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Hendrick Motorsports Media Advance: Texas

Kansas Speedway
Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021
1.5-Mile Oval
3:00 PM ET
Location: Kansas City, Kansas
TV: Fox
Event: NASCAR Cup Series (34 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

FINAL FOUR: Kyle Larson led 256 laps – including the final 218 – to win the 334-lap race at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday. The 29-year-old driver secured one of four spots in the Championship 4 and will compete for his first NASCAR Cup Series title at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 7. The Texas win marked Larson’s second consecutive victory and eighth win of 2021.

CAREER YEAR: Through 33 of 36 Cup Series races, Larson leads the series in wins (eight), top-five finishes (18), top-10s (24), stage wins (16) and laps led (2,267) – all career bests. His laps led total is 868 more than the next-closest competitor.

LEADER OF THE PACK: Larson has led 1,187 laps on 1.5-mile tracks in 2021, the most ever by a driver during a season. In fact, the rest of the field has combined to lead just 13 more (1,200) on that type of track in 2021. Larson is the only driver with multiple victories (three) in races held on 1.5-mile layouts this year.

ONLY JG: Jeff Gordon is the only Hendrick Motorsports driver to lead more laps than Larson during a season. In 1995, Gordon led 2,610 laps and he paced the field for 2,314 circuits a year later. In 2001, the four-time Cup Series champion led 2,320 laps – the benchmark for a 36-race schedule. Larson trails that record by 53 laps with three races remaining in 2021.

42 FOR LARSON: Along with eight 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 42% of the Cup Series races held in 2021.

SPORTING IN KC: In May at Kansas Speedway, Larson finished second in stage one and won stage two. He led a race-high 132 laps before contact with another car after a late-race restart resulted in a 19th-place finish. Overall, Larson has three top-five finishes and five top-10s in 13 starts at the 1.5-mile track.

UPPING THEIR GAME: At 13.63 seconds, the No. 5 pit crew owns the quickest average time for four-tire pit stops in 2021. During the playoffs, their average time is even quicker at a series-best 13.22 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.

IT KEEPS ADDING UP: 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 33 races, he has already pledged more than $135,000 and raised nearly $200,000. 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: 5th

No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

ROUND OF 8 ROUND UP: Chase Elliott continues his run to defend the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series title this weekend at Kansas Speedway. This is the fifth consecutive season he has advanced to the Round of 8 of the playoffs. Through the seven playoff races this year, Elliott has led 190 laps and spent 774 laps inside the top five and 1,438 laps running in the top 10. He is currently fifth in playoff standings, eight points below the cutline. Elliott has collected victories at the next two tracks in the round (Kansas, Martinsville Speedway). In his previous 57 playoff races, he has collected six wins, 22 top-five finishes, 32 top-10s and led 1,653 laps.

THREE TO GO: With only three races remaining in the 2021 season, 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 33 races complete this season, the driver of the No. 9 has also picked up two wins, 13 top-five finishes, 19 top-10s and 527 laps led.

KANSAS STATS: On Sunday, Elliott is set to make his 12th Kansas Speedway start at the Cup level. In his previous 11 races at the track, he garnered one win, five top-five finishes – tied with Charlotte Motor Speedway and Martinsville for the second-most top-five results at a track in his Cup career – seven top-10s and led 145 laps. He has finished inside the top 10 in five of the last six races at the 1.5-mile venue. Elliott also holds the second-best average finish (10.5) among active drivers at Kansas, behind only Kevin Harvick (9.1).

1.5-MILE STATS: This weekend at Kansas, Elliott will make his 61st start on a 1.5-mile track in the Cup Series. In his previous 60 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 30 top-10s on 1.5-milers. He currently holds the second-longest active top-10 streak (five) on these tracks.

QUICK STOPS: The No. 9 team owns the third-best average time for four-tire pit stops at 13.34 seconds during the playoffs. The NAPA 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.

HONORING A CANCER HERO: This weekend at Kansas, the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet will feature a very special name above the driver door. Candy Howton’s name will be showcased as part of the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation’s initiative to recognize those who have fought bravely against cancer. Howton was diagnosed with Stage 2B lung cancer in January 2019. They had to remove her right lung completely because of the cancer’s location in the organ. After surgery, Howton had several weeks of chemotherapy. She was very determined to be well enough to attend the April 2019 Talladega Superspeedway race to watch her favorite driver, Elliott. When April arrived, she was able to make her first trip to the Talladega race and cheered Elliott on as he won the event.

BACK HOME: No. 9 team jackman 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.

24 WILLIAM BYRON

Age: 23 (Nov. 29, 1997)

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

Resides: Charlotte, North Carolina

Crew Chief: Rudy Fugle

Standings: 11th

No. 24 RAPTORTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

TEXAS TWO-STEPPED: Starting 12th Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, William Byron powered his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE to the front and remained there for almost the entirety of the race. Finishing stage one in fifth after a pit strategy call and leading 55 laps in stage two before crossing the stripe in second to end the second stage, Byron continued to run second as the laps wound down. With a string of late-race restarts to end the race, Byron ultimately crossed the finish line in second behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson – a track-best finish for Byron.

LOOKIN’ AT THE TOP TWO: After his runner-up result at Texas last Sunday, Byron has now finished in the top-two positions four times in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season. That feat ties him for the third-most in the field behind Hendrick Motorsports teammates Larson (14) and Chase Elliott (eight). This is also the most times in a season that the 23-year-old driver has finished in the top-two positions, doubling his previous best of two in 2019.

CONTINUING THE TREND: Down to the last three races in the 2021 Cup Series season, Byron continues to post career-best stats this year at the highest level of competition in the No. 24 RAPTORTough.com 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), 11 top-five finishes and 18 top-10s all while leading 368 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 Charlotte, North Carolina, native has collected in a single season.

1.5-MILE MOMENTUM: With the Cup Series racing at eight mile-and-a-half tracks so far this year, Byron has finished inside the top 10 in six of those events – tied for the second-most behind Kyle Busch (eight). Even going back as far as the last 12 races on 1.5-milers, Byron has secured eight top-10 finishes on that configuration of track.

HOT START AT KANSAS: Right out of the gate Byron found success at Kansas Speedway in just his first two NASCAR national series starts at the 1.5-mile track. With one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start in 2016 and one NASCAR Xfinity Series start in 2017, Byron finished no worse than fourth in both events. In fact, in his debut at the intermediate oval in 2016 – just his fifth Truck Series start – Byron started from the top spot, led 34 laps and collected his first Truck Series win. That kickstarted the most successful season by a rookie in the history of the series.

MIDWEST MOJO: Aside from those first two starts, Byron has seven Cup Series starts at Kansas Speedway. While Byron faced bad luck in his first three races, including a mechanical failure, a late-race on-track incident and a pit road penalty, he has since turned that luck around. In his last four starts at the 1.5-mile track, Byron has collected one top-five finish and four top-10s. His four-consecutive top-10 finishes at Kansas is tied for the longest active top-10 streak at the intermediate track. Byron has the longest top-10 streak in his Cup Series career at Kansas (four) ahead of Phoenix Raceway (three) and Pocono Raceway (three).

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE KANSAS: Looking to make his second start as a Cup Series crew chief at Kansas Speedway this Sunday, Rudy Fugle’s first race at the Midwestern track earlier this year resulted in a ninth-place effort with the No. 24 team. Aside from that one Cup Series start, the Livonia, New York, native has 10 previous starts at the 1.5-mile oval, all coming in the Truck Series. In those 10 events, Fugle’s drivers have started from the pole four times, led 391 laps, collected two wins (2016 and 2018), earned five top-five finishes and six top-10s. In fact, Fugle’s 2016 win came with Byron, who captured his first Truck Series victory in just their fifth start together.

RAPTOR® TOUGH: Earlier this week, Axalta Racing unveiled a special paint scheme for the Byron and the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE featuring their newest acquisition, U-POL, and its RAPTOR® brand. The new paint scheme has a charcoal base with bright green accents and will be on board Byron’s Chevy this Sunday at Kansas as well as at the season finale at Phoenix. RAPTOR® is a durable protective coating and bed liner that is designed to tolerate the toughest climatic conditions and can be applied to a wide range of substrates from steel, wood, concrete and plaster to plastics and composites. Resistant to common fuels, U.V., scratches and stains, RAPTOR® is available at local paint distributors, auto parts stores and can also be purchased from online retailers like Amazon. For a better look at Byron’s No. 24 RAPTORTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, click here.

HONORING KEITH COOPER: The Martin Truex Jr. Foundation and the NASCAR Foundation have partnered together for the second time to recognize those who have battled cancer by auctioning off the space above the driver-side door to honor a cancer hero. For this Sunday’s race, Byron will have Keith Cooper riding on board his No. 24 Chevy, who was nominated by his son, Brian Cooper. Working at General Motors for 36 years, Cooper was known as one of the hardest workers by his family, friends and coworkers. He spent every Sunday watching NASCAR with his son and was a diehard Jimmie Johnson fan until his retirement from the Cup Series. Once Johnson retired, Cooper began cheering for Byron and the No. 24 team. Unfortunately, Cooper lost his battle to lung cancer in August of this year.

48 Alex Bowman

Age: 28 (April 25, 1993)

Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

Resides: Concord, North Carolina

Crew Chief: Greg Ives

Standings: 12th

No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

1.5-MILE STATS: Alex Bowman has 68 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 nine top-five finishes, 19 top-10s and has led 463 laps total at 1.5-mile facilities in his Cup career. In the last eight starts on 1.5-mile tracks this season, Bowman has captured three top-five finishes and four top-10s.

NO PLACE LIKE KANSAS: Bowman will make his 13th start at Kansas Speedway on Sunday afternoon. Earlier this season, he finished 18th after 267 laps and last season, Bowman brought home an eighth-place result in the spring race and a third-place finish during the fall playoff race at the venue. The driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE is ranked fifth for the best average finish (8.5) at Kansas over the last six races. Bowman’s five top-10 finishes (career best) all come from his runs at the venue. He has two top-five finishes, five top-10s and has led 76 laps at the 1.5-mile track. Bowman made one start at the venue in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2013 and finished 11th at the end of the 200-lap event. He’s also made two Kansas starts in the ARCA Series and brought home wins in both races, including from the pole position in 2012.

IVES IN KANSAS: Crew chief Greg Ives has called the shots 13 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 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 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.

HONOR A CANCER HERO: This weekend, Bowman will carry a very special name above the door of his Chevrolet Camaro thanks to the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation and NASCAR Foundation’s Honor A Cancer Hero auction. Judy Kontny of Lakeland, Florida, will ride along with the No. 48 team at Kansas Speedway on Sunday. Kontny is Ives’ aunt and a big fan of the No. 48 team. Two weeks after her husband passed away from cancer in 2010, Kontny was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was in remission but the cancer returned. She has been fighting the disease ever since.

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

ONE-TWO PUNCH: Kyle Larson and William Byron finished first and second Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, which delivered Hendrick Motorsports’ sixth 1-2 sweep of 2021 – the second-highest total since the NASCAR Cup Series went to a 36-race schedule in 2001. With seven in a single season, Hendrick Motorsports (2009) and Joe Gibbs Racing (2019) have the most sweeps of first and second in that span. The all-time record is 10 held by Carl Kiekhafer Racing, which accomplished it in 1956 during a 56-race Cup Series season. In 1957, Peter Depaolo Racing did it six times in 53 events.

NIFTY 50: Following Larson’s Texas performance, Hendrick Motorsports has recorded 50 all-time wins during the Cup Series playoffs – 17 more than next-best Joe Gibbs Racing (33) and more than double third-place Penske Racing (24). In seven playoff events this year, the team has three victories – all courtesy of Larson.

ONE MORE SHOT: Entering Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports is within striking distance of the Cup Series single-season record for most laps led on 1.5-mile tracks. In 2005, the five-car Roush Fenway Racing organization led 1,515 laps in 10 races held on intermediates. This year, the four-car Hendrick Motorsports stable has led 1,464 laps in eight events on 1.5-milers.

2021 FOR THE AGES: Hendrick Motorsports is having one of its best statistical seasons since Rick Hendrick launched the team in 1984. Through 33 points-paying events in 2021, the organization has 14 points-paying Cup Series wins – its second-best mark in a 36-race season and tied with 1998, which featured a 33-race schedule. Its best full-season victory total came in 2007 when it won 18 of 36 points events (50%).

BLACKJACK: Hendrick Motorsports has won 11 of the last 21 points-paying Cup Series races. Joe Gibbs Racing is the next-best team with four wins in that span.

QUOTABLE /

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on his mindset ahead of Kansas knowing team is in Championship 4: “My mind is on Kansas. I want to go there and win. I have led a lot of laps there and come close to a couple of different wins. I want to go there and lead a bunch of laps and try and get another win and then look forward to Martinsville. I don’t want to change up what we have been doing; still take it week by week and do a great job every weekend and carry some momentum into Phoenix. I think it would be bad if we went to Kansas and Martinsville and had a couple of DNFs because we are ‘relaxed.’ Hopefully we can go through these next couple of weeks, have a few good runs and head into Phoenix with some good momentum.”

Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on preparing for Phoenix and upcoming races: “The schedule makes us prepare for Phoenix a little bit earlier. It’s a Friday, Saturday, Sunday race with practice starting on Friday and qualifying on Saturday. The truck leaves for Phoenix that week, I believe on Tuesday. Your week is short so you have to be prepared on the front side, which we will be. We still have to go have a good run in Kansas and definitely want to have a good run in Martinsville. We have had that one circled for a while because we, as a team, feel like we have something to prove. Hopefully we can do that. We will be focused on Phoenix, but we want to have some good races in the meantime.”

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on racing at Kansas: “We’ve been hit or miss at Kansas, really. I’ve had some good runs and even some of those good finishes we haven’t been as solid as I feel like we want to be, but it’s a place where I know we can go and have success at. I feel like it’s a place where we have a decent notebook, so to speak, to build off of and make ourselves better.”

Elliott on being below the Championship 4 cutline: “The great thing is we’re able to be in this Round of 8, which is a great thing. Another thing about that is a win anywhere in this round is an opportunity to race for a championship. Obviously, we want to win – that would be the best way to lock ourselves in. Last year was certainly that way and kind of how it all played out. I would love to do that this weekend at Kansas and be able to go ahead and lock into Phoenix and set our eyes on that one. We’re going to fight through it either way and see where we end up.”

William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on the difference between racing at Kansas in the fall versus the spring: “The fall is usually always cooler than when we go there earlier in the year. It creates a lot of more wide-open throttle time because of that. You still move around the racetrack just as much and the restarts are just as crazy, but your on-throttle time is probably the biggest difference between the two races. It makes it a little bit easier to race but it’s still a tough track because I feel like the surface is pretty hard on tires. It sets it up to be a fun race to be in and I’m sure it’s a fun race to watch for fans. Something about that place clicked early on for me in Trucks and Xfinity. I struggled a bit there when I first got to Cup, but I think I’ve learned a lot over the years and it’s become one of my best tracks now.”

Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on why Kansas is one of his favorite racetracks: “Kansas is a really cool track. I like the progressive banking, the speed and the handling that comes with that track. I like when you have to have all the facets of the car together, and the crew chief has a major part to do with that. The first time we went there this year, we ran up front for most of the first stage and I just didn’t do a good job adjusting on it during the second stage, putting us back in traffic. We’ve made a lot of changes since then and our 550 horsepower package is way better since then. I’m just super, super excited to get there. It’s a track where drivers can go bottom, middle or top. Not only can we make a lot of adjustments as needed, but William can as well with his driving style because of that. It reminds me of Homestead at a young state before it aged and got really abrasive. If we can hit on everything we need to, we can definitely go win.”

Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on returning to Kansas Speedway: “Going to Kansas, I’m really excited. (It’s) one of my favorite racetracks. It’s the only repave that’s stayed super race-y. I’m excited to get there and run from the bottom all the way to the outside wall. It’s been a good place for us in the past. We struggled there in the spring but we have a good notebook to look back on from previous races. Our teammates were pretty strong – the No. 5 dominated that day, so being able to look at his notes and go back strong, we should be good this weekend.”

Greg Ives, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on the track differences between Kansas and Texas: “The one thing that Kansas allows is multiple grooves in the track. In Texas, you were able to have two grooves, maybe a lane and a half, but in Kansas you can enter on the high side and carry momentum and someone can dive bomb you. You can be trimmed out for the restart for the first four or five laps and then you start getting tight off or loose in and the guy who has a little better downforce can get by you. Hopefully, our Ally Chevrolet has speed on the short and long runs and is able to run top to bottom.”



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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