DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY (2.5-MILE OVAL)
LOCATION: DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
EVENT: DAYTONA 500 (NASCAR CUP SERIES RACE ONE OF 36)
TUNE IN: 2:30 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, FEB. 18 (FOX/MRN/SIRIUSXM)
No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Driver Chase Elliott Hometown Dawsonville, Georgia
Age 22 Resides Dawsonville, Georgia
3 pole positions
22 top-five finishes
38 top-10 finishes
918 laps led
2 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
0 top-10 finishes
46 laps led
NAPA AUTO PARTS ON BOARD FOR THE 500: NAPA AUTO PARTS will commence the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series season on the hood of Chase Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the 60th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 18. NAPA also served as the primary sponsor for Elliott’s first two starts in the “The Great American Race” in 2016 and 2017.
DAYTONA POLE STREAK: Elliott, 22, could become just the fourth driver in history to win three straight Daytona 500 poles. He earned the Daytona 500 pole award as a rookie in 2016 and again in his 2017 sophomore season. No other driver under the age of 23 has won a single pole position for the Daytona 500. Also, if Elliott and the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team win the 2018 Daytona 500 pole position, crew chief Alan Gustafson would become the first crew chief in NASCAR history to win four consecutive Daytona 500 pole awards. Gustafson earned the Daytona 500 pole with driver Jeff Gordon in 2015 and with Elliott in 2016 and 2017. He is tied with crew chiefs Waddell Wilson – who won three straight Daytona 500 poles with drivers Buddy Baker, Bobby Allison and Benny Parsons from 1980-1982 – and Ernie Elliott – who accomplished the feat with Chase Elliott’s father Bill Elliott from 1985-1987.
MOUNTAIN DEW AND THE CLASH: On Sunday, Feb. 11, Elliott will make his second start in The Clash at Daytona International Speedway behind the wheel of the No. 9 Mountain Dew Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native secured his entry into the 75-lap exhibition race with his back-to-back Daytona 500 pole awards in 2016 and 2017. In last season’s 75-lap event, Elliott made a late-race surge to finish seventh.
FLORIDA NATIVE: This weekend, No. 9 team crew chief Gustafson will return home to the “Birthplace of Speed.” Gustafson grew up in Ormond Beach, Florida, just down the road from Daytona International Speedway. After graduating from Seabreeze High School, he enrolled at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. He returns to Daytona for his seventh season as the crew chief of the No. 9 Chevrolet and third with Elliott. Gustafson ranks fourth among active crew chiefs for the most wins with 20.
DAYTONA DUEL: Elliott is set to make his third Duel start at Daytona. In his Daytona 500 qualifying event last season, the driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 collected his first career Duel victory at Daytona International Speedway during the first race of the evening. It was the ninth win for Hendrick Motorsports in a Daytona 500 qualifying race.
DOUBLE DUTY: In addition to his full-time duty piloting the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in the Cup Series, Elliott will also run the NASCAR Xfinity Series season opener. The 22-year-old driver will be behind the wheel of the No. 88 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports on Saturday, Feb. 17, at Daytona. Elliott captured his most recent win in the Xfinity Series at Daytona while driving for JR Motorsports in 2016.
ATHLON MAGAZINE COVER: In January, Athlon Sports revealed its 2018 NASCAR Preview edition that saw Elliott on the magazine’s cover. Athlon Sports sat down with Elliott and asked him about the switch to the No. 9 car, the former number of his father, Bill Elliott. Check out Elliott’s cover and be sure to grab the magazine on newsstands now.
VISIT TO THE CHEVY STAGE: On Sunday, Feb. 18, Elliott will appear at the Team Chevy Stage at 11:25 a.m. local time for a question-and-answer session.
No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Driver William Byron Hometown Charlotte, North Carolina
Age 20 Resides Charlotte, North Carolina
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
0 top-10 finishes
0 laps led
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
0 top-10 finishes
0 laps led
BYRON MAKES CUP DEBUT: NASCAR Xfinity Series champion William Byron has ascended the professional ranks more rapidly than any driver in recent memory. In 2018, the young phenom begins his rookie campaign in the elite NASCAR Cup Series behind the wheel of one of the most iconic cars in racing history, the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 of Hendrick Motorsports. A 20-year-old native of Charlotte, North Carolina, Byron has quickly amassed an impressive list of accomplishments – especially considering he first drove a race car just five years ago. In addition to winning the 2017 championship in the Xfinity Series, Byron has already earned 11 NASCAR national series victories and has received rookie of the year honors in the last three seasons – 2017 (Xfinity), 2016 (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series), and 2015 (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East – where he also won the East championship). He will compete for rookie of the year this season, which begins with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18.
AXALTA FLAMES RETURN: Axalta Coating Systems will make its 2018 debut as a primary sponsor of Byron and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team during Daytona Speedweeks, marking the first time the new blue, red and yellow paint scheme – creating the familiar Axalta flames – will be featured on the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Axalta Coating Systems, a leading global manufacturer of liquid and powder coatings, is continuing its 26-year partnership with Hendrick Motorsports as a primary partner for both the Nos. 24 and 88 teams in 2018. 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. This year, Axalta will be a primary partner on the No. 24 Chevrolet for 10 races.
STUDENT OF THE SPORT: Byron is currently enrolled in online classes at Liberty University, which has supported his racing career since 2014 and is the majority sponsor of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team. It is the largest private, non-profit university in the nation, the largest university in Virginia and the largest Christian university in the world. However, Liberty isn’t the only place where Byron studies. As a youngster, Byron began following NASCAR and soon became a regular on iRacing, an online racing simulator used by many professional drivers, where he developed into a student of the sport. Realizing it had become more than just a hobby, his father took Byron to visit the U.S. Legend Cars International headquarters in Harrisburg, North Carolina, in the summer of 2012 to learn about a way to begin real-world racing. Since he began racing in 2013, Byron hasn’t stopped learning – he still participates in iRacing and one of his other hobbies is racing RC cars, which is yet another way for him to gain racing experience. Continuing in that vein, Byron will watch Sunday’s Clash from the spotter’s stand to see what he can learn that will help him in the Daytona 500 the following week.
AT DAYTONA: Byron may have limited superspeedway experience, but he’s already a Daytona winner. In his championship-winning 2017 Xfinity season, the driver led 29 laps and scored a victory in the July 1 Xfinity race at Daytona International Speedway after starting third. His average finish at Daytona in the Xfinity Series is fifth. Prior to the 2017 season, Byron also raced at Daytona in the Truck Series and the ARCA Racing Series.
FOUR FOR THE TWO-FOUR: A 2018 Daytona 500 pole position for Byron would be the fourth consecutive for the No. 24 car number, tying a record held by the No. 28 of Ranier Racing. From 1979-1982, the No. 28 Ranier team won the Daytona 500 pole award with three different drivers: Buddy Baker, Bobby Allison and Benny Parsons. Baker won the race from the pole in 1980. The No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team won the Daytona 500 pole with Gordon in 2015 and Chase Elliott in 2016 and 2017.
VEGAS TEST: Byron and the No. 24 team participated in an organizational test with the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway from Jan. 31 to Feb. 1. The test also marked Byron’s first-ever laps on track in a Cup car. He wasted no time getting up to speed, setting the fastest lap time in the morning session on both days.
NO. 24 LEGACY: Byron takes the wheel of the iconic No. 24 Chevrolet made famous by four-time Cup Series champion Gordon and his storied Rainbow Warriors team. Byron begins his 2018 rookie season at the same age Gordon was (20) when he made his Cup debut in 1992. From 1992 to 2015, Gordon earned four Cup championships and 93 wins in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy. Elliott drove the car most recently (2016-2017), earning Cup Series rookie of the year honors in 2016. A Cup win by Byron in the No. 24 would make him just the second driver to accomplish the feat even though the number has been used as far back as 1950.
GRUBB BRINGS VETERAN LEADERSHIP: Champion crew chief Darian Grubb returns to the top of the pit box in 2018 to work with Byron and the iconic No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team of Hendrick Motorsports. With the second-most wins (23; tied with Paul Wolfe) of any active crew chief in NASCAR, Grubb is a well-respected talent in the garage, having earned a Cup Series championship with Tony Stewart in 2011 and won races with some of the top drivers in the sport, including Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards. It was Grubb who, as the interim crew chief for Chad Knaus, led Johnson to his first Daytona 500 victory in 2006. After serving as Kasey Kahne’s crew chief for the final nine races of 2017, Hendrick Motorsports announced on Nov. 1, 2017, that the Floyd, Virginia, native would lead the iconic No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team in 2018.
JEFF GORDON #24EVER VIP EXPERIENCE: This year, Byron will be participating in the 2018 Jeff Gordon #24Ever VIP Experience, giving fans the opportunity to meet two drivers of the No. 24 Chevrolet. The experience includes a meet-and-greet, an autograph and a photo with Byron and Gordon, along with a behind-the-scenes garage tour and an exclusive gift. The experience is available at 10 races starting with Daytona and spots are extremely limited. Visit www.jeffgordonvip.com for more information or to purchase a spot.
TRACK APPEARANCES: During Daytona 500 weekend, Byron will make appearances on Saturday at the Xfinity Zone stage and Sunday at the Chevy stage with the exact times to be determined.
No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Driver Jimmie Johnson Hometown El Cajon, California
Age 42 Resides Charlotte, North Carolina
35 pole positions
222 top-five finishes
341 top-10 finishes
18,663 laps led
2 pole positions
11 top-five finishes
14 top-10 finishes
289 laps led
NEW SEASON, NEW LOOK: Longtime Hendrick Motorsports partner Lowe’s Home Improvement will highlight Lowe’s for Pros on Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in 2018. For the majority of the 17-year partnership, Johnson’s Chevy has been Lowe’s blue and white. New for 2018, the No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet not only has a new body style with the Camaro ZL1, but sports a brand new black and dark gray paint scheme. Lowe’s has been the only primary sponsor of the No. 48 team since its inception, winning a record-tying seven NASCAR Cup Series championships with Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus.
FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL FOR THE CAMARO: The No. 48 team has been burning the midnight oil on the Hendrick Motorsports campus in Concord, North Carolina, over the offseason to prepare a new fleet of Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 race cars. The last time manufacturer Chevrolet debuted a new race car in the Daytona 500, it was Johnson who took it to Victory Lane. The seven-time Cup Series champion has won the Daytona 500 on two occasions – Feb. 6, 2006, and Feb. 24, 2013, the latter being the first race for the Chevrolet SS.
TWO-TIME DAYTONA CHAMP: With two victories, Johnson is the only multi-time Daytona 500 winner expected to compete in this year’s event. The last time there was just one multi-time winner in the Daytona 500 field was 1993 (Bill Elliott).
LONE CLASH WIN: Johnson has one win in The Clash exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway, which came in 2005 when the race format was reserved for Cup Series pole position winners who qualified from the previous season.
STARTING UP FRONT: As a rookie in the NASCAR Cup Series back in 2002, Johnson found success right out of the gate. He scored the pole position in his very first attempt at the Daytona 500 with a qualifying lap of 185.831 mph. His second pole for “The Great American Race” came in 2008. Johnson has also earned three second-place starts for the race – in 2005, 2010 and 2015.
DUEL PERFORMANCE: Johnson has two wins in the Duel Daytona 500 qualifying races, which will take place on Thursday, Feb. 15. He went to Victory Lane in 2010 after edging Kevin Harvick by only 0.006 seconds. Johnson also won a Duel in 2015, which went into overtime and ended under a green-white-checkered flag finish. Last year in the season-opening qualifier race, Johnson made contact with the wall with 14 laps to go and was forced to a backup car for the Daytona 500.
SEVENTEEN YEARS STRONG: Johnson, Knaus, and sponsor Lowe’s will celebrate their 17th full season together in 2018. Lowe’s joined forces with Hendrick Motorsports and the No. 48 team in 2001 and has been Johnson’s full-season primary sponsor since his 2002 rookie year, including all seven NASCAR Cup Series championships.
BIKE BUILD FOR KIDS: Johnson, Knaus and members of the No. 48 pit crew flew to Las Vegas on Feb. 7 to help Lowe’s store managers at the company’s National Sales Meeting build 1,000 bikes for kids at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Las Vegas.
WHAT’S IN A NUMBER: 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 and crew chief Knaus has the most wins of all active crew chiefs with 81.
NEW CAR CHIEF: With longtime No. 48 team car chief Ron Malec coming off the road, crew chief Knaus has pegged Jesse Saunders, 32, a native of New Glarus, Wisconsin, to fill the key position. Saunders joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2014 as the No. 48 team’s “underneath” mechanic and brings years of both on- and off-track experience of racing go-karts and Late Models in the upper Midwest.
JOHNSON TO INTRO 46-TIME CHAMPS AT WESTMINSTER: Over the years, one group has dominated the esteemed Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, so it’s only fitting that it receives a champion’s welcome. Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champ Johnson recently lent his voice to an animated introduction of the Terrier class, winners of the annual event’s Best in Show a record 46 times. “Westminster Week” and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will air on various FOX properties from Feb. 11-13.
OFFSEASON NOTES OF INTEREST: Johnson was recently named one of the San Diego Hall of Champions’ Professional Stars of the Year. He is a native of El Cajon, California, just outside San Diego. In December, Johnson and his 7-year-old daughter Genevieve participated in the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club’s Ajax Cup ski race event. It was Johnson’s third time competing in the Ajax Cup. Johnson also coached former teammate and close friend Dale Earnhardt Jr., who learned how to ski that same weekend.
TEAM CHEVY STAGE: Johnson will make a public appearance at the Team Chevy stage on Sunday, Feb. 18, at 10:30 a.m. local time for a question-and-answer session.
No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Driver Alex Bowman Hometown Tucson, Arizona
Age 24 Resides Mooresville, North Carolina
1 pole position
0 top-five finishes
3 top-10 finishes
203 laps led
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
0 top-10 finishes
0 laps led
WELCOME BACK: After filling in for an injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. for 10 NASCAR Cup Series events in 2016, Alex Bowman will get behind the wheel of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 as its full-time driver in 2018. During his 10-race stint with Hendrick Motorsports, Bowman secured three-top 10 finishes, including a sixth-place result at Phoenix, where he won the pole position and led a race-high 194 laps. Bowman has also been an integral part of the organization’s simulation testing for the past year and will now put that knowledge to the test on track. Bowman has not started a Cup event since November 2016, a span of 36 races.
NATIONWIDE AND THE 88: Nationwide – one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial organizations in the United States – will return to the No. 88 team for the 60th running of the Daytona 500. The season-opening race is included in the company’s 19 NASCAR Cup Series events as the majority sponsor of Bowman and the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 this season. Nationwide joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2014 as a corporate partner and in 2015 became majority sponsor of the No. 88 Chevrolet.
FEARLESS LEADER: Greg Ives is back on top of the pit box for the 2018 season as the crew chief for the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team. Ives previously worked with Bowman during the 2016 season, leading the driver to several career firsts – including his first top-10 finish and pole award. Coming from an engineering role on the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team, Ives won an Xfinity Series championship with driver Chase Elliott before transitioning to No. 88 team crew chief prior to the 2015 season and working with Earnhardt for the past three years. Overall, Ives has 106 starts as a Cup Series crew chief, accumulating three wins, 22 top-five finishes, 41 top-10s and three pole positions.
SECOND DAYTONA 500 FOR BOWMAN: Ready to kick things off this season, Bowman returns to Daytona International Speedway for his second career Daytona 500 start. The 24-year-old has three previous NASCAR Cup Series starts at the 2.5-mile oval, with his most recent start coming in July 2015. Bowman earned his best finish at the famed speedway in July 2014 when he crossed the finish line in 13th. He finished 23rd in his only other Daytona 500 start.
DAYTONA SUCCESS: Bowman has been successful at Daytona. In the February 2013 Xfinity Series race, he started eighth, spent 44 laps inside the top 10 and finished third. In July 2014, he started the Cup Series event 43rd but rallied to a strong 13th-place result. Last February, when he drove the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet in The Clash for Hendrick Motorsports, Bowman started the race in eighth and finished third despite a speeding penalty on lap 19.
LOOKING SHARP: Bowman has been on a tear in the second-tier Xfinity Series. In his last 11 races, he’s posted an average start of 5.45 and average finish of 9.82 with one victory, one pole, four-top-five finishes and nine top-10s. The win – his first ever in NASCAR’s three national series – came at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October after a seven-month layoff from competitive racing.
DUELING: Bowman will make his third start in the Duel Daytona 500 qualifying races on Thursday, Feb. 15. The Tucson, Arizona, native has made two previous starts in a Duel race in 2014 and 2015, when he finished 14th and 23rd, respectively.
MOST RECENT DAYTONA EXPERIENCE: Bowman’s most recent experience at the 2.5-mile Daytona oval came back in 2017 where he ran the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports in the season-opening Clash as a result of the pole he captured at Phoenix in 2016. The 24-year-old driver started eighth and finished third.
Chase Elliott, William Byron, Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman will be available to members of the media during Daytona 500 Media Day at Daytona International Speedway. The event is scheduled from 12 to 8 p.m. local time on Wednesday, Feb. 14.
HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT DAYTONA: Hendrick Motorsports has earned eight Daytona 500 wins with five different drivers, including three by Jeff Gordon and two by Jimmie Johnson. The organization’s first Daytona 500 victory came with driver Geoffrey Bodine in 1986, with Darrell Waltrip (1989) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2014) also posting wins for Hendrick Motorsports. A victory for the organization Feb. 18 would tie Petty Enterprises for the most Daytona 500 wins with nine overall. The Wood Brothers team is third all-time with five Daytona 500 victories.
FRONT ROW GANG: Last season’s Daytona 500 featured a pair of Hendrick Motorsports teammates on the front row to start the event – Chase Elliott first and now-retired Earnhardt second. It marked the fifth time Hendrick Motorsports has earned the top two starting spots in the Daytona 500, which happened for the first time in 1989 with Ken Schrader and Waltrip starting first and second, respectively. Mark Martin, Earnhardt and Johnson went off one-two-three in 2010, and Earnhardt and Gordon started one-two in 2011. In the 2015 Daytona 500, three Hendrick Motorsports teammates once again started at the front of the pack – Gordon first, Johnson second and Earnhardt third.
250 ON THE HORIZON: The next points-paying win by a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet will be the organization’s milestone 250th in NASCAR Cup Series competition. With 268 Cup victories, only Petty Enterprises has more. Junior Johnson and Associates is third all-time at 153 wins, followed by Joe Gibbs Racing with 148 and Roush Fenway Racing with 137.
16 MAKES 249: Sixteen different drivers have contributed to Hendrick Motorsports’ total of 249 points-paying Cup wins. Only the Wood Brothers team, which has sent 19 different drivers to Victory Lane, has more. Junior Johnson and Associates won with 13 different drivers.
YOUTH MOVEMENT: On Feb. 18, Hendrick Motorsports will become the first team in NASCAR history to start three drivers under the age of 25 in the Daytona 500: Alex Bowman (24), Elliott (22) and William Byron (20). At 20 years, 2 months and 20 days old, Byron will be the youngest driver to start the Daytona 500 since Trevor Bayne in 2011. Bayne went on to win the race.
CREW CHIEF STAR POWER: Going into the 2018 season, Hendrick Motorsports has three of the top four active crew chiefs with the most points-paying Cup Series wins. Seven-time champion Chad Knaus (No. 48 team) leads all active crew chiefs with 81 victories, followed by Darian Grubb (No. 24 team) with 23 wins (tied with Paul Wolfe) and Alan Gustafson (No. 9 team) with 20. Going into his fourth season, No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives has three career Cup wins.
FIRST-TIME WINNERS: If Elliott, Byron or Bowman wins the 2018 Daytona 500, it will mark the ninth time a driver has recorded his first career Cup Series win while driving for Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing share the all-time record, having each sent eight first-time winners to Victory Lane in Cup Series competition.
DAYTONA 500 POLES: Hendrick Motorsports holds the all-time record for most Daytona 500 pole positions with 11. Richard Childress Racing is second with six poles, followed by Ranier Racing and Yates Racing with five. A Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet has won the pole in six of the last 10 Daytona 500 races, including the last three. The organization has earned eight of the most recent 11 poles in restrictor-plate races where qualifying was held, including three of four in 2017 and each of the last two.
DUELS STATS: Since 2008, Hendrick Motorsports has nine victories, seven runner-up finishes, 25 top-five finishes, 35 top-10s and 504 laps led in the Daytona 500 Duels qualifying races. After earning the Daytona 500 pole position, Elliott went on to win the first Duel in 2017.
THE CLASH: Four different Hendrick Motorsports drivers have combined to win The Clash – the season-opening exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway – on six occasions: Schrader (1989, 1990), Gordon (1994, 1997), Johnson (2005) and Earnhardt (2008).
ORGANIZATION STATS: To date, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 12 championships, 249 race victories, 213 pole positions, 1,029 top-five finishes and 1,740 top-10 finishes in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led 67,239 laps since 1984.
Chase Elliott on his goals for 2018:
“I think just the obvious – try to win a race. Starting year three, I think at this point I ought to know how to do that much at least and I think that I’m capable of doing it. We’ve had the speed and the ability to compete for wins – I think we’ve shown that on more than one occasion. Now, it’s just a matter of actually doing it. I know I sound like a broken record, but you just got to go do it. I know we’re capable so now it’s just about making it happen.”
Elliott on the significance of the No. 9:
“It’s special to me just because of the history I’ve had with it. Obviously, I would have never chosen that number to start racing if it wasn’t for my dad. I have a lot of history with it myself, with our championship in ’14, all my short track races, were all in that number. There’s a lot of time I’ve spent with the number, a lot of photos and races and things that I’ve run with it. It’s just kind of home to me and always has been my favorite number.”
William Byron on the Daytona 500:
“Going into the Daytona 500, which is my first race in the Cup Series, my biggest goal is to use some of the things I learned last year racing in the Xfinity Series. We won the Xfinity race there in July and that was a good experience – not only because we were racing at Daytona, but also because it was during the daytime so I feel like a lot of the handling characteristics and some of the things you feel in the draft will be similar. I think the biggest thing for me is just to keep improving at each step of the weekend and to make sure I can do the obvious things right. If I can do those things, I think we’ll be in a good position to have a good result. If we can win that would be great, but I feel like the goal for our team is to have a really good, solid weekend and then we’ll be able to focus on what we can do better.”
Byron on expectations in the No. 24:
“This is really a dream come true to be part of the Cup Series and be with a great race team that has a chance to win. I think, for us, we’re going to try to win races. We have all the resources and tools to do that and we’re trying to focus those in the right areas to make sure we’re ready for the season. Jeff (Gordon) has won 93 races in the (No.) 24 car and I get a chance to add to that legacy. That part is something you look forward to, and when you have guys like Jeff or Jimmie (Johnson) behind the scenes helping you become a better driver, you can’t ask for much more as a rookie.”
Byron on No. 24 team crew chief Darian Grubb:
“Darian (Grubb) has a lot of experience. He’s been with a lot of different drivers and has won with every one of them. You don’t find people like that very often, and I feel like he’s an asset to our organization. I think we’re both most comfortable when we’re working around the racetrack and working in that environment. I think the combination of the two of us is going to make for good calls and aggressive decisions. I feel he’s pretty aggressive with how he approaches the weekend, and you want somebody like that.”
Jimmie Johnson his outlook for the new Camaro ZL1:
“My outlook is very positive. When you look what we did with the previous generation car, we had five seasons with no upgrades and still stayed awfully competitive. We’re going to be in much better shape this season from a competition standpoint. We also have a new paint scheme on my Lowe’s Chevy, which is a lot different than what we’re used to. I’m recharged and very excited.”
Johnson on having a new car chief:
“Ron Malec will be missed, but he still touches our cars back at the shop. Jesse (Saunders) is more than capable of the job, I have a ton of confidence in his experience and ability, so the decision was a good one. He has been on our team since 2014 and worked under (No. 48 team crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and Ron that entire time, so he has had a good mentor and I know he will be great.”
Alex Bowman on the Daytona 500:
“I have been looking forward to this week for so long and it is finally here. Throughout last season, I did a lot of simulator work to prepare myself for the 2018 season and I can now put all that hard work to use on the track. This Nationwide team has worked tirelessly throughout the offseason to build fast Chevrolet Camaro ZL1s and we are ready to see what the car can do on track in Daytona. (No. 88 team crew chief) Greg (Ives) has put together a great team and I am pumped to see how we start the season.”