Hendrick Motorsports Previews The Food City 500

BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY (0.533-MILE OVAL)

LOCATION: BRISTOL, TENNESSEE
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE EIGHT OF 36)
TUNE IN: 2 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, APRIL 15 (FOX/PRN/SIRIUSXM)

Chase Elliott
No. 9 Mountain Dew Baja Blast Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

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

 

2018 Season

  • 15th in standings
  • 7 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 3 top-10 finishes
  • 8 laps led

Career

  • 84 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 23 top-five finishes
  • 41 top-10 finishes
  • 926 laps led

Track Career 

  • 4 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 2 top-10 finishes
  • 16 laps led
BRINGIN’ BACK BAJA BLAST: The fans have spoken and Mountain Dew has listened. This weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, Baja Blast will return to the racetrack on Chase Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Elliott’s paint scheme comes ahead of the tropical lime-flavored beverage’s re-release in bottles and cans, for a limited time only, beginning April 23. It will be first time in two years that Baja Blast will be available on shelves across the nation and the second time that Elliott has piloted the Mountain Dew Baja Blast Chevy. He most recently had Baja Blast on board in April 2016 at Richmond Raceway as part of Mountain Dew’s DEWcision 2016.

BRISTOL STATS: Elliott is set to make his fifth career NASCAR Cup Series start at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. In his previous four starts at the track, the 22-year-old driver has led 16 laps and collected one top-five finish and two top-10s. He averages a starting position of 7.8 and finishing position of 11.0. In Elliott’s four NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the track, he earned one top-five finish and finished in the top 10 in all four events.

GUSTAFSON AT BRISTOL: Crew chief Alan Gustafson will call his 27th Cup Series race from atop the pit box at Bristol this weekend. In his previous 26 races calling the shots at the 0.533-mile speedway, he has collected one win, seven top-five finishes and 13 top-10s. In those 26 races, Gustafson has led five drivers, who have in turn averaged a starting position of 12.8 and led 616 laps.

LONE STAR STATE REWIND: The No. 9 team started 20th at Texas and progressed early in the 334-lap event. Elliott was inside the top 10 by Lap 63 and finished Stage 1 in ninth to earn two extra points for the result. When the caution flag waved again on Lap 128, crew chief Gustafson elected to bring Elliott to pit road for four fresh tires, fuel, and a chassis adjustment. The quick work by the No. 9 team gained Elliott three positions, restarting him sixth. Elliott held his position and finished the second stage in sixth, earning five more points. During the stage break, the NAPA team once again gained Elliott track position, advancing him to second to begin the final stage. Running third with 120 laps to go, Elliott made an unscheduled green-flag pit stop after reporting a vibration. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native returned to the track one lap down in 13th. Late in the race, Elliott was penalized for pitting before pit road was open on Lap 304. After the penalty, Elliott battled to regain lost positions and ultimately finished 11th.

William Byron
No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

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

2018 Season

  • 18th in standings
  • 7 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 1 top-10 finish
  • 17 laps led

Career

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

Track Career 

  • 0 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 0 top-10 finishes
  • 0 laps led
MOVIN’ ON UP: After starting at the rear of the field due to an engine change, William Byron quickly surged forward Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway to earn his first career top-10 finish in the NASCAR Cup Series. He led one lap en route to the 10th-place finish, which propelled him up two spots to 18th in the series standings. In the past four races, Byron has climbed six spots in points. Following the Martinsville Speedway race on March 26, the 20-year-old moved to the top spot in the Cup rookie of the year standings, where he remains after Texas. Byron became the 27th driver to earn a top-10 finish for Hendrick Motorsports.

AXALTA RETURNS: Axalta returns as the primary partner of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. The bright Axalta flames, designed by well-known motorsports artist Sam Bass, will be featured on the No. 24 Chevy for the next two races – Bristol and Richmond. This year, Axalta will be a primary partner on the No. 24 Chevrolet for 10 races.

BRISTOL STATS: Byron has three national series starts at Bristol – two in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and one in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – and one regional touring series start in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. His best NXS finish at the 0.533-mile oval is 12th, while he earned top-five finishes in NCWTS and NKNPSE competition. In NCWTS, he led a lap near the end of the event before coming home fourth and in NKNPSE, he came just shy of taking home the win with a runner-up finish. At Bristol, 15 drivers have scored top-five finishes as rookies, including teammate Chase Elliott when he drove the No. 24 Chevy in 2016.

MASTERS VISIT: Last week, Byron made a quick visit to the Master’s tournament on the PGA Tour in Augusta, Georgia, to check out the course and the competition on Wednesday. While he was there, Byron got to witness Jack Nicklaus’ 15-year-old grandson, Gary, hit a hole-in-one during the 2018 Par 3 Contest.

CLOSE TO HOME: Chris Burkey, the pit crew coach for the Nos. 9 and 24 teams, hails from Greeneville, Tennessee, which is only 47 miles southwest of Bristol Motor Speedway. Burkey has an extensive background in coaching, getting his start in football. He played football for Wingate University, where he eventually started his coaching career. Burkey coached college football from 1992 to 2005 for Wingate, East Tennessee and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2005, he joined the NFL’s Miami Dolphins as a scout. Looking for a new challenge, Burkey made the transition from football to NASCAR when he was hired as a developmental pit crew coach for Hendrick Motorsports in 2009. He moved up to the head coach position for the former Nos. 5 and 24 teams in 2014.

JG VIP EXPERIENCE: Byron will participate in the 2018 Jeff Gordon #24Ever VIP Experience again this weekend. 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 six future races including Talladega Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway. 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

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

Career

  • 586 starts
  • 83 wins
  • 35 pole positions
  • 222 top-five finishes
  • 342 top-10 finishes
  • 18,663 laps led

Track Career 

  • 32 starts
  • 2 wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 11 top-five finishes
  • 18 top-10 finishes
  • 914 laps led
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, will be available to members of the media on Friday, April 13, at 11:15 a.m. local time in the media center at Bristol Motor Speedway.

ONE YEAR AGO: It was one year ago this weekend when Jimmie Johnson led 81 laps en route to his second career victory at Bristol Motor Speedway. In a race postponed to Monday due to inclement weather, Johnson started in the 11th position and stayed in the lead pack for the majority of the race. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion took the lead with 20 laps to go to earn his second win of the 2017 season.

SPRING WINNER: Both of Johnson’s wins at Bristol came in the spring races. He earned his first win at the 0.533-mile track on March 21, 2010, when he led 84 laps en route to Victory Lane. The win was his third in the first five races of the 2010 season after victories at Auto Club Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Overall, Johnson won six races that year and his fifth consecutive Cup Series championship.

SHORT TRACK PROWESS: Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, has 14 total wins on short tracks across the Cup Series circuit, which is the most of all active drivers. In addition to his two wins at Bristol, Johnson has nine wins at Martinsville Speedway and three wins at Richmond Raceway.

AT LEAST TWICE IS NICE: There are 17 tracks on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit where Johnson has multiple wins. Among them: Dover International Speedway (11), Martinsville Speedway (nine), Charlotte Motor Speedway (eight), Texas Motor Speedway (seven), Auto Club Speedway (six), Atlanta Motor Speedway (five), Indianapolis Motor Speedway (four), ISM Raceway (four), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (four), Darlington Raceway (three), Daytona International Speedway (three), Kansas Speedway (three), New Hampshire Motor Speedway (three), Richmond Raceway (three), Pocono Raceway (three), Bristol Motor Speedway (two) and Talladega Superspeedway (two).

PRO VENDORS: This weekend, vendor partners A.O. Smith and SharkBite will be featured on the No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the 500-lap event at Bristol. Both were featured on the No. 48 Chevy for select races in 2017 and are available at Lowe’s stores.

SI KIDS: This month, Johnson is featured in the Sports Illustrated for Kids magazine’s baseball preview edition in its “Warmup” section. The article showcases the driver’s daily workout routine, which prepares him for the physical demands of driving his race car.

NEXT UP, 84: 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.

ACCEPTING NOMINATIONS FOR BLUE BUNNY HELMET OF HOPE: Nominations will be accepted through April 20 for the Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope through the Jimmie Johnson Foundation. Five non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations will be eligible to receive $25,000 grants through the program, totaling $125,000 and will be awarded in May. The program, which started in 2008, gives fans the chance to nominate their favorite education-based charities to receive a $25,000 grant, a Blue Bunny ice cream party and special recognition on Johnson’s race helmet. Since its inception, the Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope program has given over $1 million to 101 different charities. To nominate a charity click here.

BE A JJ VIP: This season, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has created the Jimmie Johnson VIP Experience for fans. The package gives fans the opportunity to meet the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in a private setting. The experience includes a private meet-and-greet, an autograph and a photo with Johnson, along with a behind-the-scenes garage tour and an exclusive gift. The experience will generally take place on the Friday morning before the Cup Series race event scheduled for that weekend. The package is available at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Chicago, Pocono, Indianapolis, Dover and Homestead. Spots are limited. For more information, visit https://jimmiejohnsonvip.com/.

Alex Bowman
No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Driver Alex Bowman   Hometown Tucson, Arizona
Age 24                         Resides Mooresville, North Carolina

2018 Season

  • 14th in standings
  • 7 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 1 top-10 finish
  • 13 laps led

Career

  • 88 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 2 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 4 top-10 finishes
  • 216 laps led

Track Career 

  • 4 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 0 top-10 finishes
  • 0 laps led
NATIONWIDE COLORS: The Nationwide colors will once again be on board the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 with driver Alex Bowman this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. Nationwide has been the primary partner on the No. 88 Chevrolet three times at Bristol, with a best finish of second coming back in 2016 with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

IVES AT BRISTOL: Crew chief Greg Ives has called the shots six times for the No. 88 team at Bristol with drivers Earnhardt and four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon. The crew chief’s resumé at the track in the NASCAR Cup Series includes one top-five finish and two top-10s. Earnhardt brought home a runner-up finish for the team back in 2016. Ives also earned one win at Bristol as a race engineer with the No. 48 team in 2010. The Michigan native has four starts as a crew chief in the Xfinity Series at Bristol, where he has one top-five finish and three top-10s.

FIFTH BRISTOL START FOR BOWMAN: Bowman has four career starts at Bristol Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series. The Tucson, Arizona, native’s best finish of 20th came back in 2015. Bowman has two starts at the speedway in the Xfinity Series, where he captured one top-15 finish in 2013, finishing 14th. This weekend’s race will be Bowman’s first at the 0.533-mile track since 2015.

NATIONWIDE’S PAWS AND RACING PROMOTION: For the second year, Nationwide is offering one lucky pet owner an opportunity to get his or her pet’s picture on the No. 88 Nationwide Camaro ZL1 for the Sept. 22 race in Richmond. Last year, more than 25,000 pet owners participated in the promotion. From now until April 30, pet owners and NASCAR fans can go to www.pawsandracing.com to submit a photo of their pet. At the end of the promotion, one lucky photo will be selected to win a VIP race experience including hot passes, race tickets and a meet-and-greet with Bowman and Earnhardt.

Hendrick Motorsports

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT BRISTOL: At Bristol Motor Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports has 11 wins, 11 pole positions, 55 top-five finishes and 99 top-10s. Jimmie Johnson most recently won there for the organization in April 2017.

BIG ON SHORT TRACKS: Hendrick Motorsports leads all active teams at short tracks in wins (50), poles (50), top-five finishes (215), top-10s (365) and laps led (20,617). The organization has won at least one short track race in each of the last five seasons and in 15 of the last 16 (all but 2011). Hendrick Motorsports has gone to Victory Lane at a short track in 27 different seasons.

GOING FOR 100: With 99 top-10 finishes at Bristol Motor Speedway on the organization’s résumé, the Tennessee track could be the fifth venue where Hendrick Motorsports has earned 100 or more top-10s. The organization has achieved the feat at Martinsville (124), Pocono (118), Richmond (105) and Dover (103).

PERFECT RECORD: Every driver who has started more than two NASCAR Cup Series races for Hendrick Motorsports has scored at least one top-10 finish. With his 10th-place result at Texas on Sunday, William Byron became the 27th different driver to record a top-10 for the organization.

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.

FIRST-TIME WINNERS: If Chase Elliott, William Byron or Alex Bowman wins at Bristol, 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, 1,030 top-five finishes and 1,746 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 Bristol:
“Looking forward to Bristol this weekend and bringing the Baja Blast Chevrolet back. Pretty cool that Mountain Dew is bringing back the flavor for a short time. As far as racing, Bristol is a tough place and really challenges you mentally so we are gonna head there and look to improve on the last few weeks.”

William Byron on racing at Bristol:
“Bristol is physical, it’s a tough race. You have to handle good there or it will jump out and bite you. You have to make it 500 laps and be able to move around. They’ve started to put the (VHT) down on the bottom, which is good, but you have to be able to use that as an advantage without having your car only be good there. I’ve found good success outside of that line, especially in the Truck Series, but every year the racetrack is a little bit different and you have to adjust. I’m looking forward to the weekend.”

Byron on short-track racing:
“I think that fans get to see a lot of conflict and the racing is really close quarters, so you’re always battling with somebody. For the fans, it’s an extension of what they see in their local Saturday night short-track race, so it’s basically a big version of that. It makes it fun for the drivers, too, because that’s what we grew up doing. Plus, as a driver you feel like you can make more of a difference in the performance, so when you can do that, you feel better about your race. That seems to be true with all short tracks.”

Byron on his top-10 finish at Texas and improving as a team:
“There were areas that we improved over the off week that really allowed us to be that much better. I think we’re getting there – there’s still a lot of work to do, but that was a really good run for us and something we can definitely build on. I feel like we finish solid each week, we’re avoiding mistakes, and we just have to get our cars a little bit better. I think our communication has been really good, so that’s a positive.”

Jimmie Johnson on racing at Bristol:
“Your comfort level has to be high at Bristol, which means the car has to be a little on the snug side – it’s a fine balance where you have an edgy car and you are comfortable enough to be the aggressor. It takes a lot out of you both mentally and physically. It’s the most physical track we run and having to stay sharp for four hours with guys banging on your bumper for 500 laps – it’s just tough.”

Alex Bowman on racing at Bristol:
“I wish there were more short tracks. It would be a lot of fun to have some different tracks on the schedule. I’m really stoked to be going to Bristol. It’s a very unique short track, bringing a lot of action and excitement and based off the way we ran at Martinsville, I’m optimistic about our chances there.”

Bowman on Bristol’s uniqueness:
“Bristol is different than all the other short tracks because of just how fast it is. We don’t really go to any fast short tracks. Just the speed and the high banks, it’s a lot of fun.”

Bowman on the keys to success at Bristol:
“It’s definitely about handling, but I feel like everybody’s stuff is pretty similar handling-wise there – you kind of have what you have. It’s just literally impossible to pass. It’s so much about track position and once you get up there, you just have to maintain it all day; you can’t have any mistakes on pit road.”

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

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