Hendrick Motorsports Media Advance: Auto Club Speedway

by Official Release On Wed, Mar. 13, 2019

AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY (TWO-MILE OVAL)
LOCATION: FONTANA, CALIFORNIA
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE FIVE OF 36)
TUNE IN: 3:30 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, MARCH 17 (FOX/MRN/SIRIUSXM)


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Chase Elliott
No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Driver Chase Elliott Hometown Dawsonville, Georgia
Age 23 Resides Dawsonville, Georgia

2019 Season
13th in standings
4 starts
0 wins
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
1 top-10 finish
0 laps led

Career
117 starts
3 wins
4 pole positions
33 top-five finishes
60 top-10 finishes
1,243 laps led

Track Career
3 starts
0 wins
0 pole positions
0 top-five finish
2 top-10 finish
5 laps led

TWO-MILE PROWESS: This weekend, Chase Elliott is set to make his fourth NASCAR Cup Series start at Auto Club Speedway (ACS) and his 10th Cup start at a two-mile track (ACS and Michigan International Speedway). In his nine previous Cup Series starts on two-mile tracks, Elliott has garnered three top-five finishes – all runner-up results – and eight top-10 finishes. He also averages a starting position of 12.9 and finishing position of 7.1 at two-mile tracks.

GUSTAFSON AT ACS: No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson is set to call his 21st race from atop the pit box at the Fontana, California, track this weekend. In his previous 20 starts, Gustafson has one win, four top-five finishes and 11 top-10s. His sole win at ACS came in Sept. 2005 with Kyle Busch – his first career victory as a crew chief. In his three Cup starts with Elliott at the track, Gustafson averages a starting position of 17.3 and finishing position of 10.7.

CALIFORNIA IS HOME: No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS rear-tire changer Chad Avrit will compete at his home track in the Golden State this weekend. Avrit grew up in El Centro, California, and was an avid surfer before moving to Mooresville, North Carolina, to pursue a career in motor sports. When not at the track, he enjoys spending time with his two sons, hanging out on the lake and mountain biking.

LAST TIME IN CALI: During last season’s visit to ACS, the No. 9 team started 31st, but Elliott quickly moved through the pack and broke into the top 20 by Lap 12. The NAPA AUTO PARTS team continued to gain positions as Elliott climbed inside the top 10 with 12 laps remaining in the opening stage. At the conclusion of Stage 1, Elliott was scored 14th. During the stage break, the No. 9 pit crew gained five positions with quick work on pit road that moved Elliott back into the top 10 for the beginning of Stage 2. The driver was shuffled back on the restart to 18th, but with another quick stop he regained his position in the top 15. Over the course of the final run, Elliott slipped back several positions to 16th, where he’d ultimately end the race.

CHECK OUT THOSE HATS: This weekend in California, the No. 9 team will wear special, limited-edition NAPA hats at the racetrack. The hats are part of NAPA AUTO PARTS’ March in-store promotion. In the month of March, when customers spend $25 in store they will receive the No. 9 NAPA Racing/Chase Elliott hat, while supplies last.


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William Byron
No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Driver William Byron Hometown Charlotte, North Carolina
Age 21 Resides Charlotte, North Carolina

2019 Season
18th in standings
4 starts
0 wins
1 pole position
0 top-five finishes
0 top-10 finishes
65 laps led

Career
40 starts
0 wins
1 pole position
0 top-five finishes
4 top-10 finishes
126 laps led

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

GOING BACK TO CALI: This Sunday, William Byron will climb behind the wheel of his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to make just his second NASCAR Cup Series start at Auto Club Speedway (ACS) in Fontana, California. Last spring, Byron had an overall solid day at the two-mile, D-shaped oval, qualifying 29th and racing his way to a 15th-place finish, leading a lap in the process. The 21-year-old driver also has one NASCAR Xfinity Series start under his belt at ACS – in 2017 he started sixth and crossed the finish line in fifth. In the Cup Series, two drivers have earned their first wins at ACS – Jimmie Johnson (April 2002) and Kyle Busch (September 2005) – with both of those wins coming during their rookie seasons while driving for Hendrick Motorsports.

AT IT AGAIN WITH AXALTA: For the third time this season, Byron will sport the Axalta flames on board his No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Hendrick Motorsports. As a leading global company focused solely on coatings and providing customers with innovative, colorful, beautiful and sustainable solutions, Axalta Coating Systems is continuing its 27-year partnership with Hendrick Motorsports as a primary partner for both the Nos. 24 and 88 teams in 2019. 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 13 races total, including a stretch of four more races running through Bristol Motor Speedway in the spring.

KNAUS KNOWS BEST: Returning to the site of his first win as a NASCAR Cup Series crew chief, Chad Knaus’ stats at Auto Club Speedway are hard to beat. In 24 races, Knaus has called the shots for six wins, with the most recent one coming just three years ago in 2016. He has two poles at the two-mile, D-shaped oval, including an average starting position of 8.6 with 99.9 percent of laps completed (5,501 of 5,505).

MEET BYRON: Byron will visit the Hendrick Motorsports/JR Motorsports souvenir hauler in the ACS Fan Zone on Sunday, March 17, from 9:25-9:45 a.m. local time. Fans can purchase Byron gear at the hauler and get it autographed by the driver of the No. 24 Chevy.

PUTTING PHOENIX IN THE PAST: Despite a career track-best qualifying effort of seventh and running within the top five early on in Sunday’s race at ISM Raceway, a loose wheel with 35 laps to go forced Byron to pit under green, sending him to a 24th-place finish.


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Jimmie Johnson
No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Driver Jimmie Johnson Hometown El Cajon, California
Age 43 Resides Charlotte, North Carolina

2019 Season
15th in standings
4 starts
0 wins
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
2 top-10 finish
4 laps led

Career
619 starts
83 wins
35 pole positions
224 top-five finishes
354 top-10 finishes
18,707 laps led

Track Career
24 starts
6 wins
1 pole positions
13 top-five finishes
17 top-10 finishes
980 laps led

PUTTING THE ‘ALL’ IN ALL-TIME: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, leads drivers in almost every category at Auto Club Speedway (ACS). In 24 starts at the track, Johnson is the all-time leader in wins (six), runner-up results (five), top-five finishes (13), top-10s (17) and laps led (980). His average finish at the track of 7.2 is also the best all-time and his best at any track in his career.

AIMING FOR 1,000: With 20 laps led this Sunday, Johnson would reach 1,000 laps led at ACS. He has topped that total at four tracks in his career – Dover, Martinsville, Charlotte and Texas. He has led 994 laps at ISM Raceway, just six away from the milestone.

STILL RUNNING: In each 24 starts at his home track, El Cajon, California, native Johnson has been running at the end of the race. Additionally, five of the six times Johnson has won in California, he has gone on to win the NASCAR Cup Series championship (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016).

‘SUPER’ WIN: Johnson’s last win at ACS came on March 20, 2016, in the “Superman” Chevrolet. Later that season he scored his record-tying seventh NASCAR Cup Series championship.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KEVIN: No. 48 team crew chief Kevin Meendering will celebrate his birthday on top of the pit box as he turns 38 on Sunday, March 17. Fellow crew chief Alan Gustafson has won races twice on his birthday (Aug. 5) – last year with Chase Elliott and in 2012 with Jeff Gordon.

FIRST-TIME WINNERS: The only two drivers to ever win their first race at California as rookies drove for Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson scored his first win in just his 13th career start on April 28, 2002, at the track. Former teammate Kyle Busch was the other driver who scored his first Cup Series win during his rookie season at the venue in 2005.

WATER POLO?: Johnson grew up roughly 116 miles south of the Fontana, California, speedway in El Cajon, just outside of San Diego. Johnson started racing mini-motorcycles up and down the West Coast at age four. He graduated from Granite Hills High School in 1993, where he was a varsity water polo player.

VERGE OF A MILESTONE: Johnson is on the verge of his 84th points-paying NASCAR Cup Series win. He secured his 83rd in June 2017 to tie NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough for sixth on the all-time wins list. An 84th win would tie Hall of Famers Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison for fourth all-time. Johnson is currently 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.


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

2019 Season
16th in standings
4 starts
0 wins
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
0 top-10 finishes
0 laps led

Career
121 starts
0 wins
2 pole positions
3 top-five finishes
14 top-10 finishes
274 laps led

Track Career
3 starts
0 wins
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
0 top-10 finishes
1 lap led

Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, will be available to members of the media on Friday, March 15, at 1:05 p.m. local time in the media center.

BEST STARTING POSITION: Alex Bowman and the No. 88 team are fourth on the list for the best average starting position in 2019. The Arizona native has an average starting position of 8.75 in four events so far this season, highest among his Hendrick Motorsports teammates.

NATIONWIDE ON BOARD: The primary blue-and-white colors of Nationwide will be featured on the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in 20 NASCAR Cup Series events in 2019. Nationwide will adorn the hood of Bowman’s Chevrolet for this weekend’s event at Auto Club Speedway and next week at Martinsville Speedway. Last August, Hendrick Motorsports and Nationwide extended their primary partnership with Bowman and the No. 88 team for an additional two years beginning in 2019.

NEW SCHEME: Two familiar faces will adorn the No. 88 Nationwide Camaro ZL1 paint scheme this weekend in Fontana, California. Bowman’s dogs, Finn and Roscoe, can be seen on the quarter panels of the No. 88 Chevy during Sunday’s race. The special paint scheme will showcase a Nationwide product that Bowman is familiar with and uses with his two pups – pet insurance.

YOUR CHANCE TO WIN: Hendrick Motorsports’ partners at Nationwide are giving pet owners a chance to win with a special promotion this week and during the race weekend. Now underway, pet owners and fans who get a Nationwide pet insurance quote will be entered to win $250 and a custom diecast with their pet’s image on the car autographed by Bowman. Your pet could be a cat, dog, or even a reptile as Nationwide covers a variety of pets. To enter the contest, visit www.petinsurance.com/race for your chance to win.

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’: Bowman, a Tucson, Arizona, native, has three starts in the NASCAR Cup Series at Auto Club Speedway. His best finish of 13th came in the 2018 event when the No. 88 team started 28th. The driver has completed 99.7 percent of the total laps during those three events. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has one start at the Fontana, California, venue in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. In 2013, he qualified in the sixth position and finished 12th in the spring event.

MAYBE A FIRST: Hendrick Motorsports has had two first-time NASCAR Cup Series winners at Auto Club Speedway. Jimmie Johnson got his first career Cup win in 2002 and Kyle Busch crossed the line first for his first win three years later. This weekend is Bowman’s 122nd start in the series and his fourth start at the track.

IVES IN CALIFORNIA: Crew chief Greg Ives will call the shots for the fifth time for the No. 88 team at Auto Club Speedway this weekend. The Michigan native’s driver finished sixth in 2015 after qualifying 17th for the 209-lap event. Ives’ drivers have completed 100 percent of the total laps during those four events. Ives has two starts as a crew chief in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, with a best finish of third coming in 2013 with driver Regan Smith. From 2006-2012, Ives was a race engineer for the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team. During that time, he was a part of four wins, two pole awards and nine top-five finishes at Auto Club Speedway.

DRIVER SPOTLIGHT: Be sure to check out NASCAR on FOX this weekend in California, as Bowman will be this weekend’s in-race driver spotlight. Throughout the weekend, look for unique videos from the driver of the No. 88 Chevy and the Nationwide team.

BOWMAN TAKES OVER L.A.: On Friday, March 15, Bowman will take over the @FOXLA Instagram account to give followers a behind-the-scenes look at practice day in Fontana. The 25-year-old’s precious pups will even make an appearance – the vinyl versions, that is.


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Hendrick Motorsports

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT FONTANA: At Auto Club Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports has 10 wins, five pole positions, 32 top-five finishes and 51 top-10s. The organization won the inaugural race at the track with Jeff Gordon in June 1997. Jimmie Johnson leads all drivers in wins, top-fives, top-10s and laps led at the venue.

ALL-TIME AT AUTO CLUB: The organization owns the most all-time records at Fontana, including wins (10), poles (tied for most with five), runner-up finishes (11), top-five finishes (32), laps led (2,002) and average finish (14.2). Its 51 top-10s are the second-most all-time, one behind Roush Fenway Racing.

THREE FOR 10: The organization’s 10 wins in Fontana, California, are spread among three drivers, with Johnson accounting for six. Gordon claimed three victories at the track and Kyle Busch recorded one.

ONE-TWO IN FONTANA: Hendrick Motorsports is the only NASCAR Cup Series team to sweep the top-two finishing positions at Auto Club Speedway. The organization achieved the feat three times: 1997 with Gordon and Terry Labonte, 2004 with Gordon and Johnson, and 2009 with Johnson and Gordon.

CHEVROLET ON TOP: Chevrolets have the most recorded wins at Auto Club Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series with 14.

FIRST-TIME WINNERS: If William Byron or Alex Bowman win in Fontana, it will mark the tenth time a driver has recorded his first career Cup Series win while driving for Hendrick Motorsports. Among those totals are Johnson and Busch’s first career wins, both of which came at Auto Club Speedway. Crew chiefs Alan Gustafson and Chad Knaus both also earned their first Cup wins as crew chiefs at the California track.

WEST COAST WARRIORS: With the West Coast swing of the Cup Series schedule coming to a close this weekend, Hendrick Motorsports owns the most wins on “West Coast” tracks of all organizations. Its 34 victories lead the second-place team by 11 wins.

ORGANIZATION STATS: To date, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 12 championships, 252 race victories, 216 pole positions, 1,045 top-five finishes and 1,790 top-10 finishes in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led 67,805 laps since 1984.


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QUOTABLE /
Chase Elliott on expectations for Auto Club Speedway:
“The surface is obviously still old there, so, I would have to assume tire wear is still going to play a factor at some point in the run. I think everybody is just going to be balancing the tire wear versus the speed and how much drag you can get out of your car to go fast.”

Elliott on traveling during the West Coast swing:
“I usually like to stay out. I lived in Colorado for a couple of years, so I enjoy going back there and kind of commuting from there instead of coming all the way back. It’s a lot of travel and I’ve done it both ways and your schedule doesn’t always work out, but when you can stay, I think it’s nice.”

William Byron on Auto Club Speedway:
“I think it’s going to be a lot of four- and five-wide racing. Obviously, at Vegas, I wouldn’t say the pace was that much slower than a normal race, but we were able to be more aggressive on the restarts and position ourselves better before things become more single-file. I think those first four or five laps are going to be really crazy still. I think that the lane choices that you have at Auto Club Speedway will help keep the racing a little bit closer, and with that, you are going to have to kind of be gritty throughout the run to keep your position. I think it’s going to be a crazy race and we are going to have to deal with that especially on the restarts and will need to try to maximize that.”

Byron on why he thinks drivers like to race on worn surfaces:
“I would say there is just a little bit more feel in the car and you can move around more. It’s more rewarding when you figure something out and you are able to make a pass that you might not have been able to make on a new pavement track. You are very car-dependent on new tracks, so I think it takes some of that factor out of it and you are able to drive the car more and really make a difference.”

Jimmie Johnson on Auto Club Speedway:
“Thinking of Fontana, my mind goes to Atlanta and how important handling was in Atlanta and that will be the case in Fontana. We do have more room to run around there, more lanes and options from that standpoint with really long straightaways, so it could be a pretty exciting race that involves a lot of drafting. I think the longer the straightaway, the better this package will show and the more competitive racing it will put on. California should be a really good test for it.”

Johnson on the rules package so far and if he thinks the field will be closer together at Auto Club Speedway:
“Yeah, from a being strung out or how close we will be, I think the more tire wear, the further the gaps will be. So, I anticipate there being some good gaps between competitors at California. You cannot get around the fact that the lead car has the best air and when you add such a big handling characteristic to the equation, you need that handling. So, Atlanta, Fontana, those tracks have high tire wear and we do have a lot of lanes to choose and run from, so that will hopefully close things back up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more gaps. I think tracks like Vegas we will have the closest kind of racing proximity to one another just because the tire is still there and you can run wide-open in somebody’s wake.”

Johnson on his success at Auto Club Speedway:
“I think it’s a bit of luck in the sense that there are some tracks that just fit drivers and teams and crew chiefs and that racetrack has been one for me. Thankfully, it is my home track and I have been able to enjoy the extreme highs that come with that.”

Johnson on his community involvement in California:
“The Jimmie Johnson Foundation has been focused in three areas, one of which is my hometown in El Cajon down in the San Diego area, and our focus has been on public education for probably the last seven or eight years. Prior to that, we have worked with schools in another capacity plus I’ve built an entire block with the Habitat for Humanity group. So, it’s been extremely rewarding to give back to my hometown. I have a car dealership in Kearny Mesa, so between the foundations giving and the presence I still have through the auto dealership, it’s great to have that sense of home and still have my name and face around my hometown.”

Alex Bowman on what he expects at Auto Club Speedway:
“I don’t think we are going to be five-wide or anything, maybe at some points throughout the race, but it’s going to be interesting. It sounds like there is a big speed difference from the top to the bottom when you can run wide-open. It’s going to be like Atlanta where there is a big fall-off, so we are kind of just going to have to wait and see. It’s so hard to know until we have done it.”

Bowman on his special paint scheme:
“Having Finn and Roscoe on the car this weekend is super special. Nationwide pet insurance really saved me from the expensive medical costs when we had a health scare with Finn last month. A lot of people don’t have pet insurance for their pets, and it is really something that I have personally benefited from. It is going to be an exciting weekend for sure.”

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