WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONAL (2.45-MILE ROAD COURSE)
LOCATION: WATKINS GLEN, NEW YORK
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 22 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 3 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, AUG. 4 (NBCSN/MRN/SIRIUSXM)
No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Driver Chase Elliott Hometown Dawsonville, Georgia
Age 23 Resides Dawsonville, Georgia
8th in standings
2 pole positions
6 top-five finishes
7 top-10 finishes
409 laps led
6 pole positions
39 top-five finishes
66 top-10 finishes
1,652 laps led
0 pole positions
1 top-five finish
1 top-10 finish
61 laps led
Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, will be available to members of the media on Saturday, Aug. 3, at 12:15 p.m. local time in the media center at Watkins Glen International.
2018 ROAD COURSE SUCCESS: Chase Elliott proved his road course prowess in 2018 after collecting his first career NASCAR Cup Series victory at Watkins Glen International. The win made Elliott the ninth-youngest first-time winner in the Cup Series (22 years, eight months, eight days) and the youngest road-course winner of all time. In 2018, he was one of only three drivers to finish inside the top 10 in all three road course races (Sonoma, Watkins Glen, Charlotte “roval”) and he also garnered the second-most laps led on road courses (52) behind only Martin Truex Jr. (71) last season. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native held the best average finish on road courses last season (3.67) and his 141 points collected on those tracks were 20 more than any other driver. He is also tied with teammate Jimmie Johnson for the most top-10 finishes in Stage 1 and Stage 2 on road courses since 2018 with six.
ROAD COURSE STATS: The No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 driver is set to make his ninth Cup Series start on a road course this weekend. In his previous eight starts on a road course, he has collected one win, two top-five finishes, four top-10s and a total of 64 laps led. He has started inside the top five in each of the last five road course races.
WATKINS GLEN STATS: On Sunday, Elliott will make his fourth Cup Series start at Watkins Glen International. In the Dawsonville, Georgia, native’s previous three starts at The Glen, he averages a finishing position of 9.0 – the third-best average of active drivers. Last season at the 2.45-mile road course, Elliott qualified third and led a total of 52 laps en route to a dramatic finish as he held off Truex down the stretch to bring home his first career Cup Series win.
NAPA AT THE GLEN: For the first time in his Cup Series career, Elliott will pilot the blue, white and yellow NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet at Watkins Glen. The Atlanta-based company will serve as majority sponsor for the driver and the No. 9 team for a total of 26 NASCAR Cup Series races this year.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson will celebrate his 44th birthday on Monday, Aug. 5. Last season, the crew chief celebrated his birthday in Victory Lane. He grew up just down the road from historic Daytona International Speedway, where he got his start in racing turning wrenches on the go-karts of a childhood friend, Casey Yunick. Yunick is the grandson of legendary car builder and mechanic Smokey Yunick.
DALE JR DOWNLOAD: This week, Elliott was the special guest on the “Dale Jr. Download.” He talked Dawsonville living, flying, world travel and more. Dirty Mo Media released the podcast on Monday evening and a condensed version was shown on NBCSN Tuesday evening.
HOOTERS SPIRITS: On Monday, Hooters announced that Elliott would pilot the No. 9 Hooters Spirits Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Bristol Motor Speedway in August. The scheme comes ahead of the Fall 2019 launch of Hooters’ premium line of spirits that will be available at Hooters restaurants and select retailers.
HEADING TO NASHVILLE: Wednesday, Elliott headed to Nashville to promote the upcoming Bristol night race. He joined the Tennessee National Guard in a Blackhawk and met with members of the military before heading to Fairgrounds Speedway to give them and media members a ride around the track in the Bristol Motor Speedway pace car.
No. 24 Hendrick Autoguard Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Driver William Byron Hometown Charlotte, North Carolina
Age 21 Resides Charlotte, North Carolina
12th in standings
3 pole positions
2 top-five finishes
7 top-10 finishes
180 laps led
3 pole positions
2 top-five finishes
11 top-10 finishes
241 laps led
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
1 top-10 finish
0 laps led
William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Autoguard Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, will be available to members of the media on Saturday, Aug. 3, at noon local time in the media center at Watkins Glen International.
HEATING UP IN THE SUMMER: Collecting his second NASCAR Cup Series career top-five finish this past weekend at Pocono Raceway, William Byron’s success in the summer months hasn’t slowed down. In the last five races, the sophomore driver has the second-best average finish in the Cup field, 8.8, which includes two top-five finishes, three top-10s and four top-15s. In those five races, he has continued to put ground between himself and the playoff bubble spot, now holding a 62-point gap in 12th in the point standings with only five races remaining before the playoffs begin.
HENDRICK AUTOGUARD RETURNS: Returning for the fourth time on board the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 during the 2019 season, the Hendrick Autoguard colors will adorn Byron’s ride for this weekend’s road course race at Watkins Glen International. Available at Hendrick Automotive Group dealerships, Hendrick Autoguard includes additional individualized maintenance products like tire and wheel protection, paintless dent repair, an oil change program, a mechanical repair service contract, flexible maintenance and others. The program affords customers numerous options to get the maximum value from their vehicle with the highest level of service in the industry. All Autoguard vehicle protection programs are available as single products or value-packaged for additional savings. For more, visit the Hendrick Autoguard website.
WATKINS GLEN WHIZ: This weekend’s race will mark Byron’s second NASCAR Cup Series start at Watkins Glen and his fourth NASCAR national series start at the road course. In his three previous national starts at the 2.45-mile track, Byron has never finished outside the top-10 running order. Last year, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native had one of the best races of his Cup rookie season, qualifying 16th and racing to a solid eighth-place finish at Watkins Glen. Previous to his Cup start, he made his Watkins Glen debut in the 2015 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race, starting second and finishing seventh. He raced at the venue in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2017, qualifying 17th and crossing the line 10th.
KNAUS WANTS WATKINS GLEN WIN: This weekend’s race marks the third track of four this season where No. 24 team crew chief Chad Knaus has yet to claim a victory, with only the Charlotte Motor Speedway “roval” remaining this year. Calling the shots for 17 races at the 2.45-mile road course, third with Jimmie Johnson in 2012 is the closest Knaus has come to taking home a checkered flag. In those 17 starts, the veteran crew chief has two poles (2004 and 2009), three top-five finishes and seven top-10s. As an extra incentive, if Knaus is able to secure his first victory at The Glen this upcoming weekend, it will come the day before he celebrates his 48th birthday.
RUNNER-UP RESULT: Byron is one of four Cup Series drivers who have finished second in a race in 2019 but have yet to capture the checkered flag. He is also ranked third among the Cup field for most laps led (180) without a win.
HOME SWEET HOME: One member of the No. 24 team is excited to make the trip to Upstate New York this weekend – primary hauler driver Mark Ellis. Hailing from Utica, New York, which is less 150 miles from Watkins Glen International, Ellis graduated from Proctor High School before pursuing his racing career. Other than NASCAR, Ellis has also spent time working in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), where he was an engine builder on Tony Schumacher’s Top Fuel team, ultimately winning a world championship before heading back to the NASCAR circuit.
POCONO PLAYBACK: Despite starting from the 31st position due to issues in pre-race technical inspection, Byron began his march through the field last weekend at Pocono Raceway early on until the handling of his Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 swung to the extremely tight side and hindered his progress through traffic. Finding himself back within the top-10 running order at the start of the final stage, Knaus made the call for two right-side tires when the caution came out with fewer than 45 laps remaining. Told to save fuel aggressively to make it to the end of the race, Byron maintained his position within the top 10 until a caution with six laps to go changed the complexion of the race. Despite being close on fuel but restarting from the sixth position, Knaus gave Byron the green light to “go all out” for the final laps. Byron was able to move within the top five and crossed the finish line with a track-best fourth-place finish, running out of fuel as he crossed the finish line.
No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Driver Jimmie Johnson Hometown El Cajon, California
Age 43 Resides Charlotte, North Carolina
17th in standings
1 pole position
3 top-five finishes
8 top-10 finishes
81 laps led
36 pole positions
227 top-five finishes
360 top-10 finishes
18,784 laps led
1 pole position
4 top-five finishes
8 top-10 finishes
18 laps led
DANIELS ON THE BOX: On Monday, Hendrick Motorsports named Cliff Daniels as the new crew chief for seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team. Daniels, 31, won the 2016 Cup Series championship as Johnson’s race engineer. The Smithfield, Virginia, native joined the No. 48 team in December 2014, moved into Hendrick Motorsports’ competition systems group following the 2018 season and rejoined the No. 48 team as race engineer last month at Sonoma Raceway.
MORE CLIFF: Daniels started competing in Bandolero cars as a 9-year-old. As a child, he worked on cars out of the family garage in Smithfield, following his father Charlie Daniels, a Late Model driver at Langley Speedway in the 1980s and ’90s, into racing. The younger Daniels was winning Legends races at Langley in his teens before pursuing a mechanical engineering degree at University of North Carolina at Charlotte. After graduating, he joined RAB Racing in 2011 and then moved to Stewart-Haas Racing, where he served as the race engineer of the No. 14 Chevrolet driven by Tony Stewart from 2013 to 2014 before coming to Hendrick Motorsports.
NO STRANGER TO THE PIT BOX: Daniels has been sitting on top of the No. 48 pit box for quite some time. Beginning in the 2015 season, Daniels served as the race engineer of the No. 48 Chevrolet and worked closely under the guidance of champion crew chief Chad Knaus. During that timeframe, the No. 48 team had much success, accumulating 13 wins, 31 top-five finishes, 60 top-10s, two pole positions, 1,552 laps led and most notably a record-tying seventh NASCAR Cup Series Championship in 2016 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
ROAD COURSE STAGE POINTS: Since 2018, Johnson has six top-10 stage finishes on road courses, which is tied for the most in the Cup Series during that span. Last year at Watkins Glen, he finished second and 11th in the first two stages and was on target for a great finish when a penalty for driving through too many pit boxes relegated him to a 30th-place result.
PUSHY TEAMMATE: Johnson is always willing to lend a helping hand to a teammate in need, as he did for Chase Elliott at the end of the Watkins Glen event last year. Elliott had just scored his first NASCAR Cup Series win before running out of gas during his celebratory burnout. Johnson came to the aid of his young teammate and pushed him back to the start-finish line, where he could collect his checkered flag, and then got out to congratulate the first-time winner on his accomplishment.
PLAYOFF PICTURE: With five races remaining until the playoffs, Johnson is currently 12 points behind the cutoff 16th position. In his career, he owns a top-10 starting position at Watkins Glen (7.9) and has earned eight top-10 finishes at the New York road course, including four top-five results. Johnson’s best finish at The Glen is third, as it remains one of the four tracks where he has yet to score a win along with Chicagoland Speedway, Kentucky Speedway and the road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
HOMESTATE GUY: No. 48 team underneath mechanic Thomas Heslink, 28, hails from Clymer, New York and considers Watkins Glen his hometown track. Heslink graduated from Clymer Central High School and the University of Northwestern Ohio before joining the team late in the 2018 season.
JOHNSON AND HELMET OF HOPE WINNERS: The Jimmie Johnson Foundation announced the five recipients of this year’s $25,000 Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope grants this week. The final five were selected via a week-long public vote and more than 215,000 votes were cast for the 10 semi-finalists during the voting period. The five recipients are: Art with a Heart in Indianapolis; High Mountain Youth Project in Ruidoso, New Mexico; Immigrant Family Services Institute in Roslindale, Massachusetts; Lakeshore Elementary School PTA in San Francisco; and Pilot Light in Chicago. For more information, go to www.JimmieJohnsonFoundation.org.
HELMET SWAP STORIES: Johnson has been documenting his history in the sport via a video series titled “The Archives,” which lives on his social media feeds. This week’s release was a story about the late Nicky Hayden, and his helmet swap with the Kentucky Kid. Fans can view the video on Johnson’s Twitter feed.
No. 88 Axalta 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
6 top-10 finishes
182 laps led
2 pole positions
7 top-five finishes
20 top-10 finishes
456 laps led
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
0 top-10 finishes
0 laps led
Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, will be available to members of the media on Saturday, Aug. 3, at 9 a.m. local time in the media center at Watkins Glen International.
AXALTA ON BOARD: This weekend marks the ninth of 12 events in which the Axalta colors will adorn Alex Bowman’s No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The leading global supplier of liquid and powder coatings will be on board this weekend in Watkins Glen International and then again at Michigan International Speedway, Darlington Raceway and ISM Raceway later this season. Axalta unveiled a new Axalta Racing website last year that includes plenty of behind-the-scenes content, photos, and videos. Check out Bowman’s page here.
ACCELERATE THE CURE WINNING DESIGN: Axalta has partnered with CARSTAR, North America’s premier network of independently owned collision repair facilities, for this weekend’s event at Watkins Glen. The CARSTAR logo will be placed on the roof and television panel of the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Through the “Accelerate the Cure” contest with cystic fibrosis (CF) chapters across North America, individuals affected by CF had the chance to design Bowman’s helmet for this weekend. On Saturday, Aug. 3, at 9 a.m. local time, the winning helmet design will be unveiled in the WGI media center.
WATKINS GLEN PERFORMANCE: Bowman has three previous NASCAR Cup Series starts at Watkins Glen. His best finish at the track came in August 2018 when he finished 14th with the No. 88 team. In 2013, he made one start in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the 2.45-mile road course and finished 13th after qualifying 19th.
ROAD COURSE CAREER: Since 2018, the driver has averaged a finish of 10.25 on road course events in the NASCAR Cup Series. This number ranks sixth on the list of average finishes for drivers on a road course since last season. The 26-year-old hasn’t finished outside the top 14 in a road course event since June of last year. Bowman’s best road-course finish of fourth came at the Charlotte Motor Speedway “roval” in September 2018. The driver of the No. 88 Chevy has captured five top-10 stage finishes in road course events since last season, which ranks him second behind three drivers tied for first with six top-10 stage finishes in that span.
STATS AT THE GLEN: No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives will call the shots for the fifth time at the New York-based road course this weekend. The Bark River, Michigan, native’s resumé includes three top-15 finishes. Ives’ best result at the track came back in 2015 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 11th after starting seventh in the 90-lap event. Last year at Watkins Glen, Ives led Bowman to a 14th-place finish. The crew chief has two starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the track, capturing one top-five finish and two top-10s. Ives was a race engineer for the No. 48 team from 2006-2012 and captured one pole (2009), two third-place finishes and four top 10s at Watkins Glen.
HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS CAREER NUMBERS: Since Bowman’s first start with Hendrick Motorsports at New Hampshire in 2016, the driver has made 67 starts and has two pole wins (Phoenix in 2016, Daytona 500 in 2018). The Tucson, Arizona, native claimed his first Cup Series victory at Chicagoland Speedway back in June. The driver of the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet has claimed seven top-five finishes, 20 top-10s and 453 laps led with Hendrick Motorsports in that span.
BACK HOME IN NEW YORK: Andrew Seamans, the interior specialist on the No. 88 team, is going back to his home state of New York this weekend. Seamans grew up in Liverpool, New York, which is approximately 80 miles from Watkins Glen International. The 32-year-old attended college at SUNY Oswego in Oswego, New York, and has a degree in informational science. Prior to joining Hendrick Motorsports, Seamans worked with Kasey Kahne Racing and Kyle Larson Racing in the World of Outlaws Series.
HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT WATKINS GLEN: In 33 races at Watkins Glen, Hendrick Motorsports has seven wins, six pole positions, 19 top-five finishes and 37 top-10s. Chase Elliott earned the organization’s most recent victory at the road course when he won the event last season to capture his first career NASCAR Cup Series trip to Victory Lane.
ON THIS DATE: The last time a Cup race fell on Aug. 4 was in 2013, when Kasey Kahne won at Pocono Raceway. Following him to the finish line was Jeff Gordon in second, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in fifth and Jimmie Johnson in 13th. During that race, the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers led 118 of the 160-lap race (74 percent).
ROCKING THE ROAD COURSES: Hendrick Motorsports owns the all-time record for the most wins (16), poles (17), top-five finishes (58), top-10s (104) and laps led (1,512) on road courses.
PLAYOFF POSITIONING: Three Hendrick Motorsports drivers are currently in position to make the 16-driver NASCAR Cup Series playoffs at the end of the regular season. Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman have essentially locked in their spots by finding Victory Lane and rank eighth and 11th, respectively, in the standings. William Byron is currently 12th, with Jimmie Johnson 17th, just 12 points behind the cutoff line.
ORGANIZATION STATS: To date, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 12 championships, 254 race victories, 221 pole positions, 1,060 top-five finishes and 1,815 top-10 finishes in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led more than 68,500 laps since 1984.
Chase Elliott on going back to Watkins Glen after his 2018 win:
“Any time you run good somewhere, whether you win it or not, it’s always nice to go back. It makes you feel a little more confident. It will be a special weekend going back. That was a big moment for us last year and hopefully we can do that well again.”
Elliott on his first win:
“Last year’s win at Watkins Glen was just such a relief. It was so good to finally get the first one for not only me but my guys, too. We had been working on three years and I hadn’t won one, we gave ourselves a good opportunity that day and I was able to get it done.”
William Byron on Watkins Glen versus Sonoma:
“Sonoma was a good race for us, but Watkins Glen is really fast and narrow compared to that track. I think with this package, the track is going to be a lot faster. I’m excited to see what that’s all about. We can translate some stuff from our setup in Sonoma and I think it will really be strong for Watkins Glen. I’m excited about that, for sure.”
Byron on what he learned at Spring Mountain:
“Before Sonoma we got the chance to drive the Chevy cars out at Spring Mountain. It was helpful for me to work on hitting my marks and being consistent every lap, but it really helped us with overall communication. (No. 24 team crew chief) Chad (Knaus) could really understand better what I was talking about with the car and what I needed, and I think it paid off in Sonoma. We wanted to put a lot of importance into the road course races this year because it’s really like every other race. You can win the race and lock yourself into the playoffs just like the others. I don’t think a lot of guys really prepare completely for them since there’s so few road courses on the schedule, but I think that’s starting to change with the Charlotte ‘roval’ being added into the playoffs. There’s now more of an importance on road courses and we want to make sure we’re as ready as we can be.”
Jimmie Johnson on the rest of the regular season:
“Our focus and No. 1 priority right now is to make the playoffs. Our road course game has been pretty good the past few outings, and with stage racing it adds a huge element of strategy, so we will be looking at this weekend from a lot of different angles. Every point, every lap counts from now until the end of the regular season. We are looking at everything. I have a lot of faith in (crew chief) Cliff (Daniels) and in the No. 48 team, so I know we can do this, we just need to execute.”
No. 48 team crew chief Cliff Daniels on his new role:
“I know this is the first weekend I will be calling a race as a crew chief but I am confident in myself and the team. The cool part about it is that Hendrick Motorsports has a very good recent history of success at The Glen. (No. 9 team crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) and Chase (Elliott) and the No. 9 team winning last year, they had a fast car last year and did a great job with strategy. I was a part of the No. 48 team with Jimmie as he was two turns away from winning at Charlotte on the ‘roval’ last season but that just didn’t work out for us. Jimmie has so much experience of driving cars and trucks on different types of tracks, so he is super adaptable on road courses. I have a lot of notes to rely on and many resources to pull from, so I will be studying up heading into the weekend and have a good plan going into it.”
Alex Bowman on Watkins Glen versus Sonoma:
“Even though the tracks are pretty different, I think Watkins Glen is probably a little easier than Sonoma from a driver’s standpoint. I am excited to get there and unload a fast car that (No. 88 team crew chief) Greg (Ives) and the guys have put together. I know our road course stuff is really strong, so it should be fun.”
Bowman on wearing a special helmet:
“This weekend I will be wearing a special helmet that was designed by an individual with cystic fibrosis. This individual won the ‘Accelerate the Cure’ contest that was promoted through CARSTAR and cystic fibrosis chapters across North America. I can’t wait to unveil the winning helmet design on Saturday morning at Watkins Glen.”