Hendrick Motorsports Media Advance: Darlington

DARLINGTON RACEWAY (1.366-MILE OVAL)

LOCATION: DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACES FIVE AND SIX OF 36)
TUNE IN: 3:30 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, MAY 17 (FOX/MRN/SIRIUSXM)
7:30 P.M. ET, WEDNESDAY, MAY 20 (FS1/MRN/SIRIUSXM)

Chase Elliott
No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

Driver Chase Elliott   Hometown Dawsonville, Georgia
Age 24                       Resides Dawsonville, Georgia

2020 Season

  • 3rd in standings
  • 4 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 2 top-10 finishes
  • 186 laps led

Career

  • 153 starts
  • 6 wins
  • 9 pole positions
  • 45 top-five finishes
  • 76 top-10 finishes
  • 2,030 laps led

Track Career 

  • 5 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 2 top-10 finishes
  • 9 laps led
STRONG START: Four races into the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, Chase Elliott has recorded some impressive stats. He leads all drivers for most laps led thus far with 186. Elliott also leads the competition for most stage points collected this season (50). The driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE is currently third in the driver point standings, a major improvement from being 13th after four races in the 2019 season.

WEST COAST STRIDES: During NASCAR’s three weeks on the West Coast earlier this year, Elliott and the No. 9 team made big strides, posting the fastest speed in final practice and collecting their first 2020 pole award at Phoenix Raceway. The 24-year-old driver also led more laps than anyone else (163) and totaled the fourth-highest points (110) during the three-week stint.

ELLIOTT AT DARLINGTON: Elliott has made five NASCAR Cup Series starts at Darlington Raceway and will make two more over the next week. In his previous starts at the 1.366-mile track, he has one top-five finish and two top-10s. Elliott also has three starts at the South Carolina track in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He won during his first Xfinity Series start in 2014 – one of only four drivers to win at Darlington in their first-ever start at the track.

GUSTAFSON’S ‘TRACK TOO TOUGH TO TAME’ STATS: No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson has called 15 Cup Series races at Darlington atop the pit box. Leading five different drivers, he’s collected one win, three top-five results and six top-10s. Gustafson’s Darlington win came in 2009 with veteran Mark Martin, the second oldest driver (50 years, 4 months) to win at the track “Too Tough To Tame.”

NAPA KNOW HOW: NAPA AUTO PARTS will serve as the primary sponsor for Sunday’s The Real Heroes 400 and next Wednesday’s Darlington 500. In February, it was announced that NAPA AUTO PARTS and Hendrick Motorsports will continue their partnership for another two seasons. NAPA will remain a primary sponsor of Elliott and the No. 9 team through 2022. Click here to read the full release.

‘BEHIND THE 9’: Crew chief Gustafson is trying his hand as a video host for Hendrick Motorsports in a new series called “Behind the 9.” In the new video series, Gustafson interviews each member of the No. 9 team. Fans are able to get an inside look at the crew and learn about where they came from and the roles they each serve – all bringing unique talents and skills to the group. Episodes are released every Tuesday on the Hendrick Motorsports Facebook page and YouTube channel.

NASCAR HEAT 5: Last week, Hendrick Motorsports revealed that Elliott will be featured on the cover of NASCAR Heat 5. The game is set to launch in July for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles and on PC via stream.

William Byron
No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

Driver William Byron   Hometown Charlotte, North Carolina
Age 22                         Resides Charlotte, North Carolina

2020 Season

  • 19th in standings
  • 4 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 1 top-10 finish
  • 1 lap led

Career

  • 76 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 5 pole positions
  • 5 top-five finishes
  • 18 top-10 finishes
  • 295 laps led

Track Career 

  • 2 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 1 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 0 top-10 finishes
  • 0 laps led
PICKING UP THE PACE: With four races completed in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, William Byron and the No. 24 team have picked up where they left off in 2019 and continued to improve with every event on the track. Scoring a win in the Duel at Daytona and picked as one of the favorites to contend for the win during the DAYTONA 500, Byron unfortunately saw his day end early. Since then, the 22-year-old driver’s next three results have showed an upward trajectory, most recently with a 10th-place finish at Phoenix Raceway. Despite the time away from the track, Byron is optimistic that the positive trend will continue for him and his team.

IRACING INFLUENCE: While waiting to climb back in his No. 24 race car, Byron was one of many drivers who spent time virtually racing in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series. While iRacing was new to some, Byron is a seasoned veteran. He credits the platform, which helped get him started in racing, as one of the building blocks of his career. Across the five Pro Invitational races he competed in, Byron won three and led 407 laps of the 758 laps run, more than the rest of the field combined.

AT IT AGAIN WITH AXALTA: Switching from virtual racing back to the real-life track, Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE will return with the iconic Axalta flames for both Cup Series events at Darlington Raceway. Earlier this year, Hendrick Motorsports announced a seven-year extension with longtime partner Axalta Coating Systems. As a leading global company focused solely on coatings and providing customers with innovative, colorful, beautiful and sustainable solutions, Axalta is continuing its 28-year partnership with Hendrick Motorsports as a primary partner for the No. 24. The company sponsored Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 team for 23 years beginning in November 1992 before moving to the No. 88 team in 2016 and sharing primary sponsorship with the No. 24 starting in 2018. This year, Axalta returned as primary partner on the No. 24 Chevrolet for 22 races. Through 2027, Axalta will adorn the No. 24 as the primary sponsor for 14 races per season. For more information on the Axalta extension, click here.

DARLINGTON DEETS: With two Cup Series starts at “The Lady in Black” and one Xfinity Series start there, Byron is looking to capitalize on his prior strong showings at Darlington Raceway for the next two events. Last year in a “Days of Thunder” throwback car, Byron channeled his inner Cole Trickle and captured the pole for the Southern 500, becoming the youngest pole winner in Darlington history at 21 years, 9 months and 2 days. Running within the top five for the majority of the rain-delayed race, Byron was caught up in a late incident that relegated him to a 21st-place finish despite his strong run. During his rookie year, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native ran solidly inside the top 10 before mechanical issues ended his race early, as well.

KNAUS DIGS DARLINGTON: For the 23rd and 24th times as a NASCAR Cup Series crew chief, Chad Knaus will sit atop the pit box at Darlington Raceway on Sunday and Wednesday. With three wins at the 1.366-mile oval, all coming with Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team, Knaus also has one pole award at Darlington from last year with Byron and the No. 24 team.

SOUTH CAROLINA STATE OF MIND: While No. 24 team fueler Landon Walker hails from North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, he has significant ties to the southernmost Carolina state, having played football at Clemson University. The former offensive tackle earned a scholarship to Clemson in 2007 after being named an All-American offensive lineman at East Wilkes High School. While playing at Clemson, Walker recorded 3,131 snaps with 49 starts at tackle through four seasons. In 2011, Walker was named team captain, the same season Clemson went on to win the Atlantic Coast Conference championship. The college football standout was recruited by Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 and earned a position as starting fueler in 2015.

Jimmie Johnson
No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

Driver Jimmie Johnson   Hometown El Cajon, California
Age 44                             Resides Charlotte, North Carolina

2020 Season

  • 5th in standings
  • 4 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 2 top-10 finishes
  • 13 laps led

Career

  • 655 starts
  • 83 wins
  • 36 pole positions
  • 228 top-five finishes
  • 366 top-10 finishes
  • 18,847 laps led

Track Career 

  • 21 starts
  • 3 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 9 top-five finishes
  • 12 top-10 finishes
  • 554 laps led
ONE FINAL TIME RESUMES: Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Ally team built momentum in the first four races of the 2020 season. Following a premature exit in the DAYTONA 500, Johnson, crew chief Cliff Daniels and team have recorded two top-10 finishes and one top-five. They are fifth in the points standings entering the May 17 Darlington Raceway event.

ABOUT MAY: Historically, May 17 has been a good day for Johnson. He scored the first of his record four All-Star Race wins on May 17, 2003, and recorded the first of his four Charlotte 600 victories the following weekend for a Charlotte Motor Speedway sweep. Over the course of his career, 10 of Johnson’s 83 wins have come in the month of May.

ODDS IN HIS FAVOR: Johnson is pretty good at the Darlington and Charlotte racetracks. At both venues, he has a combined 11 wins in 56 starts. Johnson has three runner-up efforts, 25 top-five finishes and 34 top-10 results while leading a combined 2,484 laps across his career. His average finishes are 12.1 at Darlington and 12.2 at Charlotte.

JOHNSON’S LUCKY CHARM: Johnson has gone 99 races without a win, but Darlington in May has proven to be lucky for the driver of the No. 48 Ally Camaro. Twice Johnson has gotten his first win of the season at “The Lady in Black” — in 2004 and 2012. He also has recorded 10 of his 83 career wins in the month of May, the second-best month for him after October (14).

CHAMPIONSHIP POTENTIAL: Johnson’s resume at Darlington puts him in good company. Over the course of its history, Hendrick Motorsports has sent six drivers to victory lane at the South Carolina track. Three of them have gone on to win championships while driving for the organization. They include former teammates and NASCAR Hall of Famers Jeff Gordon, who has seven wins at “The Lady in Black,” and Terry Labonte, who drove the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports to his final career win at Darlington in 2003.

200TH WIN FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS: Johnson is the most recent Hendrick Motorsports driver to win at the track “Too Tough To Tame.” In the process, he captured the organization’s milestone 200th NASCAR Cup Series victory. Starting the May 12, 2012, event on the outside pole, Johnson led 134 of 368 laps, including the final 44, en route to the victory.

NOT DONE YET: There are some huge milestones on the horizon for Johnson. The next time he crosses the finish line first he will have scored his 84th points-paying Cup Series win to tie Hall of Famers Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison for fourth all-time. Johnson currently is 10 wins behind former teammate Jeff Gordon, who has 93 victories and is third on the list. Johnson has the most wins of all active drivers with 83.

#DEARSPORTS: Over the hiatus, Johnson participated in a #DearSports social media video project and shared his feelings about how much he misses sports and competing. For the heartfelt video, click here.

Alex Bowman
No. 88 ChevyGoods.com/NOCO
 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

Driver Alex Bowman   Hometown Tucson, Arizona
Age 27                         Resides Concord, North Carolina

2020 Season

  • 4th in standings
  • 4 starts
  • 1 win
  • 0 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 1 top-10 finish
  • 113 laps led

Career

  • 157 starts
  • 2 wins
  • 2 pole positions
  • 11 top-five finishes
  • 27 top-10 finishes
  • 587 laps led

Track Career 

  • 4 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 0 top-10 finishes
  • 0 laps led
WELCOME CHEVYGOODS.COM: This weekend marks the first event of the 2020 season in which the ChevyGoods.com scheme will adorn the hood of the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE in an on-track event. The black and yellow paint scheme was featured at four tracks in the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series, including Alex Bowman’s first iRacing win at Talladega Superspeedway just a few weeks ago. Hendrick Motorsports announced its partnership with ChevyGoods.com earlier this season, which includes branding on Bowman’s ride for 26 events. Associate brands that will be featured are Adam’s Polishes, NOCO and Truck Hero.

DARLINGTON STATS: Bowman, a Tucson, Arizona, native, has four previous starts in the NASCAR Cup Series at Darlington Raceway. His best finish of 18th came in 2019 and his best start of fourth was in 2018. The 27-year-old driver has completed 99.4% of the total laps completed at the track. The Hendrick Motorsports driver also has one start at the 1.366-mile facility in the NASCAR Xfinity Series where he started 13th and finished 17th in 2013 after completing 147 laps.

BOWMAN’S 2020 SEASON TO DATE: Since the start of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, Bowman’s eyes have been set on victory lane. He dominated the race weekend at Auto Club Speedway in March, leading more than 50% of the event (110 of 200 laps). He is one of five drivers who have led over 100 total laps this season. Since the DAYTONA 500, Bowman has captured a total of 38 stage points, including one stage win in California.

POINTS, POINTS, POINTS: The No. 88 team currently sits third in the NASCAR Cup Series playoff standings. Bowman is one of three Hendrick Motorsports drivers inside the top five, including teammates Chase Elliott (third) and Jimmie Johnson (fifth).

IVES ‘TOO TOUGH TO TAME’: For the sixth time in his career in the NASCAR Cup Series, crew chief Greg Ives will call the shots at Darlington for the No. 88 team. The Bark River, Michigan, native’s best finish at the venue came back in 2015 with driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. when he crossed the line eighth after 367 laps. Ives’ drivers have completed 99.7% of the total laps and have one top-10 finish at the facility. Ives was the crew chief for Elliott in the NASCAR Xfinity Series when the team captured the victory after leading 52 laps back in 2014. From 2006-2012, Ives was a race engineer for the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team. During that time, he was a part of one Cup Series win (2012) and four top-five finishes at Darlington.

VIRTUAL RACING WITH BOWMAN: When the NASCAR Cup Series season was delayed earlier this year, drivers began racing in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series. Bowman made six starts in the series, capturing one win (Talladega), two top-five finishes and four top-10s. The driver of the No. 88 machine said the series kept him busy and the win at Talladega gave him and the team some momentum.

THE OTHER SIDE OF BOWMAN: Each month, Bowman shares a first-person diary piece with Motorsport.com to give fans a behind-the-scenes look at his life both on and off the track. Last month, he talked about moving into the new Alex Bowman Racing facility, building a C6 Corvette drift car and working on midget cars. Check it out here.

Hendrick Motorsports

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT DARLINGTON: Hendrick Motorsports has 14 NASCAR Cup Series wins at Darlington Raceway, the most of any team in history. Jeff Gordon owns half of the victories with seven, while Jimmie Johnson has three. Terry Labonte, Mark Martin, Tim Richmond and Ricky Rudd each have one Darlington win for owner Rick Hendrick.

MAY IN THE PALMETTO STATE: May 17 will mark the 22nd Cup Series race held at Darlington in the month of May but the first since 2013. Hendrick Motorsports has won three of the last seven May events there with Johnson the most recent in 2012, Martin in 2009 and Gordon in 2007. All three victories carried some significance. Johnson brought home Hendrick Motorsports’ 200th points-paying Cup win, Martin became the second-oldest driver to win at the track (50 years, 4 months) and Gordon climbed to sixth on the all-time victories list when he won his 76th race.

2020 IN A NUTSHELL: Three of Hendrick Motorsports’ four drivers are in the top five in the NASCAR Cup Series standing after four races in 2020. Chase Elliott is in third place, followed by Alex Bowman in fourth and Johnson in fifth. Elliott leads all drivers with the most stage wins (three), while Bowman is one of three drivers this season to have a win under his belt.

ORGANIZATION STATS: To date, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 12 championships, 257 race victories, 226 pole positions, 1,074 top-five finishes and 1,854 top-10 finishes in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led more than 68,000 laps since 1984. With Bowman’s win at Auto Club Speedway, the organization extended its streak to 35 consecutive seasons with at least one win, the longest all-time streak.

QUOTABLE / 

Chase Elliott’s expectations on returning to the track:
“It will be really interesting. NASCAR has never seen anything like what we are about to see this year. Showing up and just racing without any on-track time or any prep inside the car is super unorthodox and has never really even been considered until this. It’s exciting to have something new and I’m excited that we are going to be back on TV and give our fans something to watch. I think the silver lining is that we are going to be able to offer something to our viewers on TV.”

William Byron on how he’s ready to get back to racing:
I’m excited to get back on track this week. While being able to spend some time at home to regroup has been nice, I’m ready to get back behind the wheel and keep the momentum going that the No. 24 team had been working on this year. It will be different not having any practice or qualifying before we race, but everyone is in the same position. Darlington (Raceway) is a track that relies on car setup and tire management. You’re constantly on the wheel it feels like, so you try to work the grip limit while not over taxing it. I’ve had good runs going my last two races there, but we’ve just had bad luck. Hopefully that changes this time.”

Jimmie Johnson on racing without qualifying or practice sessions:
“Its hard to say how things are going to go. But the depth we have in the No. 48 team and at Hendrick Motorsports, this is a great challenge for us. It could be beneficial for us. I think my physical fitness and knowledge of hydration will also certainly come into play racing twice a week – these racetracks are tough. I’m very excited for this opportunity.”

On what he has been doing at home:
“We are highly organized around the house. We have checked things off the list that we haven’t been able to get to for a very long time. I am an educator and homeschooler dad now, as I assume most people out there have become. As things have opened up I have been able to take some laps in a go-kart with my girls, done some pedaling and dirt biking and obviously I have done the iRacing thing.”

Alex Bowman’s thoughts heading back to live racing:
“I am definitely ready to get back in the No. 88 Chevrolet and race on track. Virtual racing was a great way to pass this time, but man am I glad to get back to the real track. Darlington is tough track at times, but this team has brought some fast Camaro ZL1 1LE’s to the track this season and I have tons of confidence that they will do that this weekend.”

Crew chief Greg Ives on how different Darlington’s events will be:
“Going to Darlington, unloading and going straight to the race is going to be interesting. We typically unload pretty close each weekend and Alex is good at adapting to what we have. With the pit crew making quick stops and getting the team great track position helps put us in the right spot. We always say that the race is ultimately won in the shop, so this will be a true test.”

TRENDING / 

The words you’ve been waiting to hear … it’s officially race week!

@TooToughToTame, we are coming for you.

@TeamHendrick via Twitter
5/11/20, 11:44 a.m. ET

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