five at Martinsville, and that is a track where I don’t have much success but feel positive about it because of how we ran there in the spring.”

Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, previewing Round of 8: “We won the Texas All-Star Race, but we weren’t that good at the beginning and had to work on that car a lot. We learned a lot in that race. We led a lot of laps at Kansas but didn’t finish out that race like we wanted. Martinsville has not been one my or Kyle’s best tracks, but we had great notes from the (No.) 9 team from their win last year and we ran fifth earlier this year.”

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on kicking off the Round of 8: “Texas, obviously, has been a real tough place for us. I feel like the good news is we had a really good run there at the All-Star Race for the first time since the repave, so that was really encouraging. Sometimes you’ve got to be careful about having a good run and going back because it doesn’t always work out. The way that we’ve performed at all three of the upcoming tracks earlier in the year, I feel like we can go and have a shot to win any of them, really. I hope we can lock ourselves in and go have another shot at a championship.”

Elliott on if anything feels different about this year’s playoffs vs last year’s playoffs: “Not a lot, to be honest. Other than just a little more experience of going through the rounds and what some of those challenges were down the stretch last year. I feel like that helps prepare us a little better. Some of the guys on our team, myself included, had never been in those situations, never been in the running at Phoenix and seen what that was like. I think that’s a good thing, but at the same time I don’t know that the message really changes a ton. The big thing for us last year was just trying to enjoy those big spots, having fun with them and trying to thrive in those big moments and I honestly don’t think that ever really changes. I really don’t feel a ton different; I am excited. Again, this is my favorite time of year and a part of the season that matters most so we are ready to get after it.”

William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on his mentality for the rest of the season: “I have learned pretty quickly to put the past behind you and move forward. We have four more chances to win coming up before the season ends and we’re going to take every opportunity that we get. If we look at the last round, we probably had the best car in two of those races. We just had bad luck, and even then we almost overcame it all. Moving forward, these next tracks are strong for us, especially our mile-and-a-half program. I think we’re going to do good things in these last races. It sucks that we won’t be in the playoffs, but a win is a win, and that’s what we’re here to do still.”

Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on closing out the 2021 season strong: “I couldn’t be more proud of what William and the guys of the No. 24 team have done this season, especially in the playoffs. We controlled as much as we could have. And when things happened that we couldn’t control, we still worked as a group to overcome them as best as we could. Would we have loved to make it to the next round? Of course we would. That doesn’t mean our season is over, though, at this point. We’re going to go out there and try get as many wins as we can to close out the season and keep them still talking about us. We know what we’re capable of as a team, and we will continue to have the same goals – show up to the racetrack and execute the best race we can. First stop is winning a cowboy hat in Texas Sunday.”

Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on his mindset heading to Texas: “Obviously being out of the playoffs isn’t what our team wanted, but a lot of things just didn’t go our way in Charlotte. We really wanted to go into the Round of 8 and on to compete for a championship for Ally, but we still have four more races to compete for wins and that is what we are going to do. Our mile-and-a-half program is really strong at Hendrick Motorsports and I know each time we unload we are going to have a good day.”

Bowman on testing the Next Gen car: “It’s a big change for sure. I think the car tends to make a lot more grip around the ROVAL, which I think we all expected that bring the NextGen to a road course. It is a lot of fun to drive and drives really well. You can slide it around and drive it pretty hard. The sequential transmission is pretty cool to work with as well. Anytime that you make significant changes to the airflow of a racecar, you are going to change how the car drives. Each change we made had its own characteristics that it brought to the racecar.”

Greg Ives, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on overcoming challenges at the Charlotte ROVAL: “We needed to be about nine spots better on Sunday, but in the end we had to battle alternator issues and changing batteries, so all in all it was a race full of adversity. In the end, we struggled with the battery we had but thankful to get a top 10 out of it. The ROVAL lived up to its playoff-ending round event. We were still able to make passes and I feel like if we were able to get up front it would have been exciting.”



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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