MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY (TWO-MILE OVAL)
LOCATION: BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 23 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 3 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, AUG. 11 (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
3 pole positions
7 top-five finishes
8 top-10 finishes
489 laps led
7 pole positions
40 top-five finishes
67 top-10 finishes
1,732 laps led
0 pole positions
3 top-five finishes
6 top-10 finishes
67 laps led
Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, will be available to members of the media on Friday, Aug. 9, at 3 p.m. local time in the media center at Michigan International Speedway.
BACK-TO-BACK: Last weekend, Chase Elliott and the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS team returned to Victory Lane at Watkins Glen International for the second year in a row. Elliott won his fifth career NASCAR Cup Series race in a dominating fashion after starting from the pole position, winning both Stage 1 and Stage 2 and leading 80 of the 90 laps in the event – the second-most laps led by a driver at the 2.45-mile course and only three laps shy of of the record held by Tony Stewart (83). It is only the fourth time in history a driver has won the pole and swept every stage before going on to win the race.
LAST 37: Over the last 37 NASCAR Cup Series races, Elliott has collected five wins – the second most of any driver in that span behind Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch, who both have six. He is the only Chevrolet driver to win more than once in the last year. Over the last 37 events, he has won three pole awards and collected 13 top-five finishes, 19 top-10s and 758 laps led.
MICHIGAN STATS: Elliott currently holds the best average finish (7.4) of all time at Michigan. He finished inside the top 10 in the first six of his seven career NASCAR Cup Series starts at the two-mile oval, which ties him for the series’ longest streak of starts before a finish outside the top 10 at Michigan. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native has collected three top-five finishes at Michigan, all of which were runner-up results.
RUNNER-UP FINISHES: Elliott is in good company as one of four drivers with the most runner-up finishes at Michigan before their first win at the track. NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon also earned three second-place results before capturing his first win at the two-mile oval (1998), and both Martin Truex Jr. and NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte have three runner-up results without a win at Michigan.
GUSTAFSON STATS: In his 15th season as crew chief, Alan Gustafson is set to call his 30th race from atop the pit box this weekend at Michigan. In his previous 29 starts at the venue with five different drivers (Elliott, Gordon, Busch, Mark Martin and Casey Mears), Gustafson has collected two wins – with Martin in June 2009 and Gordon in August 2014, when he started from the pole position. The No. 9 team crew chief has garnered five top-five finishes, 13 top-10s and 293 laps led at the Michigan track.
SEE ELLIOTT AT DAYTONA: On Sunday, Aug. 11, Elliott will appear at the Team Chevy Stage at 11:45 a.m. local time for a question-and-answer session.
NASHVILLE: Last week, Elliott headed to Nashville to promote the upcoming Bristol night race. He joined the Tennessee National Guard in a Black Hawk helicopter 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. Take a look at Elliott’s day here.
No. 24 Liberty University 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
0 top-10 finishes
2 laps led
FRONT ROW FREQUENCY: Continuing to improve in all aspects during his sophomore season, this past weekend William Byron started on the outside pole at Watkins Glen International. It marked the eighth time he has qualified on the front row this season, which leads all NASCAR Cup Series drivers in 2019. It was the fifth time Hendrick Motorsports has swept the front row starting positions and the No. 24 team has been a contributing factor in all five. It was also the third time that Byron and teammate Chase Elliott, who won the pole at Watkins Glen, have shared the front row this season (Bristol Motor Speedway, Dover International Speedway and Watkins Glen International).
HEATING UP IN THE SUMMER: Riding a hot streak during the summer months of the 2019 season, Byron currently has the fourth-highest average finishing position in the series, 10.83, over the last six races. In those six races, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native has collected two top-five finishes and three top-10s. The driver of the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has solidly maintained his 12th position in the driver point standings throughout those six races and now holds a 60-point gap above the cutoff line with only four races remaining before the playoffs begin. In fact, in the last 10 races, Byron has gained 75 points on the cutoff line, improving his cushion in every race but two during that span.
WHAT SOPHMORE SLUMP?: Just 22 races into the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season, Byron has exceeded his total of laps led, poles and top-10 finishes from his rookie of the year campaign in 2018. So far during his sophomore season, Byron has led 180 laps, collected three poles and earned seven top-10s, including finishing inside the top 10 in three of the last six races. In his rookie year, Byron led 61 laps, did not capture a pole and finished in the top-10 four times across 36 starts.
TIED FOR SECOND: 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 ranks third among the Cup field for most laps led (180) without a win.
LIBERTY U RETURNS: For the seventh time in 2019, the Liberty University colors will be on board Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 when the team unloads for this weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway. Returning as a primary partner of the No. 24 team in 2019 for 12 races, Liberty University has a long history with the driver starting back in 2014 in the late model ranks and is in the midst of its fifth season of partnering with the 21-year-old driver. 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 offer 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.
MICHIGAN MINUTES: Returning to Michigan International Speedway for the second time in 2019 and for the second time with crew chief Chad Knaus atop the pit box, Byron is optimistic about his chances for improvement this weekend. In June, the sophomore driver qualified 21st but was running inside the top five when his Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 swung loose under a competitor, causing him to spin. Byron tried to regain as much track position as he could in the closing laps but restarting in the bottom lane halted his momentum, leaving him with an 18th-place finish. Before this year’s race, he had five NASCAR starts at Michigan International Speedway across all three series at the two-mile, D-shaped oval with a best starting position of 14th and a track-best finish of 13th, both coming in the rain-shortened Cup event last June. In his lone Xfinity Series start at Michigan, he qualified fourth and ended the race in the runner-up position, and in his one Gander Outdoor Truck Series start at the track, he started third and finished fourth.
WHAT HAPPENED AT WATKINS GLEN: After qualifying second and running within the top five throughout the entirety of Stage 1 last weekend at Watkins Glen International, Byron sustained substantial front-end damage due to contact with a competitor during the stage break.The incident forced the No. 24 team to make significant repairs that continued throughout Stage 2. Happy with the repairs made to the No. 24 Hendrick Autoguard Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 before the start of the final stage, Byron lined up 36th, still on the lead lap, and was able to fight his way up to the sixth position as pit strategy began to take effect. Pitting for fuel only with fewer than 30 laps remaining, the No. 24 car was running within the top 15, however as the laps wound down, fresher tires behind him prevailed, sending him to a 21st-place finish.
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
0 pole positions
5 top-five finishes
13 top-10 finishes
700 laps led
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, will be available to members of the media on Friday, Aug. 9, at 3:15 p.m. local time in the media center at Michigan International Speedway.
CLIFF’S FIRST RACE: In their first start together, No. 48 team crew chief Cliff Daniels and seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson made up some valuable ground in the point standings at Watkins Glen International. Daniels and the driver qualified in eighth for the road course event then finished sixth in Stage 1 and 10th in Stage 2, earning extra points for the results. Johnson pitted after the second stage and was making up ground through the field when contact with a competitor sent him into the tire barriers in Turn 5, causing damage to the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet. The team made swift repairs and Johnson was able to advance from 31st to 19th in the closing laps of the event. The team is now tied at 16th in the point standings with four races remaining to secure a spot in the 2019 playoffs.
CREW CHIEF BABY WATCH: Daniels and wife Shannon are expecting their first child any day now, In the event Baby Daniels makes his or her way into the world over the weekend while the No. 48 team is on track at Michigan International Speedway, the plan would be for Daniels to return to Charlotte, North Carolina, to be present for the baby’s arrival. In that case, Hendrick Motorsports technical director Darian Grubb would call the race for the No. 48 Ally team. Grubb is no stranger to the pit box, or Victory Lane, as a crew chief, having won a NASCAR Cup Series championship with NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart. He has 23 wins in his career, including a Daytona 500 win with Johnson as an interim crew chief subbing for Chad Knaus.
MICHIGAN FINISHES: The driver of the No. 48 scored his first and only win at Michigan on June 15, 2014. He has led 700 laps at the track in the Irish Hills and has five top-five finishes and 13 top-10s over 35 starts.
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE: Michigan is a “home” track for Brandon Harder, the fueler on the No. 48 pit crew. Harder is a native of Oak Harbor, Ohio, less than 90 miles from the track, and attended Bowling Green State University, majoring in construction management before moving to North Carolina to pursue his NASCAR dreams.
JJ Q&A: Johnson will participate in a question-and-answer session Sunday, Aug. 11, on the Chevy Stage at Michigan International Speedway at 12 p.m. local time.
ALLY SWAG(GER): Ally will help fans get their “Ally Swag(ger)” on once again this weekend. Fans will have the opportunity to update their Johnson gear with the Ally colors if they find an Ally brand ambassadors in the campgrounds at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Follow @AllyRacing on Twitter for exact locations and updates.
ALLIES CLOSE BY: Ally Financial is based in nearby Detroit, roughly 78 miles east of MIS. Ally Detroit Center, formerly One Detroit Center, is a skyscraper located in the downtown area overlooking the Detroit financial district. The 43-story tower is the tallest office building in Michigan and the second tallest building in the state. Michigan is also home to manufacturer Chevrolet, as General Motors Company is also based in Detroit’s Renaissance Center just around the corner from Ally.
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
1 top-10 finish
0 laps led
AXALTA ON BOARD: This weekend marks the 10th of 12 events in which the Axalta colors will adorn Alex Bowman’s No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 this season. The leading global supplier of liquid and powder coatings will be on board this weekend at Michigan International Speedway and again in three weeks at Darlington Raceway. 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.
MICHIGAN PERFORMANCE: Bowman has eight previous NASCAR Cup Series starts at Michigan International Speedway. His best finish at the track came earlier this season when he crossed the finish line 10th. The Tucson, Arizona, native has four starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at MIS. In the series, he earned one pole (2016), one top-five finish and three top-15 results at the track. In 2015, the driver made one start at the Michigan-based track in the Truck Series and finished 11th after 100 laps. He made one start in the ARCA Series event in Michigan, starting third and leading 12 laps before finishing second.
IVES HEADS HOME: No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives will make his 10th NASCAR Cup Series start as crew chief at his home track of Michigan International Speedway this weekend. In his nine previous starts calling the shots, he has one top-five finish and four top-10s. Ives’ best finish of second came in 2015 with Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind the wheel. In 2013, Ives was a crew chief at JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and captured the victory in the spring event at Michigan with driver Regan Smith. Ives’ drivers have led 20 laps in the Xfinity Series at the two-mile track and have an average finish of 3.5. He was a race engineer for the No. 48 team between 2006 and 2012. During that time, the team captured six top-10 finishes and three second-place starting positions at Michigan.
‘ACCELERATE THE CURE’ WINNING DESIGN: Last weekend, Bowman wore a special helmet during the 90-lap event at Watkins Glen International. Axalta partnered with CARSTAR, North America’s premier network of independently owned collision repair facilities, for last Sunday’s event in New York. CARSTAR initiated the “Accelerate the Cure” contest with cystic fibrosis (CF) chapters across North America that allowed individuals affected by CF to take their shot at designing the No. 88 driver’s helmet. The winning design was drawn by Mikayla Bianchin and featured a blue color scheme with DNA strands, among other meaningful themes, signifying that cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease. Read more here.
THE FANS HAVE SPOKEN: Last week, Nationwide announced the winner of the fan-designed paint scheme that Bowman will pilot at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sept.15. Kyle Sykes Designs’ scheme will be featured on the No. 88 machine after more than 30,000 votes were cast for his design. The driver announced the winning scheme on Twitter this past Thursday.
TEAM CHEVY APPEARANCE: On Saturday, Aug. 10, Bowman will visit the Team Chevy display in the Fan Zone at Michigan International Speedway at 10:30 a.m. local time. Be sure to stop by to meet the driver of the No. 88 machine and get an autograph.
HOMETOWN TRACK: Three members of the No. 88 team have ties to the state of Michigan. Ives grew up in Bark River, Michigan, which is approximately 443 miles from Michigan International Speedway. The No. 88 team crew chief received his degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan Technological University. Hauler driver Andy “Squiggs” Quillan grew up in Belding, Michigan, which is approximately two hours from the track. Quillan grew up a NASCAR fan and attended his first race at his home track back in 2001. Front-tire changer Scott Brzozowski grew up in Sterling Heights, Michigan, which is just outside Detroit. Brzozowski started as a member of the No. 24 over-the-wall crew before switching to the No. 88 team in 2015.
HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT MICHIGAN: At Michigan International Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports has collected eight wins, 11 pole positions, 52 top-five finishes and 100 top-10s along with 2,494 laps led.
TRIPLE DIGITS: Michigan is one of seven tracks where Hendrick Motorsports has accumulated 100 or more top-10 finishes. The list is led by Martinsville and Pocono, as the organization owns 126 top-10s at each track.
FEELING HOT, HOT, HOT: Hendrick Motorsports is the only team with multiple wins in the last six races. Including race wins, the organization has won four of the last five stages in 2019. Of Chevrolet’s last eight wins, Hendrick Motorsports has accounted for six.
THREE OR MORE SINCE ’94: Chase Elliott’s win last weekend at Watkins Glen was the third of the season for Hendrick Motorsports. That extended the organization’s streak, which began in 1994, to 26 consecutive seasons with at least three wins. It marks the longest stretch all-time by a team. The second-longest streak of 21 belongs to Petty Enterprises from 1957-77. The next closest active streak of seasons with at least three wins belongs to Team Penske with six.
POWER OF THE POLE: Hendrick Motorsports leads all organizations in poles for the 2019 season with seven. Last weekend at Watkins Glen International, Elliott captured the pole with William Byron on the outside pole. It was the fifth time the organization has swept the front row in 2019, which also leads all teams.
CREW CHIEF CREDIT: Two of the organization’s crew chiefs are among the winningest currently active in the series. No. 24 crew chief Chad Knaus holds the top spot with 81 wins. After last weekend’s win at Watkins Glen, No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson sits fifth with 25 wins, just one victory shy of tying Rodney Childers and Adam Stevens for third among active crew chiefs.
PLAYOFF POSITIONING: All four 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 point standings. William Byron is currently 12th, with Jimmie Johnson in 16th.
ORGANIZATION STATS: To date, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 12 championships, 255 race victories, 222 pole positions, 1,061 top-five finishes and 1,816 top-10 finishes in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led more than 68,600 laps since 1984.
Chase Elliott on heading to Michigan:
“Michigan is a much different place now. Nothing like it used to be, we are close to wide open. It has been an OK place for me. We didn’t get the result we wanted in June, but we will look at our notes and go back and hopefully be better.”
Elliott on the No. 9 team’s performance:
“To kind of have a weekend that wasn’t as poor as the last six have been was really nice, and then the way we did it I think was the biggest thing. We’ve never had a weekend like that in my career, showing up, qualifying on the pole and leading the most laps and win the race. That’s the kind of weekend you want to have, and that’s the kind of team and the kind of effort you have to put on occasionally and often to compete with the guys that you’re going to have to beat in this deal.”
William Byron on heading back to Michigan:
“I don’t really know what to expect fully when we go back to Michigan a second time this year, but I’m optimistic about it. Earlier this year was more of a learning process with the new package and what to expect at such a high-speed track. This time I think we have a better idea of where we need to be when we show up and what we can expect throughout the race. In general, we’ve learned a lot as a team as the season has gone on, though, which puts us in an even better position when we start going back to some of these places for the second time. I’m excited to get to Michigan and see how the weekend goes for us because of it.”
Jimmie Johnson on his new crew chief, Cliff Daniels:
“Cliff (Daniels) did a great job last weekend. We had a strong car and everyone did a great job all weekend long. We got stage points, we executed. Bring on Michigan.”
Cliff Daniels on his first race as No. 48 team crew chief:
“The first weekend was just incredibly busy. We had a great plan in practice and we executed it pretty well, I thought, but with that there are always a lot of changes and things going on. Overall, there was just a lot of excitement with the team, with Jimmie, and I’m really thankful for just the energy level we had and the enthusiasm.”
Alex Bowman on racing at Michigan:
“I’m looking forward to Michigan. We raced really well there earlier this year. We were running in the top five. The last green-white-checkered we were stuck on the bottom and couldn’t really go anywhere. But, it’s a fun place. I think the aero package obviously changed it quite a bit. It’ll be interesting to see how everybody has learned each and every week we take that package to the racetrack. I am ready to see what it’s like going back there versus the first time and see if guys have figured out new stuff or changed their approach. I thought our car drove really well there last time. We were a little down on single-car speed, but it turned into a good race for us. So, we’ll just have to wait and see.”