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Hendrick Motorsports Media Advance: Talladega

Talladega Superspeedway
Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022
2.66-Mile Tri-Oval
2:00 PM ET
Location: Talladega, Alabama
TV: Fox
Event: NASCAR Cup Series (31 of 36)
Radio: SiriusXM, PRN

5 KYLE LARSON

Age: 30 (July 31, 1992)

Hometown: Elk Grove, California

Resides: Mooresville, North Carolina

Crew Chief: Cliff Daniels

Standings: 3rd

No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

TEXAS TWO-STEP: Last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, Kyle Larson won stage one and led 19 laps en route to a ninth-place finish – his 16th top-10 finish this season. The Elk Grove, California, native is third in the standings and increased his advantage over the cutoff position to 23 points heading into the second race in the Round of 12 of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

ROLL TIDE: In 15 Cup Series starts at Talladega Superspeedway, Larson has one top-five finish and three top-10s. He posted a ninth-place result in his first race at the Alabama track in 2014 while his best finish of fourth occurred earlier this year – his best-ever finish on a superspeedway. In that 188-lap race, Larson paced the field for 32 laps. For comparison, he has led a total of 31 laps across his 31 other superspeedway starts.

SPRING AHEAD: In April at Talladega, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion had an average running position of 4.77 during the 500-mile race – tops among all drivers. In fact, Hendrick Motorsports drivers posted three of the four best averages during the 188-lap event.

NOT SO AVERAGE: Larson has an 8.5 average finishing position through four playoff races this year – one of only three drivers to average better than 10th. The 30-year-old driver trails only Denny Hamlin (5.75) and Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron (6.00).

FIVE FOR FIVE: Since 2020, there have been 24 playoff races with Larson victorious in five of them – two more than any other driver – while competing in only 14 of them. Last year, the driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet won half of the 10 playoff races including the finale at Phoenix Raceway to capture the 2021 Cup Series championship.

DOUBLE UP: Larson has won 12 times since joining the Rick Hendrick-owned team at the beginning of last year. Second and third during that span are Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman with six and five wins, respectively.

HOME GAME: This weekend, Larson and the No. 5 HendrickCars.com team will wear their “home” white uniforms at Talladega. Home races occur in markets where there are Hendrick Automotive Group dealerships nearby, and the Talladega area is home to three of them. Be sure to follow Hendrick Automotive Group’s social media channels and visit HendrickCars.com to view the complete home and away schedule.

9 CHASE ELLIOTT

Age: 26 (Nov. 28, 1995)

Hometown: Dawsonville, Georgia

Resides: Dawsonville, Georgia

Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson

Standings: 7th

No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, will be available to members of the media at the Talladega Superspeedway media center on Saturday, Oct. 1 at 8:45 a.m. local time.

JUST KEEP DIGGING: Heading into the second race of the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs at Talladega Superspeedway, Chase Elliott sits seventh in the standings. He is 11 points above the cutoff line to advance to the Round of 8. The regular-season champion has been in the playoffs every full-time season he’s raced in the Cup Series. The previous two seasons he advanced to the Championship 4, earning a Cup Series title in 2020. Elliott has six total victories in the playoffs, most recently in the 2020 season finale at Phoenix Raceway, when he captured the championship.

SUPER ON SUPERSPEEDWAYS: In five starts in 2022 on superspeedways and drafting tracks this season (those tracks are Daytona International Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Talladega), Elliott has one win and finished inside the top 10 in all but one of them. The 26-year-old is the only driver to finish inside the top 10 in four of the five events and earned the second-most points in those races (195). The 2020 Cup Series champion scored a victory on the newly reconfigured Atlanta in July, leading 96 laps. In addition to his win, he finished 10th in the DAYTONA 500, sixth in the Atlanta spring race and seventh at Talladega. In his last nine starts on traditional superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega), Elliott scored two second-place finishes (tied for the most), three top-five finishes and six top-10s (a series high).

‘DEGA NUMBERS: This weekend, Elliott will make his 14th Talladega Cup Series start. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native earned a victory on the 2.66-mile superspeedway in 2019 and has collected four top-five finishes and six top-10s across his 13 starts at the track. Elliott currently has the third-best average finish at the venue among active drivers at 15.23, trailing only Ty Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

GUSTAFSON AT TALLADEGA: No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson will call his 36th Talladega Cup Series race from atop the pit box on Sunday afternoon. He collected his first superspeedway victory at the Alabama facility on Apr. 28, 2019, with Elliott and the No. 9 team. In total, at this track 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, 11 top-10s, 276 laps led and six pole awards.

TOP DOG: Gustafson’s superspeedway résumé is impressive with two Daytona Duel wins (2017 and 2018) and a 2019 win at Talladega, all coming with Elliott behind the wheel. His 11 superspeedway poles are the most among all active crew chiefs.

PIT ROAD POWER: Last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, the No. 9 team had the best average time for four-tire pit stops at 10.499 seconds. The NAPA AUTO PARTS pit crew is comprised of jackman T.J. Semke, fueler John Gianninoto, tire carrier Jared Erspamer and tire changers Chad Avrit (rear) and Nick O’Dell (front). They currently hold the fourth-best average (11.814) for four-tire stops across the season.

NAPA IS BACK: NAPA AUTO PARTS, the Atlanta-based company that has been a primary partner of Elliott in all seven of his seasons at Hendrick Motorsports, will be on board the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 this weekend at Talladega. This will mark the 10th time the brand has served as the primary sponsor of the No. 9 team at this particular track. NAPA was on board earlier this year for the team’s seventh-place finish.

24 WILLIAM BYRON

Age: 24 (Nov. 29, 1997)

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

Resides: Charlotte, North Carolina

Crew Chief: Rudy Fugle

Standings: 10th

No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

ON TO THE NEXT: The Round of 12 of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs kicked off last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Following a seventh-place finish at the Fort Worth venue, William Byron was ranked third, 17 points above the cutoff line. However, with a 25-point penalty assessed Tuesday, Byron is now sitting 10th in the standings, eight points below the cutoff line heading to Talladega Superspeedway (pending an appeal).

PLAYOFF POWER: In the first four races of the Cup Series playoffs, Byron is one of two drivers – Denny Hamlin is the other – to finish in the top 10 in every event. He finished eighth at Darlington Raceway, sixth at Kansas Speedway, third at Bristol Motor Speedway, and seventh at Texas. In fact, Byron holds the second-best average finish so far in the 2022 playoffs (6.00) behind Hamlin.

SUPERSPEEDWAY STAR: Sunday’s race at Talladega will be Byron’s 20th superspeedway start in the Cup Series. In his previous 19 starts, Byron has scored one win (Daytona International Speedway, August 2020), two runner-up finishes, four top-fives – two of which were at Talladega – and four top-10s with 188 laps led. In fact, the 24-year-old has three top-five finishes in the last nine superspeedway races – tied for the second-most in the series.

LEADING THE DRAFT: In five drafting-style races in the 2022 season (those tracks are Daytona, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Talladega), Byron has led the field for 192 laps – the most of any driver ahead of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott (156). He also won at Atlanta in March, which used the superspeedway rules package in its two races this season.

TALLADEGA TELL-ALL: Byron will be making his 10th Cup Series start at the 2.66-mile oval when the No. 24 team hits the track Sunday. In his previous nine starts, Byron has a track-best finish of second coming in April of 2021 at the Alabama-based venue. In addition to that runner-up finish, he has two stage wins at Talladega including winning stage two in the spring this season. He also has led 94 laps there since 2018 – tied for the sixth-most among drivers.

DIGGIN’ DEGA: When the Cup Series heads to Talladega this weekend, it will mark Rudy Fugle’s fourth race at the venue as a crew chief in the sport’s top series. Fugle and the No. 24 team have a track-best qualifying effort of fourth and a runner-up result, both coming in the spring race of the 2021 season. Aside from those three races, the Livonia, New York, native has eight additional national series starts at the 2.66-mile track already under his belt. In seven NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races, Fugle has accumulated three top-five finishes and five top-10s. One of those previous starts was with Byron, in 2016, where the duo started eighth and raced to a 10th-place result.

RAPTOR® TOUGH: Heading to Talladega, Byron will be back behind the wheel of the No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the second consecutive weekend. 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.

48 Alex Bowman

Age: 29 (April 25, 1993)

Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

Resides: Concord, North Carolina

Crew Chief: Greg Ives

Standings: 12th

No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

BACK ON THE BOULEVARD: Last time Alex Bowman was at Talladega Superspeedway, he crossed the finish line in ninth. The driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 finished the first stage in ninth and the second stage in fifth en route to his top-10 finish – a part of Hendrick Motorsports’ fourth event at the Alabama venue where at least three of its drivers finished in the top 10.

OH, SO CLOSE: Bowman is one of four active drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series to finish second at Talladega but have yet to win at the sport’s biggest oval. The Tucson, Arizona, native took home a runner-up result in April 2019, finishing second to teammate Chase Elliott. Since then, he has two top-10 finishes in six appearances at the Alabama venue.

RUNNING IN THE SHADOWS: Since the start of the 2021 Cup Series season, Bowman has five victories – third-most of all active drivers in that span. Only teammates Kyle Larson and Elliott have more wins, with 12 and five, respectively.

PACING THE FIELD: Bowman is one of seven drivers to have led at least 100 laps in the 2022 Cup Series playoffs. He has the sixth-most circuits completed as the leader with 107 laps, trailing Chris Buescher (169), Christopher Bell (155), Kyle Busch (155), Brad Keselowski (151), and Tyler Reddick (108).

POINT MADE: The 29-year-old is one of five active playoff drivers to have added to his playoff point total this postseason. Bowman’s stage win at Kansas Speedway is one of three stage wins for Hendrick Motorsports in this year’s playoffs. He enters this race 30 points behind the cutoff line with two races left in the Round of 12.

SHOT CALLER: Crew chief Greg Ives has a storied career of success at superspeedways as a crew chief in the Cup Series. Through his 31 superspeedway starts in NASCAR’s premier level, Ives has tallied four pole positions (including the 2018 and 2021 DAYTONA 500 poles with Bowman), two points-paying wins (Talladega and Daytona International Speedway in 2015 with Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and two victories in the Daytona Duel qualifying races (2015 and 2016 with Earnhardt Jr.). He also led Regan Smith to a NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Talladega in 2013.

LEADING THE WAY: With nine wins through the 30 NASCAR Cup Series races in 2022, Hendrick Motorsports has earned the most victories so far this season. It is the only four-car team to see all of its drivers win a race this season. The organization is also the only one to have multiple drivers with at least two wins – Chase Elliott (four), Kyle Larson (two) and William Byron (two). On top of that, Elliott and Byron rank 1-2 in laps led this year.

ALL IN: For the second straight season and third time in nine seasons, all four drivers for the 14-time Cup Series championship organization are in the Round of 12 of the NASCAR playoffs. The quartet of Alex Bowman, Byron, Elliott and Larson also did this in 2021. In the first year of the elimination-style playoff – 2014 – the foursome of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne each advanced to the second round of the playoffs.

SUCCESS ON SUPERSPEEDWAYS: With 28 wins on superspeedways, Hendrick Motorsports has the most victories on that track type in Cup Series history. Thirteen of those victories have come at Talladega Superspeedway, while 15 have come at Daytona International Speedway.

VICTORY FORMATION: Gordon’s six wins at the Alabama venue top the board for the organization followed by Johnson’s two triumphs. Earnhardt Jr., Elliott, Terry Labonte, Ken Schrader and Brian Vickers each have one victory for the Rick Hendrick-owned team. The seven drivers to win at the 2.66-mile track are the most for one team.

SPRING SUMMARY: In the spring race at the sport’s biggest oval, Hendrick Motorsports led 70 of the 188 laps (37%). Byron paced the field for a race-high 38 circuits and won stage two, while Larson held the point position for 32 laps. Larson (4.77), Byron (4.87) and Elliott (7.84) had three of the four best average running positions in the race. The team spent 44% of their laps running in the top five and 72% percent of their laps in the top 10. At the end of the day, three of its drivers finished in the top 10 with Larson finishing fourth, Elliott placing seventh and Bowman taking ninth.

FACTOID FOUR YOU: In four races at Talladega in the team’s storied history, the organization has placed at least three drivers in the top 10. This year’s spring race was the most recent occurrence. The first came in April 1998 with Labonte placing fourth, Gordon in fifth and Randy LaJoie earning a 10th-place showing. In October 2007, Gordon and Johnson placed one-two while Casey Mears came in sixth. In April 2011, Johnson won, Gordon took third, Earnhardt Jr. came in fourth and Mark Martin placed eighth.

DRAFTING DARLINGS: In the season’s five drafting races with the 2022 superspeedway rules package – two at Daytona, one at Talladega and two at Atlanta Motor Speedway – Hendrick Motorsports has won twice. Byron and Elliott earned wins at Atlanta in March and July, respectively. In fact, Byron (192 laps led) and Elliott (156 laps led) rank first and second in laps led on drafting tracks this season.

RECORD SETTERS: Hendrick Motorsports has posted a series-best 53 wins in the playoffs – 20 more than the next closest organization. Johnson has the most wins with 29. Among the current driver lineup, Elliott tops the board with six wins, followed by Larson with five and Bowman has one. Nine different drivers have won a playoff race for the team, which is the most in the Cup Series ranks. Entering this year’s playoffs, the company has won a race in the postseason in 17 seasons and that mark is also the most among all Cup Series teams.

QUOTABLE /

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on if drivers might play it safe and run behind the main pack this weekend: “I don’t think so just because there’s so many stage points on the line. Yes, there might be a couple that do that, but I feel like you typically don’t see that. I think there’s so many stage points on the line that if you can get those points then, even if you wreck, you’ll have a decent points day out of it. I see everybody racing pretty hard.”

Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on if strategy or luck helped with their fourth-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway in April: “I would say more luck because we were able to stay out of the wrecks. From a strategic standpoint, everything we accomplished that race is the exact strategy we try to implement every speedway race. We try to get up front and stay up front. We try to have a good driving car that can pass and draft and do all the things you need it to do. We try to be on the right side of pit strategy while working with our teammates and other Chevrolet teams. From a pure strategic standpoint, we target that every single speedway race.”

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on racing at Talladega: “It’s obviously not an ideal situation to be where we’re at in the points heading into Talladega (Superspeedway), but it is what it is. I’ve said for years that no one is safe in these playoffs. We’ve been in similar situations in the past, so we know what we need to do these next two weeks to put ourselves in a good position to advance. I know we’re fully capable of getting the job done. We’ve proven it time and time again.”

Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on Talladega: “We were able to learn a lot when we were at Talladega (Superspeedway) in the spring to really improve our superspeedway program. That was our goal going into the race, knowing we’d be coming back here in the playoffs. For us, it’s about getting maximum points this weekend, minimizing our mistakes and making sure we survive until the end. If we do that, we’ll have just as good a shot as anyone to get the win and lock ourselves into the next round.”

William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on how to balance racing at Talladega: “Racing at Talladega (Superspeedway) is more about how well you can push someone and how well your car can receive a push. It’s a track where you really have to be able to work with other cars to not only get to the front but also stay up there. We were running up front in the spring race and lost our help in the end to stay up front, unfortunately. Once you get back in traffic, it’s a lot harder to make your way forward. With how close the points are right now, I think stage points are going to be even more crucial Sunday than they normally are in this race. With everyone trying to get every point they can, you don’t want to put yourself at risk of not finishing the race either just trying to get a stage point. It’s a fine balance for sure.”

Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on preparation for Talladega: “Talladega (Superspeedway) is a track where balance comes more into play than a place like Daytona (International Speedway). It’s a fine line between finding speed for qualifying, but also having the handling of your car right to keep you up front during the race. We’ve only had qualifying for two superspeedway events this year, but we have a good notebook on what adjustments we made from Saturday to Sunday. We ran really well in the spring race at Talladega earlier this year, and those notes are going to be a huge help even though the weather will be different this time around. We’ll also run the same tire that we ran not only at Talladega this year, but also at Daytona as well. This is probably one of the tracks in the playoffs that we have the most notes on and can prepare for.”

Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on his approach to the next two races in the Round of 12: “Texas (Motor Speedway) put us behind in points, so our work is cut out for us heading to Talladega (Superspeedway) and the (Charlotte Motor Speedway) ROVAL. Our team has a lot of motivation right now and when our backs are against the wall, the crew steps up and goes the extra mile to put ourselves in the best position possible. Obviously, anything can happen at a superspeedway, so we just have to be smart and make the right moves to stay out of other’s messes. We will take it one race at a time like we always do and go compete this Sunday.”

Greg Ives, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on his approach to Talladega: “This race is always challenging and being in the playoffs, there’s more at risk. We obviously aren’t where we want to be in points, but a win locks us into the next round and takes all the pressure off for the (Charlotte Motor Speedway) ROVAL. Our focus right now is maximizing on every opportunity we get and having a clean race at Talladega (Superspeedway) is our first priority. Alex (Bowman) is doing his homework to make sure he is ready to compete, and the crew is putting in the time to get the No. 48 Ally Chevy setup for him. We just need to stay focused on maximizing this Sunday.”



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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