RICHMOND RACEWAY (0.75-MILE OVAL)
LOCATION: RICHMOND, VIRGINIA
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 28 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 7:30 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, SEPT. 15 (NBCSN/MRN/SIRIUSXM)
No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Driver Chase Elliott Hometown Dawsonville, Georgia
Age 23 Resides Dawsonville, Georgia
6th in standings
3 pole positions
9 top-five finishes
12 top-10 finishes
543 laps led
7 pole positions
42 top-five finishes
71 top-10 finishes
1,786 laps led
0 pole positions
2 top-five finishes
3 top-10 finishes
34 laps led
ROUND OF 16: This weekend marks the second race of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs Round of 16. Chase Elliott currently sits sixth in the playoff standings, 30 points above the cut line. Last season in the 2018 playoffs, he earned the most points (89) at the final two races in the Round of 16 (Richmond Raceway and the Charlotte road course). Elliott’s two wins in the last nine playoff races are tied for the most in that span.
SHORT-TRACK PERFORMANCE: Elliott has made 24 short-track (Bristol Motor Speedway, Martinsville Speedway and Richmond Raceway) starts in his NASCAR Cup Series career. In those starts, the 23-year-old driver has collected seven top-five finishes, 11 top-10 finishes and 425 laps led. So far in the 2019 campaign, he has accumulated an average finish of 8.25, which ranks as the fifth-highest average of active drivers. In 2019, Elliott has led 120 laps at short tracks – the sixth-most laps led at the track type this season.
LAST SIX: In the last six events of the season (Watkins Glen International, Michigan International Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway), Elliott is tied for the most top-10 finishes with five. He also has the highest average finish in the last six races (7.8). In the last two races alone, he has earned 67 points – the fifth-highest total.
NAPA AUTO PARTS: The primary blue, white and yellow NAPA AUTO PARTS paint scheme will grace the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 this weekend at Richmond. The Atlanta-based company will serve as majority sponsor for Elliott and the No. 9 team for a total of 26 NASCAR Cup Series races this year.
RICHMOND STATS: This weekend at Richmond, Elliott will make his ninth NASCAR Cup Series start at the 0.75-mile oval. In his previous eight starts, he has collected two top-five finishes – one being a runner-up result – and three top-10s. Additionally, he has made four starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Richmond, never finishing outside of the top five and collecting a win in 2015.
GUSTAFSON AT RICHMOND: No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson is set to call his 29th NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond from atop the pit box this weekend. In Gustafson’s previous 28 starts with five different drivers (Kyle Busch, Casey Mears, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Elliott), he has accumulated 12 top-five finishes – five being runner-up results – 16 top-10s and 566 laps led at the track. The only crew chief with more second-place finishes at the 0.75-mile track is Dale Inman, who has 10.
PIT CREW PROWESS: Among the teams competing in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, the No. 9 pit crew leads the field. The team owns the best average time for four-tire stops at 14.134.
No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Driver William Byron Hometown Charlotte, North Carolina
Age 21 Resides Charlotte, North Carolina
9th in standings
4 pole positions
3 top-five finishes
10 top-10 finishes
187 laps led
4 pole positions
3 top-five finishes
14 top-10 finishes
248 laps led
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
0 top-10 finishes
0 laps led
William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, will be available to members of the media on Friday, Sept. 20, at 3:45 p.m. local time in the Richmond Raceway media center.
ONE DOWN, TWO TO GO: Scoring stage points and a top-10 finish in last Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, William Byron’s efforts gained him 16 points in the playoff standings, propelling him from 13th to ninth. With two races remaining in the first round, he now sits 13 points above the cut line.
LOOKING BACK IN THE REAR-VIEW: Continuing to improve week after week, Byron’s last 11 races have proven to be some of his best across his Cup career. Dating back to the end of June at Chicagoland Speedway, he’s started from the pole once, collected three top-five finishes and six top-10s, resulting in an average finish of 11.5. In fact, all of his Cup Series top-five finishes and six of his 13 Cup career top-10s have come in the last 11 races. Not to mention, in the last two races (the final race of the regular season and the first race in the Round of 16) Byron ranks fourth in points earned with 74, leading his Hendrick Motorsports teammates.
LIBERTY U RETURNS: For the third straight weekend and the second race of the playoffs, Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will carry Liberty University onboard at Richmond Raceway. Returning as a sponsor of the No. 24 team in 2019 for 12 races, Liberty University has a long history with the sophomore driver starting back in 2014 in the late model ranks and is in the midst of its fifth season of sponsoring Byron. Liberty University has been Training Champions for Christ since it was founded in 1971. Located in the mountains of Central Virginia, Liberty is a liberal arts institution with 17 colleges and schools that offers more than 600 degree programs from the certificate to the doctoral level, on campus and online. Working on an undergraduate degree in business communication, Byron is now in his junior year at Liberty University through its online program.
READY FOR RICHMOND: Making his fourth Cup Series start at Richmond Raceway, this weekend’s race will mark a return visit for Byron and the Chad Knaus-led No. 24 team during the 2019 season. In the spring, the sophomore driver started the race 13th, and despite fighting an ill-handling Chevy, was able to cross the finish line in the 13th position after running in the top 15 all race long. Aside from his three Cup Series starts, Byron has made two NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the short track, both in 2017, earning a best starting position of sixth and finish of seventh in the fall. He has one other start under his belt at Richmond in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2015, winning the pole and finishing sixth.
KNAUS’ KNACK: Returning with Byron and the No. 24 team to Richmond for the second time, crew chief Chad Knaus will call the shots on top of the pit box for the 39th time in his career at the Virginia venue. With three previous victories at the short track, Knaus leads all active crew chiefs for most wins at Richmond. He also has collected two pole awards, seven top-five finishes and 15 top-10s at the 0.75-mile oval.
MEET BYRON: The driver of the No. 24 Liberty University Chevy will visit the Hendrick Motorsports-JR Motorsports souvenir hauler in the Richmond Fan Zone on Saturday, Sept. 21, at 4:05 p.m. local time. Fans can purchase Byron gear at the hauler and get it autographed by the driver.
SEE THE 24 FOR $24: For this weekend’s race at Richmond Raceway, Liberty University and the track teamed up to offer fans the opportunity to attend Saturday night’s race for $24 to cheer on the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. While the $24 ticket package has already sold out, they are still offering $10 off any grandstand ticket for Richmond’s night race. The ticket offer includes one ticket for the Cup Series race, an invitation to attend the driver-crew chief meeting as well as a question-and-answer session with William Byron on Saturday afternoon. For more information or to purchase the Liberty University ticket offer, click here.
HERTZ ULTIMATE RIDE SWEEPSTAKES: In conjunction with Hendrick Motorsports, Hertz is introducing a new “pace car” to its fleet with a limited-edition custom 2020 Camaro ZL1 and 2020 Camaro SS. Available to be reserved beginning mid-October 2019, customers have the opportunity to rent the custom Camaros fashioned in the signature Hertz yellow and black color scheme with custom wheels, interior badging and full performance upgrades outfitted by Hendrick Motorsports. In conjunction with the program rollout, customers can celebrate the debut of the limited-edition Camaros by participating in The Hertz Ultimate Ride Sweepstakes – beginning Sept. 18 through Nov. 15, 2019 – for a chance to win a 2020 Hertz-Hendrick Motorsports Camaro SS. Five finalists will also win an exclusive driving experience in Charlotte. Click here for more information on the Hertz-Hendrick custom Camaro program.
VIVA LAS VEGAS: Looking to kick off his first Cup Series playoffs with a solid race last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Byron worked his way through the field to collect top-10 finishes in both of the first two stages. However, while running within the top 10 in the final segment, Byron experienced a flat left-rear tire from contact with another competitor on a restart. As the driver of the No. 24 Chevy was coming to pit road, the tire went completely flat, causing him to spin and bringing the yellow flag out. After receiving fresh tires and a bit of minor repair damage, he rejoined the field on the lead lap in the 18th position. Rallying throughout the remaining laps, the driver was able to make his way back within the top 10, securing a career track-best finish of seventh.
No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Driver Jimmie Johnson Hometown El Cajon, California
Age 44 Resides Charlotte, North Carolina
18th in standings
1 pole position
3 top-five finishes
8 top-10 finishes
88 laps led
36 pole positions
227 top-five finishes
360 top-10 finishes
18,791 laps led
2 pole positions
7 top-five finishes
15 top-10 finishes
461 laps led
VEGAS REWIND: Jimmie Johnson turned in a ninth-place qualifying effort last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He fought a tight No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 throughout most of the 267-lap event and crew chief Cliff Daniels made big swings at the No. 48 Chevy in an effort to help Johnson compete in the top 10. The team narrowly missed a 10th-place finish as they were edged out on the final lap, ultimately finishing 11th.
WELCOME HOME, CREW CHIEF DANIELS: The race this weekend at Richmond is the “home track” for Daniels, who is from Smithfield, Virginia. It will be his first event back at the short track in which he will be on top of the pit box calling the race as a crew chief. Before the 31-year-old Virginia native began working in NASCAR, Daniels was a driver himself, racing Late Model stock cars at Langley, Southside and South Boston Speedways in Virginia with his family and father, Charlie Daniels, who is a fellow racer. Cliff Daniels received a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte and has been an integral part of the No. 48 team since December 2014. He served as the lead engineer on the team’s historic 2016 NASCAR Cup Series championship effort, working under crew chief Chad Knaus, and served as an engineer on the team before taking over the reins as crew chief of the team in late July.
SHORT-TRACK STATS: Johnson currently has the second-most short track wins on the circuit of all active drivers with 14. He only trails Kyle Busch, who has 16. As an organization, Hendrick Motorsports has led 4,032 laps at Richmond Raceway, and Johnson has contributed to 461 of them as well as three of the organizations 10 wins at the 0.75-mile oval.
TOP-10s AT RICHMOND: Since 2014, the driver of the No. 48 has scored seven top-10 finishes in 11 starts at the Richmond, Virginia, track. Finishing in the top 10 63.64 percent of the time at the track in that span, the percentage is tied for his second-best since 2014. The driver’s last 10 starts at Richmond feature a pair third-place finishes, a sixth-place finish, three eighth-place efforts, one ninth-place finish, a pair of 11th-place results and most recently a finish of 12th in the spring event.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JJ: Johnson celebrated his 44th birthday on Tuesday, Sept. 17th. A native of El Cajon, California, Johnson has been competing full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series since 2002, when he was 26.
PAINT THE WALL PINK: Johnson along with longtime partner Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina participated in Charlotte Motor Speedway’s annual “Paint the Wall Pink” event this week. The driver, along with breast cancer survivors as well as women who are currently battling the disease, painted the infield pit walls pink to help bring awareness to the disease. Johnson will wear a hat with pink accents and pink driving gloves to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness month this October. Click here for more.
MILESTONES ON THE HORIZON: Johnson’s next trip to Victory Lane will be 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. The No. 48 driver 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.
ALLY SWAG(GER): Ally brand ambassadors will help fans get their “Ally Swag(ger)” on once again this weekend. Fans at the track will have the opportunity to update their Team 48 gear with the Ally colors if they find brand ambassadors in the campgrounds at Richmond Raceway this weekend. Follow @AllyRacing on Twitter for exact locations and updates.
No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Driver Alex Bowman Hometown Tucson, Arizona
Age 26 Resides Charlotte, North Carolina
11th in standings
0 pole positions
4 top-five finishes
8 top-10 finishes
182 laps led
2 pole positions
7 top-five finishes
22 top-10 finishes
456 laps led
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
0 top-10 finishes
1 lap led
Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, will be available to members of the media on Friday, Sept. 20, at 4 p.m. local time in the media center at Richmond Raceway.
ON BOWMAN’S SIDE: The primary blue-and-white colors of Nationwide will adorn the hood of Alex Bowman’s No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Saturday night’s race at Richmond Raceway. As the No. 88 team’s majority partner, Nationwide will be featured in 20 NASCAR Cup Series events in 2019. After this weekend’s race, the sponsor will be back on board the No. 88 machine at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sept. 29.
FAST FEET: The No. 88 pit crew is always quick on its feet. The five-man pit crew is ranked fourth among NASCAR Cup Series pit crews with drivers in the playoffs for quickest stops on pit road with an average pit stop time of 14.411.
BOWMAN IN RICHMOND: The 26-year-old driver of the No. 88 machine will make his eighth start at Richmond Raceway on Saturday night. Out of 2,802 laps run at Richmond in his seven starts at the track, the Tucson, Arizona native, has completed 99.1 percent of them. Bowman has three starts at the 0.75-mile track in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where he qualified a career-best second at the venue and finished ninth in 2016 for JR Motorsports. In 2011, he made one start at the track in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, qualifying fourth and finishing fifth after 100 laps.
LOOKING AT POINTS: Following last weekend’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where the No. 88 team finished sixth, Bowman now sits 11th in the playoff points grid. The driver gained six points on the cut line following Sunday’s event. The Round of 12 will be set following next weekend’s event at the Charlotte road course. In 2018, Bowman gained 71 points between the events at Richmond and the “roval,” sending him to the Round of 12.
RICHMOND STATS FOR IVES: No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives will make his eighth start on top of the pit box for the No. 88 team at Richmond this Saturday. The Bark River, Michigan, native earned his best finish of fifth with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2015 at the track during the fall event. Ives has four starts in the Xfinity Series at Richmond, in which all four times his drivers finished inside the top five (Chase Elliott finished second in both events in 2014 and Regan Smith finished fifth and third in 2013). Ives was a race engineer for the No. 48 team at Hendrick Motorsports from 2006 until 2012. During that time, he was a part of three wins, one pole award and seven top-10 finishes at Richmond.
HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT RICHMOND: At Richmond Raceway, Hendrick Motorsports owns 10 wins, 17 poles, 59 top-five finishes, 109 top-10s and 4,034 laps led. It is one of 13 tracks where the organization has scored double-digit wins and one of seven tracks where it owns at least 100 top-10s. The 17 poles are tied for Hendrick Motorsports’ third-most at a single track, and the Virginia venue is among five tracks where Hendrick Motorsports has led over 4,000 laps.
RUNNER-UP RESULTS: Since Hendrick Motorsports’ last win at Richmond in September 2008, its drivers have secured six second-place finishes at the track, including Chase Elliott in April 2018. The organization’s 19 runner-up results at Richmond are its most at any venue.
SHORT-TRACK STRONG: On short tracks, the organization holds the active record of 50 wins with 10 different drivers. The all-time record for most different winners on a short track is 11 by Junior Johnson and associates.
POSTSEASON POSITIONING: Hendrick Motorsports currently has three drivers competing in the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, marking a series-best 12th season in which the organization has sent at least three to the playoffs. It is also the 14th consecutive year that Hendrick Motorsports has at least two drivers in the playoffs, which is also the most of all organizations. William Byron, Elliott and Alex Bowman are the first-, second- and fifth-youngest drivers competing in this season’s playoffs. Hendrick Motorsports owns 43 wins in the playoffs, which is just one win shy of doubling the second-most wins of 22 by Joe Gibbs Racing.
PLAYOFF DRIVERS: Byron became the ninth different driver Hendrick Motorsports has taken to the playoffs, the most of all organizations in series history. He joins a list that includes Elliott, Bowman, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch and Mark Martin.
TEAMMATES IN THE TOP 10: On six different occasions this season, at least three Hendrick Motorsports drivers have finished the same race inside the top 10. That feat was most recently accomplished last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, when three teammates all finished inside the top seven and Johnson narrowly missed joining them in the top 10 with an 11th-place result. All four drivers earned top-10 finishes in the same race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May.
PILING UP POLE POSITIONS: After securing just two poles in 2018, Hendrick Motorsports has amassed eight poles this year with nine races remaining in the season. It’s the sixth-highest total the organization has earned in a single season, tied with the 1998 campaign. Hendrick Motorsports’ record for poles came in 1986 with 16, followed by 12 in 2007 and 2009, 11 in 2008 and 2012, 10 in 1995, and nine in 1996 and 2004.
1,000 ON THE DOT: In 2019, Hendrick Motorsports has more than doubled its total of laps led from a season ago. Last year, the organization’s drivers tallied 497 laps led. Last weekend brought the 2019 total to 1,000 laps up-front with nine races remaining in the season.
ORGANIZATION STATS: To date, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 12 championships, 255 race victories, 223 pole positions, 1,064 top-five finishes and 1,825 top-10 finishes in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led more than 68,700 laps since 1984.
Chase Elliott on the intensity of the playoffs:
“I feel like it’s kind of self-inflicted. Either you have a pressure-packed 10 weeks or you don’t based on if you are running good. If you are running good you can kind of cruise through. If you are struggling to get stage points, and you are right on the edge of getting three or four points every stage and finishing eighth to 15th, then you are going to have a pressure-packed first handful of weeks. It really is what you make it and the big thing is that I think we are quick to forget the first 26 weeks of the season and how we could have had multiple wins to make this next 10 weeks a lot easier like a lot of these guys have.”
William Byron on what he learned from the spring race at Richmond:
“Richmond always has a lot of tire fall-off, so trying to manage your tires for a 100-lap run seems pretty typical there. You have to have short-run speed to build a buffer and get away from the car behind you but then still find a way to hold on to that track position during the long runs and not give it all back. We had a good long-run car in the spring, I think, we just gave up too much on the short runs to make up a lot of ground.”
Jimmie Johnson on the rest of the season:
“It would be truly special to win at (No. 48 team crew chief) Cliff (Daniels)’ hometown track. There is a lot of good energy on our team right now. Everyone is pulling in the right direction, our cars are showing speed, we are making great gains. Richmond is a track where we can turn this around.”
Alex Bowman on racing at Richmond:
“Richmond is one of those tracks that we have struggled at in the past. We need to get stage points this weekend and help increase our position in the point standings before going into next weekend’s race. We didn’t finish great in the spring after battling a tight car throughout the race and having another issue there at the end. (No. 88 team crew chief) Greg (Ives) and this Nationwide team have been working hard to get our short-track program better and better, so hopefully we unload fast on Friday.”