Hendrick Motorsports Media Advance: Sonoma

5 KYLE LARSON

Age: 30 (July 31, 1992)

Hometown: Elk Grove, California

Resides: Mooresville, North Carolina

Crew Chief: Cliff Daniels

Standings: 9th

No. 5 Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, will be available to members of the media at the Sonoma Raceway media center on Saturday, June 10, at 10 a.m. local time.

ST. LOUIS COMEBACK: Kyle Larson started 22nd for the NASCAR Cup Series race at WWT Raceway on Sunday. Following a tough first stage, crew chief Cliff Daniels called for several adjustments to the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. These adjustments, combined with a couple keen pit road strategy calls, allowed the 2021 Cup Series champion to position himself further up in the field. In the final stage, Larson continued to climb up through the field. He took the lead off of pit road on lap 179, thanks to a two-tire call, and held the second spot in the running order for the majority of the last 50 laps. At the checkered flag, Larson secured the team a fourth-place finish for his sixth top-five result of the 2023 season – the second-most in the series.

HOME TRACK: This weekend, NASCAR visits wine country in Sonoma, California. The event is a homecoming for Larson, who is from Elk Grove, California, and considers Sonoma Raceway his home track on the Cup Series circuit. Located less than 100 miles from his hometown, the 1.99-mile-long road course is a place Larson looks forward to racing at annually. During his championship-winning season in 2021, he led 57 laps en route to a win at the venue.

SONOMA SUCCESS: The 30-year-old driver holds the record for the most consecutive poles at Sonoma. He has earned the top starting position for the last four Cup Series races (2017-2019, 2022) to hold qualifying at the facility. Larson also started from the top spot via the qualifying metric in 2021. With an average starting position of 2.13, Larson holds the best mark of all drivers to ever compete at the California road course and he has led the most laps in the last two races there (83).

ROAD COURSE RANKS: With four road course wins, Larson is tied for second-most among active Cup Series drivers. All those victories have come with Daniels, who ranks second among active crew chiefs for wins on serpentine layouts. Both marks trail the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports duo of driver Chase Elliott and crew chief Alan Gustafson (seven wins). Larson is one of six drivers to win on at least three different road courses: Watkins Glen International (two wins), Sonoma (one win) and the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL (one win). His five stage wins on road courses rank him in a three-way tie for second-most all-time.

BETTER TOGETHER: Larson has 14 road course starts with Hendrick Motorsports. In those starts, he has four wins, one second-place finish, seven top-fives, seven top-10s, one pole, three stage wins and 155 laps led. In his 14 road course starts prior to joining the Rick Hendrick-owned organization, Larson had one top-five finish, four top-10s, three poles, two stage wins and 69 laps led.

LEADING LAPS: The driver of the No. 5 has led the second-most laps (588) of all Cup Series drivers in 2023. That total trails only teammate William Byron (717) and leads the third-place competitor by 205 laps. Larson has run the third-most laps in the top five (1,702) and top 10 (2,577).

PIT CREW POWER: The No. 5 pit crew has the second-fastest average four-tire pit stop time in 2023 at 11.088 seconds. The team’s five-man 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).

VALVOLINE ON BOARD: Valvoline will partner with the No. 5 team for their first of three primary races in the 2023 Cup Series season at Sonoma. Valvoline Inc. is a global leader in vehicle care and supplier of premium branded lubricants and automotive services. Since 2014, Hendrick Motorsports has earned a NASCAR-best three Cup Series championships (2016, 2020 and 2021) with Valvoline products in its Chevrolet racing engines. Off the track, Valvoline is the preferred lubricant of Hendrick Automotive Group, which operates 95 car dealerships across the United States. See every angle of the paint scheme that will be on track here.

HENDRICKCARS.COM RIDES IN XFINITY: Hendrick Motorsports is back in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this weekend with the No. 17 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro. Larson will make his first start of the 2023 season in this particular car and his second start in the series. In his career, Larson has earned 14 victories in the Xfinity Series, including his most recent triumph at Darlington Raceway last month (with Kaulig Racing). Tune in to the race on Saturday, June 10, at 8 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90). Learn more here.

9 CHASE ELLIOTT

Age: 27 (Nov. 28, 1995)

Hometown: Dawsonville, Georgia

Resides: Dawsonville, Georgia

Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson

Standings: 27th

No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

SONOMA REWIND: Last season at Sonoma Raceway, Chase Elliott qualified second for the 110-lap NASCAR Cup Series race and led 26 laps on his way to an eighth-place result. The No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts team overcame a pit road penalty at the end of the second stage to earn its second consecutive top-10 result at the California venue. It was also his fourth top-10 finish in the last five races at the track.

ROAD RACING RUNDOWN: On road courses in 2022, Elliott earned a best finish of second at Road America, which contributed to his total of three top-five finishes and four top-10s across six starts on the year. The Hendrick Motorsports driver paced the field for 121 laps on serpentine layouts last season and earned two pole awards (Road America and Watkins Glen International).

KING OF THE ROAD (COURSE): Elliott has proven his road-racing prowess, leading all active drivers with seven wins on road courses – the most recent coming at Road America in 2021. He’s also third all-time in road course victories, trailing only NASCAR Hall of Famers Jeff Gordon (nine wins) and Tony Stewart (eight wins). Elliott has won at the most road courses in series history (five) and has tallied victories at Watkins Glen (two wins), Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL (two wins), Circuit of The Americas (one win), Daytona International Speedway Road Course (one win) and Road America (one win).

IN GOOD COMPANY: In 25 Cup Series starts on road courses, Elliott has an average finish of 8.16. That mark is not only the best among active drivers, but third all-time among drivers (five or more starts), behind NASCAR legends Fireball Roberts and Buck Baker. In addition to seven wins, the five-time National Motorsports Press Association Most Popular Driver Award winner has 14 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s on this track type. His seven stage wins on road courses are the most in series history.

LOOKING FOR A WINE COUNTRY WIN: Sonoma is one of only three road courses on the current Cup Series schedule where Elliott has yet to win (the inaugural Chicago Street Course and the Indianapolis Road Course being the others). The 27-year-old driver has an impressive record at the Napa Valley facility, earning a best finish of second in 2021. In just six Sonoma starts, Elliott has two top-five finishes and four top-10s, with 42 laps led. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native also knows his way around the track, holding the second-best average start all-time at Sonoma (5.83), behind only his teammate Kyle Larson (2.13). In fact, he’s started from the front row in his two most recent races on the California road course.

FIRST WIN: Elliott’s first career Cup Series win came at a road course – Watkins Glen in 2018. He started the race from the third position and led 52 of 90 laps en route to the victory.

VIEW FROM THE TOP: This Sunday at Sonoma, No. 9 crew chief Alan Gustafson will call his 47th road course race from atop the pit box. In those starts, he’s led his team to seven wins (all with Elliott) – a series high among active crew chiefs – 17 top-five finishes and 24 top-10s.

PLAYOFF UPDATE: With 11 races left in the regular season, Elliott currently sits 27th in the Cup Series point standings, 98 markers outside of the provisional cutline for a playoff spot. While pointing his way into the playoff field isn’t impossible, the easiest way for the 2020 Cup Series champion to lock himself into the postseason is with a victory. Last season, the summer was a hot one for Elliott and the No. 9 team on the track. Together, they put together five consecutive finishes of second or better, including three of their series-best five wins (Nashville Superspeedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway).

24 WILLIAM BYRON

Age: 25 (Nov. 29, 1997)

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

Resides: Charlotte, North Carolina

Crew Chief: Rudy Fugle

Standings: 2nd

No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

24’S POWER: With just 11 races remaining in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season, William Byron and the No. 24 team are setting the pace in several statistical categories. Through 15 races, Byron tops the series in laps led (717), laps run in the top five (2,241), stage wins (seven), top-five finishes (seven) and average running position (8.5). He is also tied for most wins (three), poles (two) and top-10 finishes (nine). In the last seven races, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native has accumulated the most points (289).

STREAKING: Byron is on a streak of six consecutive top-10 finishes, which is the longest current active mark. This run began at Talladega Superspeedway (finished seventh) and continued at Dover Motor Speedway (finished fourth), Kansas Speedway (finished third), Darlington Raceway (finished first) and Charlotte Motor Speedway (finished second). The most recent of these results occurred last weekend at WWT Raceway, where he started seventh and finished eighth. He has also led in each of the past six races, which is his second-longest streak in the Cup Series (behind seven straight races led in 2019).

PIT ROAD PROWESS: The No. 24 pit crew has three of the six fastest four-tire pit stops in 2023 and the fastest average four-tire pit stop time this season at 10.905 seconds – the only team that has a sub-11-second average. 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.

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 has five wins in the Next Gen car tying him 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.

SONOMA STATS: This Sunday’s race will mark Byron’s fifth Cup Series start at Sonoma Raceway. In his previous four starts, his best showing came in 2019 when he qualified second and raced up front for the majority of the event, collecting 18 stage points and his first Cup Series stage win (one of three he has on road courses). However, with differing strategy, Byron was credited with a 19th-place result. Aside from his four Cup Series starts, Byron has two previous starts at this road course, both coming in what is now known as the ARCA Menards Series West. In fact, his first road race in a stock car came at Sonoma in 2015, where he qualified second and raced to a fifth-place finish. He again ran the ARCA Menards Series West race in 2018, tying his best qualifying effort of second, but crossed the finish line two spots better than his 2015 showing, in the third position.

FUGLE FILES: So far in 2023, the NASCAR Cup Series has raced on one road course – Circuit of The Americas – where crew chief Rudy Fugle and the No. 24 team earned the pole position, won the first stage and finished fifth. In total, Fugle has 13 Cup Series starts on road courses, three starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and seven in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series. In those seven Truck Series starts, the Livonia, New York, native has one win, three top-five finishes, and five top-10s. One of those seven truck starts was also with Byron and the duo raced to a 10th-place finish at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in 2016.

RAPTOR® TOUGH:  For this Sunday’s race at Sonoma, Byron will climb behind the wheel of the No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. RAPTOR® is a durable protective coating that is designed to tolerate the toughest climatic conditions and can be applied to a wide range of items, including truck beds, lawnmowers, outdoor furniture and more. With 16 pre-mixed colors available, it’s easy to personalize anything you want to protect. RAPTOR® is available at local paint distributors, auto parts stores and online retailers. For a better look at Byron’s No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, click here.

48 Alex Bowman

Age: 30 (April 25, 1993)

Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

Resides: Concord, North Carolina

Crew Chief: Blake Harris

Standings: 17th

No. 48 Ally Pride Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

IN THE MIX: Alex Bowman is no slouch when it comes to road course racing. The driver of the No. 48 Ally Pride Chevy has an average finish of 15.08 in 25 starts on serpentine layouts. Most recently, Bowman notched a third-place finish at Circuit of The Americas in March. In that race, he scored a fourth-place finish in the first stage and garnered 41 points – third most of all drivers in that race.

ROAD RECORD: In six starts at Sonoma Raceway, Bowman has a pair of top-10 finishes. During his time at Hendrick Motorsports, he has recorded four top-five finishes and 10 top-10s on road course layouts. Bowman’s two runner-up finishes on road courses are the second-most among active drivers yet to win on that track type.

WEST COAST, BEST COAST: Bowman has taken home hardware from the West Coast on two separate occasions since the start of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season. He notched a win in March 2020 at Auto Club Speedway, followed by his most recent win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March 2022. 

FAST FIVE: Last Sunday at WWT Raceway, the No. 48 Ally Racing pit crew had the fastest average on four-tire pit stops at 9.978 seconds. The over-the-wall crew also posted the second-fastest stop of the race on lap 178, clocking in at 9.743 seconds. The five-man crew consists of Andrew Bridgeforth (rear-tire changer), Jacob Conley (fueler), Allen Holman (jackman), Scott Riddle (tire carrier) and Donnie Tasser (front-tire changer). 

HARRIS IN WINE COUNTRY: While crew chief Blake Harris has only one start atop the pit box at Sonoma, the 36-year-old Maypearl, Texas, native has fared well at the California road course. In last year’s race, Harris’ driver started the race in fourth and finished the second stage in eighth before capturing a third-place result.

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 Pets Lifeline Animal Shelter, which serves the local community of Sonoma. Bowman and Ally will donate $4,800 to Best Friends and the Pets Lifeline Animal Shelter. Additionally, Ally will increase its donation to $10,000 if the No. 48 team wins.

WEAR IT PROUD: In an effort to support the LGBTQ+ community, the No. 48 Ally Pride Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will adorn the pride truth mark and the words “Better Together” on the hood of the car at Sonoma. As part of the employee resource group, Ally is committed to promoting inclusion practices for the LGBTQ+ community at and around Ally and in NASCAR. 

HENDRICK
MOTORSPORTS /

Hendrick Motorsports

2023All-TimeSonoma
Races151,32433
Wins5*296*7*
Poles5*244*10*
Top 519*1,209*33*
Top 1028*2,073*59*
Laps Led1,395*78,712*801*
Stage Wins10*895*

*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. The organization has gone to victory lane at more racetracks (31) than any other active team.

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. Jordan Taylor is on hand as the backup driver and coach. Chad Knaus, the vice president of competition at Hendrick Motorsports, is overseeing the endeavor. Greg Ives is serving as the crew chief. 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. The endurance race gets underway at 10 a.m. ET on June 10, with coverage on MotorTrend TV, MotorTrend+ and SiriusXM (Channel 202).

VIVA LA VICTORY: The Hendrick Motorsports pit crew for Garage 56 scored a win on Tuesday afternoon. The team topped 16 competitors in the GTE class (where it was classified for this event) to win the Pit Stop Challenge with a stop of 10.364 seconds. In the overall competition, the squad placed fifth. The pit crew includes Dawson Backus (front-tire changer), Cody French (front-tire carrier), Jarius Morehead (rear-tire carrier), Mike Moss (rear-tire changer) and Donovan Williams (jackman).

XFINITY RIDES AGAIN: Hendrick Motorsports will make the second of its four starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this season at Sonoma Raceway. Kyle Larson will drive the car this weekend. The entry will also make starts at Watkins Glen International with Alex Bowman and Darlington Raceway with Larson. Kevin Meendering will serve as the crew chief for the race at Sonoma. In the team’s first Xfinity start of 2023 at Circuit of The Americas, William Byron was the runner-up finisher. The organization has one championship and 26 wins in the series, with Tony Stewart recording the last victory to date at Daytona International Speedway in 2009.

EDGE OF SEVENTEEN: For the Xfinity races, the Chevrolet Camaro will carry the No. 17 with sponsorship from HENDRICKCARS.COM. The No. 17 carries special significance to the Hendrick Motorsports family as it is the same number Ricky Hendrick drove in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series. That number has won 39 times in Xfinity Series history, and two of the four drivers to win in it – Darrell Waltrip and Terry Labonte – would go on to win in the Cup Series with the Rick Hendrick-owned organization.

SAVORING SONOMA: Wine country has been the site of much success over the years for the 14-time Cup Series champions. The team leads the way in wins (seven), poles (10), runner-up finishes (seven), top-fives (33), top-10s (59) and laps led (801) at the California facility. Jeff Gordon’s five wins at Sonoma are the most at the track, while Jimmie Johnson and Larson each have one win here for the Concord, North Carolina-based organization.

RULERS OF THE ROAD: With 26 wins, Hendrick Motorsports has the most all-time triumphs on road courses in Cup Series history. The two closest teams in this statistic have combined for only 22 wins. Since its inaugural season in 1984, the organization has won 28.26% of road course events (26 wins in 92 races). The team also tops the board among Cup Series teams on road courses in poles (25), top-five finishes (82), top-10s (140), laps led (2,200) and stage wins (14). Seven different drivers (most by a Cup Series team on road courses) have accounted for the 26 road course wins: Gordon (nine wins), Chase Elliott (seven wins), Larson (four wins), Tim Richmond (three wins), Johnson (one win), Geoff Bodine (one win) and Ricky Rudd (one win).

TAKING STOCK IN THE TRENDS: Of the last 15 races on the West Coast, eight have resulted in victories for Hendrick Motorsports. Larson has four wins, while Byron has two and Bowman and Elliott have one each. On this year’s three-race western swing following the DAYTONA 500, Byron won two of the three races (Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway). The team’s 43 wins on the West Coast are the most in the series.

OUT IN FRONT: In 2023, Hendrick Motorsports has led the most laps, with 1,395 circuits out front, which equates to 33.33% of the laps raced. The squad has led laps in all but one race this season (Atlanta Motor Speedway in March). Byron (717) and Larson (588) rank one-two in that statistical category.

QUOTABLE /

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on racing at Sonoma Raceway: “I always love going back home and racing at Sonoma (Raceway). I always get to see a lot of friends, family and race fans that grew up watching me race sprint cars and stuff around Northern California. I think all of us drivers look forward to going to Sonoma a lot, but with me being from only an hour and half away, it’s a special place. I’ve always qualified really well there. Since I’ve raced with Hendrick (Motorsports), we got a win there in 2021, led some laps in 2022 and had a fast car. We just missed the strategy some and then had a wheel fall off as we were starting to get back into contention. It’s kind of a flowy track. The tires wear out, so you kind of manage your runs quite a good bit. There’s a lot of elevation change too. I enjoy all that.”

Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on what Sonoma means to the team: “With Sonoma (Raceway) being Kyle (Larson)’s home track, it means a lot to him and it means a lot to the team. We love the track layout itself, just the configuration of the track. It’s got ups and downs and sorts of different shapes and sizes of corners that make it really challenging to set up a car to go fast. It certainly makes it challenging for the drivers, but Kyle does a great job there and we just need to do our part to give him a great car. With the way our team has been executing races, hopefully we can have a good car and have ourselves in the game to execute and have a great day.”

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on what it takes to run well at Sonoma: “It’s one of those places that you really do need to attack a little bit. Road course racing in general is pretty aggressive, I think that’s fair to say. Last year, it was very track position oriented, and making sure you executed a good race – from having good restarts to being good on pit road to calling the right strategy. Having pace, too, and then that comes back to your qualifying effort. So really, a full weekend of being pretty aggressive, I feel like is probably the best approach to give you a good shot at it.”

Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on the team’s outlook for the rest of the regular season: “We’re going to keep working hard to get to where we want to be and improve to win some races. We’ve certainly had some pace in our cars. It hasn’t been the most straightforward season for us, but I think everyone’s handled it really well. We just need to get back into a rhythm, put together some good runs and work together to be the best that we can be. If we do those things and work super hard, then we’re going to be in good shape.”

William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on gains needed after the first road course race of the season and how the Next Gen car compares to the previous generation of car: “We’re hoping to make some gains since COTA (Circuit of The Americas). We were sliding around a little too much with the rear tires there. This car seemed like it had a little bit more grip at Sonoma (Raceway) compared to previous years. However, there were some aspects that were very similar like the shifting.”

Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on the strategy of calling races without stage break cautions: “When you have a known caution like we did in the past with the stage breaks, you had to short the stages and then you would cycle forward and have track position. If you raced for stage points, generally you would never make it back up there – specifically after stage two. Now, there is no known caution, so you don’t have short anything. You’re going to split the race up into what you believe is the least amount of elapsed time for the shortest race, whether that’s a two-stop, three-stop or four-stop race. Chances are you will be able to collect stage points and have a chance at the race win.”

Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on returning to Sonoma: “I think Sonoma (Raceway) is a place that we can be successful at this year. Last year, we had a really fast No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro and had a shot at a top-five finish but just got caught up in someone else’s mess. Our team back at the shop has built really fast cars all year and even though I was out for a little bit, I think our team is as good as we were before I missed those couple of races. There is no reason we can’t go compete for a win on any given weekend.”

Blake Harris, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on the team’s outlook for Sonoma: “I am feeling good heading into this weekend. Hendrick Motorsports had really strong cars there last year. Alex (Bowman) was en route to a top-10 run and got caught up in an on-track incident. I think it is a good opportunity after the end of our race last week to turn things around, go perform and push our team into a good spot heading into an off weekend. Sonoma (Raceway) is probably my favorite road course. I just like the atmosphere and I think it is going to be a good one for the No. 48 team.”

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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