5 KYLE LARSON
Age: 30 (July 31, 1992)
Hometown: Elk Grove, California
Resides: Mooresville, North Carolina
Crew Chief: Cliff Daniels
No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
RECAPPING CHARLOTTE: Due to a rainy Memorial Day weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Coca-Cola 600 was postponed to Monday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Starting 12th, Kyle Larson battled mostly in the middle of the pack for the first half of the 600-mile race. However, crew chief Cliff Daniels called for several significant adjustments and their momentum picked up in stage three. Larson spent most of the remainder of the race in the top five, until an on-track incident with only 25 laps to go led to a 30th-place finish.
LEADING LAPS: This season, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion has led the second-most laps (583), trailing only teammate William Byron (687). Larson has also accumulated the second-most laps run in the top five (1,635) and the third-most laps run in the top 10 (2,474).
HARD RACING: Larson has scored two wins (Richmond Raceway and Martinsville Speedway) this season, which makes him one of three drivers (including Byron) with multiple victories. He is in a four-way tie for the second-most top-five finishes (five), but also has nine finishes outside the top 13. The team has been in the mix in plenty of races, but that doesn’t always guarantee the win. The last four weeks have illustrated the peaks and valleys of the season. Contact on the last lap at Kansas Speedway led to a runner-up finish, contact while battling for the lead late took him out of contention at Darlington Raceway, a dominant win at the All-Star Race and then a late-race incident while in the top five took him out of the running at Charlotte.
SECOND TIME IN ST. LOUIS: In the inaugural Cup Series race at WWT Raceway last year, Larson started 15th and finished 12th. He did finish fourth in stage two and tallied 32 points on the day at the 1.25-mile track. Returning to Madison, Illinois, this year, the No. 5 HendrickCars.com team has more insight about the venue going into Sunday’s race.
FOUR TIRES FAST: The No. 5 HendrickCars.com pit crew holds the second-fastest average four-tire pit stop time in 2023 at 11.110 seconds. Larson’s pit crew consists of Blaine Anderson (front-tire changer), R.J. Barnette (tire carrier), Brandon Harder (fueler), Brandon Johnson (jackman) and Calvin Teague (rear-tire changer).
VISITING WITH FANS: On Thursday at 4 p.m. CT, Larson will be at the Ballpark Village Fan Fest in downtown St. Louis, across from Busch Stadium. The No. 5 HendrickCars.com driver will be on stage for a Q&A session with Kenny Wallace and Tom Ackerman from KMOX-AM 1120, followed by an autograph session at 4:15 p.m. CT.
HIGH LIMIT SERIES CONTINUES: Larson rose up through the dirt-track racing ranks and he continues to run at those venues as his schedule allows. In April, the High Limit Sprint Car Series, which was co-founded by Larson and his brother-in-law, Brad Sweet, began its inaugural season. The series features an 11-race schedule and showcases many of the nation’s top sprint car drivers. On Wednesday, the Elk Grove, California, native, won at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Illinois, for his second straight win in the series. Check out the full schedule at highlimitracing.com.
AWAY BUT ALWAYS AVAILABLE: This weekend, the No. 5 HendrickCars.com team races “away” just outside of St. Louis. However, you can pick up a new set of keys from any one of Hendrick Automotive Group’s 95 dealerships nationwide. Customers can also shop from the convenience of their home selecting 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.
HENDRICK AUTOMOTIVE GROUP IS HIRING: Join 10,000+ others nationwide in working at Hendrick Automotive Group. The company is hiring technicians and other positions at its dealerships throughout the country. Positions are open for all skill levels and offer tuition and training reimbursement. Individuals who are interested can apply at HENDRICKCARS.COM.
9 COREY LAJOIE
Age: 31 (Sept. 25, 1991)
Hometown: Kannapolis, North Carolina
Resides: Davidson, North Carolina
Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson
Standings: 16th (owner’s points)
No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
FILLING IN: Corey LaJoie will fill in for Chase Elliott this weekend at WWT Raceway as Elliott serves a one-race suspension. LaJoie, 31, is a third-generation racer who currently competes full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series for Spire Motorsports. He will become the 51st different driver to compete for Hendrick Motorsports in a Cup Series race. In 214 Cup Series starts, LaJoie has two top-five finishes and six top-10s, with his best performance being a fourth-place finish earlier this year at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
PERSONAL BEST: LaJoie is experiencing the best season of his Cup Series career in 2023. The North Carolina native is currently averaging five positions better than any other season at NASCAR’s top level. His career-best result at Atlanta is among his eight top-20 finishes on the year, which already exceeds half of his personal-best single-season total (15). In fact, LaJoie has spent more laps inside the top 15 this season than he did in all of 2022.
FAMILY TIES: On Sunday, LaJoie will become the second member of his family to drive for Hendrick Motorsports. His father, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie, competed in nine Cup Series races for team owner Rick Hendrick in the No. 50 Chevy in 1998, earning a top-five finish and three top-10s.
GREAT GUSTAFSON: Veteran crew chief Alan Gustafson will call his 655th Cup Series race this weekend with his seventh different driver. The Ormond Beach, Florida, native has amassed 38 wins – tied for second-most among active crew chiefs – 189 top-five finishes, 326 top-10s, 34 poles and 10,810 laps led. The 2020 Cup Series champion crew chief has worked with NASCAR Hall of Famers Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin, as well as Elliott, Kyle Busch, Casey Mears and Josh Berry. LaJoie will contribute to that total on Sunday.
NO. 9 FILES: Last season on tracks measuring 1 to 1.366 miles in length (Dover Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Nashville Superspeedway, Phoenix Raceway, and WWT Raceway), the No. 9 team captured two wins and four top-five finishes. Elliott drove the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to victory lane at Dover in May and Nashville in June. In 2023, the team has achieved one top-five finish, two top-10s (one by Elliott and one by Berry) and an average finish of 8.00 in three races on tracks in this length range. Elliott’s third-place finish at Darlington in May stands as the best result in those events.
24 WILLIAM BYRON
Age: 25 (Nov. 29, 1997)
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
Resides: Charlotte, North Carolina
Crew Chief: Rudy Fugle
No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
24 POWER: Just past the halfway mark in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season, William Byron and the No. 24 team are ensuring they remain frontrunners. Through 14 races, Byron leads in several statistical categories, including wins (three), laps led (687), laps run in top five (2,122), stage wins (seven), top-five finishes (seven) and average running position (8.60). He is also tied for the most poles (two) and top-10 finishes (eight). In the last six races, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native has accumulated the most points (249).
STREAK SENSATION: Byron is currently on a streak of four straight top-five finishes and five consecutive top-10s, which are the longest active marks in each category. He has also led in each of the past five races, which is tied for his second-longest streak in the Cup Series (behind seven straight races led in 2019). This run began at Talladega Superspeedway (finished seventh) and continued at Dover Motor Speedway (finished fourth), Kansas Speedway (finished third) and Darlington Raceway (first). The most recent of these results came in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he started first, won stage one, led 91 laps and finished second.
PIT ROAD PROWESS: After a phenomenal showing at Charlotte, the No. 24 pit crew reclaimed the top spot for the fastest average four-tire pit stop time this season at 10.944 seconds. Spencer Bishop (jackman), Jeff Cordero (front-tire changer), Orane Ossowski (rear-tire changer), Ryan Patton (tire carrier) and Landon Walker (fueler) comprise the No. 24 pit crew. The team recorded its three fastest four-tire pit stops of the season in the 600-mile event, which rank second (9.383 seconds), fourth (9.504 seconds) and sixth-fastest (9.541 seconds) among all four-tire stops this season.
THAT NO. 1 FEELING: Byron has had a strong start to the season with three wins, which is the most in a single Cup Series season for the 25-year-old driver. He now has five wins in the Next Gen car and that is tied for the most with three other drivers, including Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. Since the beginning of 2021, Byron has collected six wins, which has him tied for the third-most behind Larson with 15 and Elliott with seven.
SIMILAR IN LENGTH: Sunday’s race at WWT Raceway will mark Byron’s 39th start on tracks 1 to 1.366 miles in length (Dover Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Nashville Superspeedway, Phoenix Raceway and WWT Raceway). In his previous 38 starts, he has collected one pole award, two wins, eight top-five finishes, 15 top-10s with 396 laps led.
MEET ME NEAR ST. LOUIS: This weekend is the second time that the Cup Series will race at WWT Raceway. In last year’s event, Byron scored a 19th-place finish. However, it was not his first time visiting the Illinois-based facility. In 2016, Byron competed there in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series. During that race, he started third and led 47 of the 160 laps before being involved in a late-race on-track incident, resulting in a 17th-place finish.
THE RUDY RUNDOWN: Crew chief Rudy Fugle is making his second Cup Series start at WWT Raceway, but he is one of a few that has more extensive experience at the 1.25-mile oval. The Livonia, New York, native has eight prior national series starts at the venue, including six in the Truck Series. His drivers started first on two occasions and achieved two top-10 finishes, with a best finish of sixth, while leading 258 laps. One of those six starts was with Byron, where they led almost one-third of the race before an on-track incident forced the team to settle for a 17th-place finish.
AT IT AGAIN WITH AXALTA: Axalta will be on board Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 this weekend. This is Axalta’s 31st year of partnership with Hendrick Motorsports. The company was on the car for Byron’s throwback paint scheme and victory at Darlington.
48 Alex Bowman
Age: 30 (April 25, 1993)
Hometown: Tucson, Arizona
Resides: Concord, North Carolina
Crew Chief: Blake Harris
No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
BACK IN THE SADDLE: Alex Bowman returned to racing Monday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He missed the previous four NASCAR Cup Series events after suffering a fractured vertebra in a sprint car accident on April 25. The 30-year-old driver started the 600-mile race in the 31st position after qualifying was canceled due to inclement weather. Bowman finished the first stage in 18th, the second stage in 12th and the third stage in 10th before securing a 12th-place result. His strong comeback performance saw him move above the provisional playoff cutline based on points (+15 to the elimination line).
SEASON TO DATE: Consistency has been the calling card for Bowman in 2023. He holds a 10.45 average finish, has 10 top-15 finishes and has completed all but two laps in 11 starts. The driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevy won the pole for the season-opening DAYTONA 500, has three top-five finishes and is tied for sixth in top-10s (six) with six other drivers.
LAND OF LINCOLN: This Sunday, Bowman will make his second appearance at WWT Raceway. In his first and only Cup Series start there, he started the day 25th and finished 13th. However, Bowman has visited victory lane in the Prairie State, earning his first Cup Series win at Chicagoland Speedway in June 2019 while driving the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro. Since then, the Tucson, Arizona, native has tallied six more wins, including primary partner Ally’s first Cup Series win at Richmond Raceway in April 2021.
HARRIS DOWNLOAD: In his first appearance as a crew chief at WWT Raceway, Blake Harris’ team finished the race in 18th place. However, his result at the 1.25-mile venue doesn’t accurately depict how the race went for the No. 34 team. On that day, Harris’ driver led 34 laps and narrowly missed winning the second stage after a caution flag waved with 10 laps left in the segment. A strategy call to pit before the end of the stage sent him back into the heart of the field.
SAVE THEM ALL: Bowman and Ally have teamed up this year to bring back the Best Friends Animal Society donation effort. This week, the duo will make charitable contributions to the Stray Rescue of St. Louis, which serves the local community. Bowman and Ally will donate $4,800 to Best Friends and the Stray Rescue of St. Louis. Additionally, Ally will increase its donation to $10,000 if the No. 48 team wins.
DAY ‘N’ NITE: The No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will showcase two versions of its primary scheme throughout the 2023 Cup Series season. The No. 48 Ally Chevy “day” scheme features a white base adorned with bright plum, grapefruit, and seafoam stripes along its sides. This version of the primary scheme will appear at races that take place during the day. When the lights come on over the racetrack, the black-based No. 48 Ally Chevy “night” scheme will sport a similar design to its daytime counterpart. This weekend, the No. 48 machine will have the white-based “day” scheme. Check out all the angles of the look here.
*Most **Most (tie)
CLOSING IN ON 300: Hendrick Motorsports is just four points-paying victories away from 300 wins in the NASCAR Cup Series. Twenty drivers have combined to reach the organization’s current total of 296 wins, which is the most in the sport by any one team. With five wins this season, Hendrick Motorsports has posted its 36th multi-win season in the Cup Series, while maintaining its streak of at least two victories per season for the past 30 years.
VARIETY PACK: Hendrick Motorsports has gone to victory lane at more racetracks than any other active team. Its 296 Cup Series wins have been spread across 31 different venues.
ROAD TO LE MANS: The Garage 56 contingent from Hendrick Motorsports has journeyed across the pond to get ready for the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 10-11. The driver lineup consists of Jenson Button, Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller, with Chad Knaus, vice president of competition, overseeing the endeavor. The Garage 56 entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR, Chevrolet, IMSA and Goodyear. It will compete in a special single-entry class designated for innovative cars.
PRAIRIE STATE LOOK BACK: Ahead of Sunday’s race, Hendrick Motorsports has competed in a total of 20 Cup Series races in the state of Illinois. This includes last year’s inaugural Cup Series event at WWT Raceway and 19 races at Chicagoland Speedway. The team has achieved three victories in the state, which all came at Chicagoland. Alex Bowman was the winner at the last event held there in 2019. Next month’s street course race will be held in downtown Chicago.
OUT IN FRONT: In 2023, Hendrick Motorsports has led the most laps, with 1,360 circuits out front, which equates to 34.49% of the laps raced. The 1,360 laps led are the team’s eighth-most all-time through 14 races. The squad has led laps in all but one race this season (Atlanta Motor Speedway in March). William Byron (687) and Kyle Larson (583) rank one-two in that statistical category.
FINISHING TOUCHES: The Rick Hendrick-owned team also has the most wins (five), top fives (18) and top 10s (26) in the 2023 Cup Series season. Byron’s three wins lead the series and Larson’s two are tied for second. Byron’s seven top-five finishes are the best in the series and are the most among the team with Larson (five), Bowman (three), Chase Elliott (two) and Josh Berry (one) all adding to the total. The driver of the No. 24 also leads the team in top-10 finishes with eight and Bowman is next with six. Larson (five), Elliott (four) and Berry (three) have all contributed to the tally too.
TAKING THE STAGE: With 10 stage wins this season, the Concord, North Carolina-based team is tied for the third-most all-time through 14 races. Byron leads the series with seven stage wins, which is tied for the second-most at this point in the season in the stage racing era (start of the 2017 season). Larson has tallied two stage wins, while Elliott has one.
PODIUM PLACEMENT: In four races this season, the 14-time Cup Series championship-winning organization has placed at least two drivers in the top-three finishing positions. In fact, they are the only organization to accomplish that at all this season. Darlington Raceway saw Byron win and Elliott place third. This achievement also happened at Kansas Speedway (Larson was second and Byron was third), Richmond Raceway (Larson won the race and Berry was second) and Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Byron, Larson and Bowman placed one-two-three).
Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on racing in St. Louis: “I’m excited to see the NASCAR Cup Series return to St. Louis. Last year, we finished 12th, but I think our team learned a lot throughout the race. The No. 5 team is definitely hungry for a better finish, myself included, but 2022’s experience and notes certainly help us build confidence for this weekend.”
Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on what the team has learned since last year’s trip to WWT Raceway: “To be honest, last year at St. Louis we weren’t very good, disappointingly so. I think at the time there were some things we needed to evolve with our short-track package and since then, we have done that. We’ve had some great short-track races this year and taken a lot from what learned at Phoenix (Raceway) earlier this year. We’re just trying to figure out how to put that together in the right way and hopefully put a great foot forward for this weekend. I will say the track did a great job last year and I think the track is going to race well this year. We certainly enjoy going there and enjoy the race. Obviously, only been there once, but hopefully this year we put a better car on track and turn it into an even more fun experience.”
Corey LaJoie, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on driving for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend: “The last 24 hours have been surreal. Despite the circumstances, I’m very appreciative of Mr. Hendrick for the opportunity to fill in for a championship team and driver. I also can’t thank my Spire Motorsports family enough for working with Hendrick Motorsports to make it come to fruition. The level of preparation and expectations to succeed are everything I expected them to be. I was able to spend time with Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and the No. 9 guys at the shop and the pursuit of perfection is evident the second you walk through the door. I’m ready to climb through the window and get to work.”
William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on his thoughts for this weekend: “Gateway (WWT Raceway) is a track that we need to make some improvements at. We’ve really been focusing on that this season though, not only getting better and staying consistent, but really focusing on those tracks that we seem to not be as strong at. It’s going to be a really hot weekend, just like it was last year. I think we have a better idea of what to expect this year than we did last year, and we’ve been unloading close to what we need this year, which is promising. I’m optimistic for this weekend with how we’ve been executing so far this year.”
Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on the eventful week for the team: “It’s been a busy week for the No. 24 team after the rain out from Charlotte (Motor Speedway) and the tire test at Michigan (International Speedway). This team never quits and I think this season we’ve shown that. We weren’t the best at Gateway (WWT Raceway) last year but even this year we’ve already improved at some of the racetracks we weren’t great at before this year. That’s been one of our goals this year and so far we’ve executed that. Hopefully, this weekend is no different and we can have a better showing.”
Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on racing at WWT Raceway: “WWT Raceway is a little bit unnatural for me. It kind of has a Loudon (New Hampshire Motor Speedway) –Phoenix (Raceway) feel to it – two places that are not my favorite. I am just trying to understand what I need to do. I think it is going to be driver-input sensitive and I think we will be able to manipulate the race car a lot. I have been in the simulator a lot, just trying to be better and lean on my teammates – looking at their data. I am just trying to understand what I am going to want in the race car and how to go execute.”
Blake Harris, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on his approach to Sunday’s race at WWT Raceway: “It’s a super unique racetrack. There is nothing really like it that we go to in the (NASCAR) Cup Series. We will have to go apply a lot of what we have learned this year at short tracks. Track position is really important here, so we are going to focus on qualifying well and getting some short-run speed in our No. 48 Ally Camaro, especially after last week’s pit road debacle and having our qualifying position determined by the NASCAR metric system. Qualifying well leads to good pit selection and that leads to good track position, so our weekend starts with qualifying well. Our pit crew handled everything that was thrown their way in Charlotte, but we know it was something that affected our race and our ability to compete for a win at the end.”