Hendrick Motorsports Previews The FireKeepers Casino 400

MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY (TWO-MILE OVAL)

LOCATION: BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 15 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 2 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, JUNE 10 (FOX/MRN/SIRIUSXM)

Chase Elliott
No. 9 Mountain Dew/Little Caesars Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Driver Chase Elliott   Hometown Dawsonville, Georgia
Age 22                       Resides Dawsonville, Georgia

2018 Season

  • 13th in standings
  • 14 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 6 top-10 finishes
  • 8 laps led

Career

  • 91 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 25 top-five finishes
  • 44 top-10 finishes
  • 926 laps led

Track Career 

  • 4 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 4 top-10 finishes
  • 66 laps led
MOUNTAIN DEW / LITTLE CAESARS CHEVROLET: The No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will get a fresh orange, white and black look for this weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway. Chase Elliott took to Facebook last week to help unveil the new Mountain Dew/Little Caesars paint scheme.

MICHIGAN STATS: Michigan ranks as Elliott’s second-best track based on his average finish of 3.5. He has finished inside the top 10 in all four career NASCAR Cup Series starts at the two-mile oval, giving him the series’ longest active streak of starts prior to a finish outside the top 10 at Michigan. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native has collected three top-five finishes – all of which were runner-up results – at the track. Elliott also averages a starting position of 7.5 at the venue.

RUNNER-UP FINISHES: Elliott is in good company as one of four drivers with the most runner-up finishes at Michigan prior to 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 speedway (1998), and both Martin Truex Jr. and NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte have three runner-up results without a win at Michigan.

‘TRICKY TRIANGLE’ REWIND: The No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS team raced inside the top 10 for much of the day last weekend at Pocono Raceway, collecting valuable stage points and a top-10 result. The finish moves Elliott to 13th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings.

RETURNING TO MICHIGAN: Last month, Elliott visited Selfridge Air National Guard Base to promote the upcoming race at Michigan and the speedway’s 50th anniversary. The driver of the No. 9 spent the day touring the base, visiting with military members and talking to media. For a behind-the-scenes look at Elliott’s day, click here.

William Byron
No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Driver William Byron   Hometown Charlotte, North Carolina
Age 20                         Resides Charlotte, North Carolina

2018 Season

  • 21st in standings
  • 14 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 1 top-10 finish
  • 31 laps led

Career

  • 14 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 1 top-10 finish
  • 31 laps led

Track Career 

  • 0 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 0 top-10 finishes
  • 0 laps led
LIBERTY RETURNS: The blue and red Liberty University colors will adorn the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the seventh time this season. Liberty is the majority primary partner of the No. 24 team with 13 races in 2018. Liberty University, founded in 1971, offers more than 550 unique programs of study from the certificate to the doctoral level. William Byron, a sophomore majoring in business communications, takes online classes at Liberty, which offers more than 250 programs online. The 20-year-old driver wrapped up the spring semester a couple of weeks ago and is currently enjoying a break from college courses over the summer.

MICHIGAN STATS: Byron will make his first NASCAR Cup Series start at Michigan International Speedway this weekend, but the Cup Series rookie of the year contender has experienced success at the two-mile oval in the other NASCAR national series. In his lone Xfinity Series race at Michigan, Byron started fourth and finished second, just missing capturing the win after leading eight of the final nine laps of the race. He rebounded to win the next two Xfinity Series races at Iowa and Daytona. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native has one start at the Brooklyn, Michigan, track in the Camping World Truck Series in 2016, when he qualified third and led nine laps en route to a fourth-place finish.

TOUGH TO WIN: Michigan International Speedway is notoriously a tough place for a rookie driver to earn a Cup Series win, with only two drivers having accomplished the feat – Dale Jarrett in 1991 and Kyle Larson in 2016. On a positive note for Byron going into this weekend, history shows that while it might be tough to break through for the win, rookies have racked up solid results at the two-mile oval. Through the years, 10 rookies have earned top-three finishes at the Brooklyn, Michigan, track, and two Hendrick Motorsports drivers earned top-three finishes in both the June and August events in their respective rookie seasons – Jeff Gordon in 1993 and Chase Elliott in 2016.

JG VIP EXPERIENCE: Byron will participate in the 2018 Jeff Gordon #24Ever VIP Experience this weekend in Michigan. The experience gives fans the opportunity to meet two drivers of the No. 24 Chevrolet – Byron and Gordon – and includes a meet-and-greet, an autograph and a photo, along with a behind-the-scenes garage tour and an exclusive gift. The experience is available at only one more racetrack following this weekend – Sonoma Raceway. Spots are extremely limited and this is the final year the package will be available. Visit www.jeffgordonvip.com for more information or to purchase a spot.

Jimmie Johnson
No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Driver Jimmie Johnson   Hometown El Cajon, California
Age 42                             Resides Charlotte, North Carolina

2018 Season

  • 12th in standings
  • 14 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 2 top-five finishes
  • 6 top-10 finishes
  • 2 laps led

Career

  • 593 starts
  • 83 wins
  • 35 pole positions
  • 224 top-five finishes
  • 347 top-10 finishes
  • 18,665 laps led

Track Career 

  • 32 starts
  • 1 win
  • 0 pole positions
  • 5 top-five finishes
  • 13 top-10 finishes
  • 687 laps led
GAINING GROUND: Even though it’s been a full season since Jimmie Johnson has pulled into Victory Lane, the El Cajon, California, native has finished outside the top 10 just twice in the last seven races. Since the race at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 15, Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros team have accumulated two top-five finishes and five top-10s. Johnson finished third at Bristol, sixth at Richmond Raceway, 12th at Talladega Superspeedway, ninth at Dover International Speedway, 19th at Kansas Speedway, fifth at Charlotte Motor Speedway and eighth last weekend at Pocono Raceway. Additionally, in three of the last seven races, Johnson has earned valuable stage points in every stage of the events.

MICHIGAN AVERAGES: Johnson has 32 starts at Michigan International Speedway with an average starting position of 10th and average finish of 16.3. Johnson’s lone win came on June 15, 2014, when he led 39 laps to beat competitor Kevin Harvick to the stripe by 1.214 seconds. The win at Michigan came during a four-race stretch that season when Johnson won back-to-back races at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the 600-mile event and at Dover the very next week, then finished sixth at Pocono followed by a win at Michigan.

LOCAL CREWMAN: Brandon Harder, longtime fueler for the No. 48 team, views Michigan International Speedway as a hometown track of sorts. Harder went to Bowling Green State University and grew up in Oak Harbor, Ohio, roughly 90 miles from the track. He has been a member of the No. 48 team since 2009.

COLLEGE CONNECTION: Tanner Andrews, a tire changer on the No. 48 team, attended Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan, and was a member of the school’s Greco-Roman wrestling program and trained at the United States Olympic Education Center. Andrews, a native of North Aurora, Illinois, graduated in 2013 with a degree in criminal justice and joined Hendrick Motorsports as a developmental pit crew member in 2014.

83 AND COUNTING: 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. 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 No. 48 team crew chief Chad Knaus has the most wins of all active crew chiefs with 81.

Alex Bowman
No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Driver Alex Bowman   Hometown Tucson, Arizona
Age 25                         Resides Mooresville, North Carolina

2018 Season

  • 16th in standings
  • 14 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 4 top-10 finishes
  • 65 laps led

Career

  • 95 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 2 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 7 top-10 finishes
  • 268 laps led

Track Career 

  • 5 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 0 top-10 finishes
  • 0 laps led
NATIONWIDE IS ON OUR SIDE: The Nationwide colors will be back on board the No. 88 Camaro ZL1 this weekend at Michigan International Speedway. This will be the first primary race at the two-mile track for Nationwide on the No. 88 machine since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2014.

DOUBLE DUTY: Alex Bowman will pilot the No. 23 ISM Connect Camaro in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for GMS Racing this weekend at Michigan. Bowman has three Xfinity starts at the track, including one pole award in 2016. The 25-year-old will be back behind the wheel of the No. 23 Chevrolet at Kentucky Speedway in July.

BOWMAN AT MICHIGAN: Bowman has five starts in the NASCAR Cup Series at Michigan, earning a best finish of 26th in 2014. In 2016, he was behind the wheel of the No. 88 machine for Hendrick Motorsports when the team qualified sixth and finished 30th due to ignition box issues on Lap 38. In 2015, Bowman ran the 100-lap NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event for JR Motorsports, finishing 11th after qualifying 16th. The 25-year-old captured the pole for the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Michigan and finished seventh after leading 11 laps. Bowman has three career Xfinity starts at the track, leading a total of 18 laps and never finishing outside of the top 15. In 2012, Bowman ran the ARCA Racing Series event at the track and captured a second-place finish after leading 12 laps.

HOME TRACK: Four members of the No. 88 Nationwide team have ties to the state of Michigan. Crew chief Greg Ives grew up in Bark River, Michigan, which is approximately 443 miles from the two-mile speedway. Ives received his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Michigan Technological University (MTU). Race engineer Doug Wojcik grew up in Wisconsin but attended MTU while earning his engineering degree. He began his career as an intern at JR Motorsports following his graduation. Hauler driver Andy “Squigz” Quillan grew up in Belding, Michigan, which is approximately two hours from Michigan International Speedway. Quillan grew up a NASCAR fan and attended his first race at his home track as a kid. Scott Brzozowski, front tire changer, grew up in Sterling Heights, Michigan, which is just outside Detroit. Brzozowski started out as a member of the No. 24 over-the-wall crew before switching to the No. 88 in 2015.

IVES AT HOME: Ives has called the shots six times for the No. 88 team at his home track. The Michigan native has one top-five finish and three top-10s at Michigan in the NASCAR Cup Series, with his best finish of second coming in the spring of 2015 with driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. In the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2013, Ives was the crew chief for Regan Smith at JR Motorsports when the team led 14 laps on their way to capturing the victory. Ives has two Xfinity starts as a crew chief with one win and two top-10 finishes. From 2006-2012, Ives was a race engineer for the No. 48 team and captured six top-10 finishes.

GOODYEAR TIRE TEST: In April, the No. 88 team participated in a Goodyear tire test at Michigan International Speedway. Bowman turned 321 laps over the two-day test. Following the test, Bowman said that the team tried to see what the Nationwide Camaro ZL1 did on the track with every tire that Goodyear brought. The Tucson, Arizona, native said, “We have just tried to see what different tires did and what our car did on every tire, in order to have a little bit of an advantage for when we go back to Michigan.”

Hendrick Motorsports

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT MICHIGAN: Hendrick Motorsports drivers have led 2,478 laps en route to eight wins, 52 top-five finishes and 97 top-10s in addition to 11 pole positions at Michigan International Speedway. The organization swept both races in 2014 for its most recent wins at the two-mile oval.

MASTERING MICHIGAN: Hendrick Motorsports’ eight NASCAR Cup Series victories at Michigan have come via five different drivers: Jeff Gordon (three), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (two), Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Ricky Rudd.

CHEVROLET STRONG: Chevrolet has won six of the last eight races at Michigan since June 2014, two of those wins belonging to Hendrick Motorsports courtesy of Johnson and Gordon.

MEMORABLE DATE: It has been 17 years since the last time the NASCAR Cup Series raced at Michigan on June 10. Jeff Gordon won the 2001 race from the pole after leading 143 laps. It marked the organization’s 100th Cup win.

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 152 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.

FIRST-TIME WINNERS: If Chase Elliott, William Byron or Alex Bowman wins at Michigan, 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.

ORGANIZATION STATS: To date, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 12 championships, 249 race victories, 214 pole positions, 1,035 top-five finishes and 1,755 top-10 finishes in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led more than 67,000 laps since 1984.

QUOTABLE / 

Chase Elliott on racing at Michigan:
“Michigan has been a good track for me and my team. I don’t really know why, but I think a lot of that has been really circumstantial with our performance at that point in time. I am looking forward to getting back and hopefully giving it a good run.”

Elliott on tying his father, Bill Elliott, for eight runner-up finishes before his first win:
“Dad ran second eight times and I am at eight currently. I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing. It has definitely been an up-and-down road to get to this point. We’ve had a lot of great opportunities and you wish you could have some of them back, but you can’t, so you just move on down the road. We just try to learn from each situation as time goes and I’ve definitely chosen the hard road to a victory for sure. I feel like in some cases it makes you better at the end of the day. Whenever the time comes when we are back and on top, those harder times and tough losses will make you better when you are in position to capitalize on some really good things.”

William Byron on racing at Michigan:
“Michigan is really fast. I’ve been there in a truck and in an (NASCAR) Xfinity (Series) car. The trucks are so different it’s hard to compare, but the Xfinity car was fast, so it’s a little more comparable to what the (NASCAR) Cup (Series) car will be. You’re going down the straightaway and into the corner really quickly, so vibrations are always a lot bigger there and things happen a lot faster. That’s the biggest thing at Michigan. I had good success there last year, and I feel like our Hendrick Motorsports engine package there works really well and I think that should be a key to success there this weekend. Obviously, you have to move around a little bit in the race, but the groove is fairly narrow, so you’ve got to stay disciplined the whole race.”

Jimmie Johnson on racing at Michigan:
“Michigan is so big, fast and has so much grip, the amount of wide-open throttle you can carry around the track is the key to success. The longer you can stay in the gas pedal, the faster you will be. They did a really nice job repaving the track. It’s been slow to open up a wider groove. Hopefully we can get up above the middle portion of the track near the wall this time around.”

Alex Bowman on the repave at Michigan:
“It’s still super narrow – hasn’t widened out at all. The test was really narrow, so hopefully that will come with time. Kansas seemed to widen out pretty quick and some other places and Michigan just has kind of stayed how it is. We will see.”

Bowman on winning in Chevrolet’s backyard:
“It would be really cool to win at Michigan for Chevy. It would be a really neat experience and I think we have a shot at doing it. We were really strong there in 2016, so hopefully we can pull it off.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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