Hendrick Motorsports Media Advance: Michigan

by Official Release On Tue, Aug. 07, 2018

MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY (TWO-MILE OVAL)
LOCATION: BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 23 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 2:30 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, AUG. 12 (NBCSN/MRN/SIRIUSXM)


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Chase Elliott
No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Driver Chase Elliott Hometown Dawsonville, Georgia
Age 22 Resides Dawsonville, Georgia

2018 Season
11th in points
22 starts
1 win
1 pole position
6 top-five finishes
11 top-10 finishes
108 laps led

Career
99 starts
1 win
4 pole positions
28 top-five finishes
49 top-10 finishes
1,026 laps led

Track Career
5 starts
0 wins
0 pole positions
3 top-five finishes
5 top-10 finishes
66 laps led

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, will be available to members of the media on Friday, Aug. 10, at 11 a.m. local time in the Michigan International Speedway media center.

#DI9: On Sunday, Chase Elliott claimed his first career NASCAR Cup Series win in dramatic fashion at Watkins Glen International as he held off defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. down the stretch. The victory was also the 250th for Hendrick Motorsports and clinched Elliott’s spot in the 2018 NASCAR playoffs for the third consecutive year. The win puts Elliott as the ninth-youngest first-time winner in the Cup Series (22 years, 8 months, 8 days) and the youngest road-course winner of all time.

100TH CAREER START: This weekend at Michigan, Elliott is set to make his 100th career NASCAR Cup Series start. In his previous 99 starts, the Dawsonville, Georgia, native’s career average starting position is 11.7 and his average finishing position is 13.9. He has completed 27,521 laps and is currently ranked fifth in the playoff standings. The No. 9 team has created a special 100th start decal that will be featured on the NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet at Michigan for the career milestone.

IF ELLIOTT WINS AT MICHIGAN: If Elliott brings home the checkered flag at Michigan International Speedway, he would join the ranks of five other drivers – Lee Petty (1953), Junior Johnson (1959), Rex White (1960), Fred Lorenzen (1965), and Carl Edwards (2007) – who have won their 100th Cup start. He would also join Dick Linder (1950), Jim Reed (1958), Ned Jarrett (1959) and Billy Wade (1964) as drivers who earned their first two Cup wins in consecutive races. Elliott collected his first two NASCAR Xfinity Series wins in consecutive races in April 2014 at Texas Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway.

GUSTAFSON STATS: In his 14th season as a crew chief, Alan Gustafson has called 487 races from atop the pit box. With 21 victories, Gustafson ranks fifth among active crew chiefs for the most wins and he ranks second of active crew chiefs to win with different drivers – Gustafson has won with four (Kyle Busch, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Elliott). In his previous 487 starts, the Florida native has collected 130 top-five finishes, 234 top-10s and 26 pole awards.

LAST THREE RACES: Over the last three races (New Hampshire, Pocono, Watkins Glen), Elliott and the No. 9 team have made gains. The third-year driver has collected 48 stage points and 150 total points, both the most among all drivers. The three stage wins are the most of all Chevrolet drivers in 2018 and also the most of all drivers in the last three races. Elliott’s average running position of 3.88 over the last three races is also the best of all drivers. The driver of the No. 9 Chevy has led 89 laps and averages a starting position of 6.3 and finishing position of 4.3 during that span.

MICHIGAN STATS: Elliott currently holds the best average finish (4.6) of all time at Michigan. He has finished inside the top 10 in all five career NASCAR Cup Series starts at the two-mile oval, giving him the series’ longest active streak of starts prior to a finish outside the top 10 at Michigan. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native has collected three top-five finishes – all of which were runner-up results – at the track. Elliott also averages a starting position of 8.6 at the venue.


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William Byron
No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Driver William Byron Hometown Charlotte, North Carolina
Age 20 Resides Charlotte, North Carolina

2018 Season
20th in points
22 starts
0 wins
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
3 top-10 finishes
53 laps led

Career
22 starts
0 wins
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
3 top-10 finishes
53 laps led

Track Career
1 start
0 wins
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
0 top-10 finishes
0 laps led

BUILDING ON ANOTHER GOOD FINISH: For the second week in a row and the third time this season, William Byron scored a top-10 finish in the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 last Sunday. Byron, the leader of the NASCAR Cup Series rookie-of-the-year standings by 96 points, had another solid race in his first trip to Watkins Glen International in a Cup car. The No. 24 team executed well from start to finish of the 90-lap event to help him earn an eighth-place result. The top-10 finish, along with the eight bonus points Byron earned for finishing third in Stage 1, helped propel him up one spot to 20th in the overall point standings. Byron’s latest two finishes – sixth at Pocono and eighth at Watkins Glen – tie him for fifth among current Cup drivers with the best average finish over the last two races.

MICHIGAN STATS: Byron will make his second Cup Series start at Michigan International Speedway this weekend. The rookie of the year contender earned a top-15 finish at the track in early June after qualifying 14th and earning points in both stages before coming home 13th in the rain-shortened event. Byron has also experienced success at the two-mile oval in the other NASCAR national series. In his lone Xfinity Series race at Michigan, he started fourth and finished second, just missing the win after leading eight of the final nine laps of the race. Byron rebounded to win the next two Xfinity Series races at Iowa and Daytona. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native has one start at the Brooklyn, Michigan, track in the Camping World Truck Series in 2016, when he qualified third and led nine laps en route to a fourth-place finish.

TOUGH TO WIN: Michigan International Speedway is notoriously a tough place for a rookie driver to earn a Cup Series win, or for any Cup driver to score their first win. Only two drivers have accomplished the feat of earning their first win at Michigan – Dale Jarrett in 1991 and Kyle Larson in 2016. On a positive note for Byron going into this weekend, history shows that while it may be tough to break through for the win, rookies have racked up solid results at the two-mile oval. Through the years, 10 rookies have earned top-three finishes at the Brooklyn, Michigan, track, and two Hendrick Motorsports drivers earned top-three finishes in both the June and August events in their respective rookie seasons – Chase Elliott in 2016 and Jeff Gordon in 1993.

GRUBB’S LEADERSHIP: Byron is in good hands with his veteran crew chief, Darian Grubb. Ranking active Cup crew chiefs with the most wins, Grubb is part of a three-way tie for second with 23 wins. He leads the category among active crew chiefs for the number of wins with different drivers, earning those 23 wins with five different wheelmen.

LIBERTY RETURNS: The blue and red Liberty University colors will adorn the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the 11th time this season as the university strives to inspire current and prospective students to “ignite their dreams.” Liberty is the majority primary partner of the No. 24 team with 14 races in 2018, with the final three races as primary scheduled for Bristol Motor Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Richmond Raceway. Liberty University, founded in 1971, offers more than 550 unique programs of study from the certificate to the doctoral level. William Byron, a sophomore majoring in business communications, takes online classes at Liberty, which offers more than 250 programs online.

FINAL WEEK FOR HERTZ SWEEPS: Hertz is currently running a sweepstakes where with the booking of a Hertz rental car, fans have a chance to be entered to win a VIP race weekend experience in Phoenix, Arizona, by using the provided promotional code when booking the rental car. The grand prize includes a trip for four to Phoenix from Nov. 9-12, four VIP tickets to the Nov. 11 race at ISM Raceway, a meet-and-greet with Byron, a tour of the No. 24 Hertz hauler, pit box seating with pit and garage access, round-trip airfare, a three-night hotel stay, and, of course, a Hertz rental car. There is just one week left to enter the sweepstakes, which runs from July 1 to Aug. 15! Click here for more information or to enter.


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Jimmie Johnson
No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Driver Jimmie Johnson Hometown El Cajon, California
Age 42 Resides Charlotte, North Carolina

2018 Season
14th in points
22 starts
0 wins
0 pole positions
2 top-five finishes
7 top-10 finishes
16 laps led

Career
601 starts
83 wins
35 pole positions
224 top-five finishes
348 top-10 finishes
18,679 laps led

Track Career
33 starts
1 win
0 pole positions
5 top-five finishes
13 top-10 finishes
687 laps led

CHIPPING AWAY: Over the last three races, Jimmie Johnson’s average running position has ranked ninth among all Cup Series drivers, and in four of the past five races, his average running position has been higher than his race finish. The El Cajon, California, native has spent 43 laps running in the top two in the last five races, more than he had in the prior 17 races of 2018 combined.

THE PUSH: As teammate Chase Elliott took the checkered flag for Sunday’s win and made his way around the 2.45-mile track at Watkins Glen for a victory lap, he ran out of fuel. Johnson, who finished 30th after a late-race incident, passed him and realized his young teammate’s predicament. Johnson put the Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet in reverse to give the No. 9 machine a push back to the frontstretch as the crowd cheered. Johnson then got out of his No. 48 Chevy and hugged Elliott before Victory Lane celebrations began. For more on “the push,” click here.

MICHIGAN ON THE HORIZION: Johnson has had some exciting finishes at the two-mile paved oval in the Irish Hills of Michigan. He has the fifth-best driver rating among current drivers and an average finish of 16.1 at the track. Of all current drivers, Johnson has led the most laps around Michigan International Speedway with 687 – over 200 laps more than his next closest competitor. After a few close calls and near misses, Johnson scored his first win at Michigan on June 15, 2014, leading 39 laps en route to the checkered flag.

WINNING WAYS: Of all drivers who have won on tracks of two miles in distance, Johnson and NASCAR Hall of Famers Bill Elliott and Richard Petty all have seven, behind Hall of Famers David Pearson and Cale Yarborough, who each have nine. When it comes to wins at the next four tracks on the schedule, Johnson has earned the second-most of all current drivers with 10.

JOHNSON’S SPECIAL GLOVES: During the Watkins Glen race weekend, Johnson wore Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s signature skeleton gloves to raise awareness for the Dale and Amy Earnhardt Fund at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Following the race, Johnson signed the gloves and they will be auctioned off on the NASCAR Foundation site beginning Aug. 8. The funds will support patients and their families in pediatric injury rehabilitation, research and prevention. Click here for the auction: https://www.nascarfoundation.org/dalejr

THE GLEN REWIND: Johnson and the No. 48 team practiced in the top 10 during the Watkins Glen weekend and ended up 13th in qualifying. In the opening stage, the driver powered forward and gained points by finishing second. Then, Johnson was penalized for driving through too many pit boxes and had to fall to the rear of the field. In the closing laps, Johnson made contact with another competitor and hit the wall, causing damage to his No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, and he ultimately finished 30th.

LOCAL TIES: Brandon Harder, longtime fueler for the No. 48 team, views Michigan International Speedway as a hometown track of sorts. Harder went to Bowling Green State University and grew up in Oak Harbor, Ohio, roughly 90 miles from the track. He has been a member of the No. 48 team since 2009.

JJ AT THE CHEVY STAGE: Johnson will make an appearance at the Team Chevy stage for a question-and-answer session this weekend at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, Aug. 12, at 11:25 a.m. local time.

VIP EXPERIENCE: Johnson has two more VIP experiences remaining for the 2018 season. The package gives fans the opportunity to meet the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in a one-on-one setting and includes a meet-and-greet, an autograph and a photo with Johnson along with a behind-the-scenes garage tour and an amazing, exclusive gift. Packages remain for Indianapolis and Dover. For more information, visit: https://jimmiejohnsonvip.com/.


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Alex Bowman
No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Driver Alex Bowman Hometown Tucson, Arizona
Age 25 Resides Mooresville, North Carolina

2018 Season
15th in points
22 starts
0 wins
1 pole position
2 top-five finishes
8 top-10 finishes
67 laps led

Career
103 starts
0 wins
2 pole positions
2 top-five finishes
11 top-10 finishes
270 laps led

Track Career
6 starts
0 wins
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
0 top-10 finishes
0 laps led

THE LAST SEVEN: In the last seven races, Alex Bowman has captured one top five finish, four top-10s and six top-15 finishes – the same statistics he amassed over the first 15 races of the season. In the most recent seven races, the Tucson, Arizona, native’s average finish has improved to 13.71 versus 15.87 in the first 15 events of the campaign. Over the past two races, Bowman’s average finish of 8.5 is tied for seventh among all NASCAR Cup Series drivers.

WATKINS GLEN REWIND: Bowman earned his 12th top-15 finish this season after bringing home a 14th-place finish at Watkins Glen International last weekend. The No. 88 team rolled off the grid in the 22nd position. At the conclusion of Stage 1, the driver was scored in the seventh position, earning four stage points. The driver fell back at the start of the second segment and when the green-checkered flag waved at the end of Stage 2, Bowman was running 16th. The team would advance two more positions before the conclusion of the event to finish 14th. Bowman now sits 62 markers ahead of the cut line in the playoff standings, currently ranked 16th.

IVES AT HOME: No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives, a Bark River, Michigan, native, will call the shots atop the pit box for the eighth time at his home track when the NASCAR Cup Series visits Michigan International Speedway this weekend. Ives has one top-five finish and three top-10s at the Brooklyn, Michigan, venue. Ives has one runner-up finish that came back in 2015 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. was behind the wheel. Earlier this season, the No. 88 team captured a 16th-place finish at Michigan.

BOWMAN AT MICHIGAN: Bowman has six previous Cup Series starts at Michigan International Speedway. Two of those starts came with Hendrick Motorsports, once in 2016 and again earlier this season. In the June race this season, Bowman and the No. 88 team qualified 21st and brought home the 16th-place finish after turning 133 laps on track. The driver has made four starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the track, where he averages a starting position of 7.8 and a finishing position of 14.0. Bowman’s lone NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at the two-mile speedway came in 2015 when he started 16th and finished 11th. In 2012, the driver ran one event at the track in the ARCA Racing Series, starting third and finishing as the runner-up after leading 12 laps.

FIRST-TIME WINNERS: If Bowman were to win this weekend in Michigan, it would be his first career Cup Series victory in 104 career starts. The driver would join two other drivers who captured their first career wins at Michigan. Dale Jarrett won the August event back in 1991 after leading 12 laps and Kyle Larson went to Victory Lane in the August race in 2016.

AXALTA IS BACK: The Axalta colors will be back on board the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 this weekend in Michigan. Axalta will be featured on the No. 88 machine six more times this season, and its next race as the primary partner will be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next month.

HOME TRACK: Four members of the No. 88 Nationwide team have ties to the state of Michigan. That includes Ives, who grew up approximately 443 miles from the two-mile speedway and received his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Michigan Technological University (MTU). Race engineer Doug Wojcik grew up in Wisconsin but attended MTU while earning his engineering degree. He began his career as an intern at JR Motorsports following his graduation. Hauler driver Andy “Squigz” Quillan grew up in Belding, Michigan, which is approximately two hours from Michigan International Speedway. Quillan grew up a NASCAR fan and attended his first race at his home track as a kid. Front-tire changer Scott Brzozowski grew up in Sterling Heights, Michigan, which is just outside Detroit. Brzozowski started out as a member of the No. 24 over-the-wall crew before switching to the No. 88 team in 2015.

MICHIGAN VICTORY TOUR: On Wednesday, July 25, Bowman flew to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to promote the upcoming 400-mile race this Sunday. Bowman participated in a question-and-answer session, and a city official read a proclamation naming July 25 “Alex Bowman Day” in Grand Rapids. The 25-year-old even tried his hand at cooking tamales on a food truck and was present for a donation of $1,000 to the Humane Society of West Michigan courtesy of MIS Cares. Bowman’s day was chronicled here.


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Hendrick Motorsports

FINDING 250: With Chase Elliott’s win last weekend at Watkins Glen International, Hendrick Motorsports earned its 250th points-paying NASCAR Cup Series win. The victory came 34 years, three months and seven days after the organization’s first win at Martinsville Speedway on April 29, 1984. In that time, the organization has won with 17 different drivers – the second-most all-time – at a total of 26 different tracks across 19 states. Those drivers have ranged in age from 20 (Kyle Busch in 2005) to 50 (Mark Martin in 2009). Twenty-four crew chiefs have contributed to the 250 wins with seven different car numbers representing the organization in Victory Lane. The one constant throughout the victories has been Chevrolet, the only manufacturer with which Hendrick Motorsports has won. Only Petty Enterprises has more Cup Series wins with 268. Joe Gibbs Racing is third all-time at 155, followed by Junior Johnson and Associates with 153 wins and Roush Fenway Racing with 137. Since Hendrick Motorsports’ founding in 1984, its 250 wins are the most of all teams, 95 victories ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing.

FIRST-TIME WINNERS: With Elliott earning his first Cup Series win at Watkins Glen, Hendrick Motorsports now holds the record for the most first-time Cup Series winners with nine. If William Byron or Alex Bowman wins at Michigan, it will extend the record to the 10th time a driver has recorded his first career Cup Series win while driving for Hendrick Motorsports.

ON A ROLL: A Hendrick Motorsports driver has led laps in each of the past five races, amassing a total of 138 laps led during that span after the organization led just two laps in the prior six races. Thanks to Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports has notched a stage win in each of the past three races – the organization’s only stage wins this season. Over the past three races, Hendrick Motorsports has improved its average finish to 10.5 versus 17.42 from the prior six races. In the three-race span, it has amassed one win, three top-five finishes, seven top-10s and 100 laps led.

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT MICHIGAN: Hendrick Motorsports drivers have led 2,478 laps en route to eight wins, 52 top-five finishes and 98 top-10s in addition to 11 pole positions at Michigan International Speedway. The organization swept both races in 2014 for its most recent wins at the two-mile oval.

MASTERING MICHIGAN: Hendrick Motorsports’ eight NASCAR Cup Series victories at Michigan have come via five different drivers: Jeff Gordon (three), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (two), Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Ricky Rudd.

CHEVROLET STRONG: Chevrolet has won six of the last nine races at Michigan since June 2014, with two of those wins belonging to Hendrick Motorsports courtesy of Johnson and Gordon.

PLAYOFF POSITIONING: Elliott secured his 2018 NASCAR playoff berth with his win at Watkins Glen, and two of his teammates are currently in position to join him: Johnson and Bowman. The three teammates in playoff position are tied for the second-most among all teams in the NASCAR Cup Series.

ORGANIZATION STATS: To date, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 12 championships, 250 race victories, 215 pole positions, 1,039 top-five finishes and 1,769 top-10 finishes in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led more than 67,000 laps since 1984.


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QUOTABLE /
Chase Elliott on racing at Michigan:
“It’s been a good place, no doubt; I won’t deny that. It also helps when you haven’t run many, too, to help that average. But I was really encouraged when we left Pocono in the spring race that we were going to be able to go to Michigan and be really solid again, and we went there and really struggled. I think that’ll be kind of a testament to really see where we stack up and where our gains have got us because at that racetrack, the driver certainly is a big deal everywhere, but you’ve got to have your stuff driving good to be good at Michigan. I think we’ve gotten better, so I hope that we’re improved, and we’ll see where we stack up.”

William Byron on racing at Michigan:
“I think this race at Michigan will be a little different than the first race just because it will most likely be a little hotter than it was in June. I think you’ll need to move around a little more than in the first race, but we’ll still try to apply what we learned the first time. We were pretty good there in June, so hopefully the second time around is even better.”

Byron on visiting tracks for the second time in a Cup car:
“In the beginning of the year, I was going to the track trying not to make a mistake or finish poorly, and this time around, I’m more focused on going out there and trying to finish in the top five and run really competitively. For whatever reason, it seems like in the summertime something always clicks for me. I think I just start to get that routine of what we’re doing and I start to understand the race car a little bit better too. It’s pretty big to be able to go back to the same track again. I feel like the first time you’re just trying to do what you’ve seen other people do, whereas the second time you go, you know if something’s better or worse because you remember the feeling you had in the car the first time, and it helps with things like getting to pit road under green, for example. You definitely can see why experience matters and how that can help you be a better driver.”

Byron on the team gaining speed:
“I feel like we’re not guessing anymore on what is going to make the car fast. We’re picking a couple of things in the car that we’re fine-tuning instead of throwing a whole setup at the car. There’s not necessarily a magical setup, but we go to the track with an idea of exactly what is going to make the car better. It makes it a lot of fun. Darian and I are smiling a lot more. The team guys are smiling, and during the week we’re actually accomplishing a lot before we get to the track. The meetings are becoming more in-depth, which is good.”

Jimmie Johnson on giving Chase Elliott a helpful push at Watkins Glen:
“I pulled up alongside him to give him the thumbs up and then I could see his car wasn’t running as I drove away, so I backed up and helped him along. Seeing Chase’s arm pumping along the way was so cool as I was pushing him. What a moment.”

Johnson on Elliott’s win:
“I’m beyond happy for Chase and proud of the effort and strides we have been making at Hendrick Motorsports – what a great win for this company. I’m looking forward to carrying that momentum with us to Michigan this weekend.”

Alex Bowman on finding success at Michigan:
“We just need to put together a whole race without anything bad happening and run where we have the speed to run. We will wait and see. I like that place, though. We weren’t as strong last time there as I thought we would be, but our cars are getting better each and every week, so I think we can be much better there this coming race.”

** The opinions expressed on this site are not necessarily those of the publisher. All comments other than website related problems need to be directed to the author. (c)SpeedwayMedia.com. **

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