HMS Prepares For Sonoma

Hendrick Motorsports / 5  24  48  88

SONOMA RACEWAY (2.52-MILE ROAD COURSE)

LOCATION: SONOMA, CALIFORNIA
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 16 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 3 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, JUNE 23 (FS1/PRN/SIRIUSXM)

Chase Elliott
No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Driver Chase Elliott   Hometown Dawsonville, Georgia
Age 23                       Resides Dawsonville, Georgia

2019 Season

  • 5th in standings
  • 15 starts
  • 1 win
  • 2 pole positions
  • 6 top-five finishes
  • 7 top-10 finishes
  • 403 laps led

Career

  • 128 starts
  • 4 wins
  • 6 pole positions
  • 39 top-five finishes
  • 66 top-10 finishes
  • 1,646 laps led

Track Career 

  • 3 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 2 top-10 finishes
  • 0 laps led
ROAD COURSE RINGER: 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 points than any other driver.

SONOMA STATS: Elliott is set to make his fourth Cup Series start at Sonoma Raceway this weekend. In his previous Cup starts at the road course, the driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 hah an average starting position of 9.0 and finishing position of 11.0. The 23-year-old driver earned his first top-10 result at Sonoma in 2017 and followed it up last season, posting a fourth-place finish, his first top-five road-course result.

ROAD COURSE ROUNDUP: In his seven previous starts in the Cup Series at road courses, Elliott has collected two top-five finishes – including his win at Watkins Glen – and four top-10s. He has started in the top five in each of his last four road course races, and finished in the top six in the last three for an average finish of 3.67. In the NASCAR Xfinity Series (Road America, Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio) the No. 9 Chevy driver finished inside the top 10 in all six starts and collected four top-five finishes. Elliott also garnered victories in both the NASCAR Truck Series (Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, 2013) and K&N Pro Series West (Sonoma Raceway, 2016) at road courses.

GUSTAFSON AT ROAD COURSES: No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson will call his 30th road course race from atop the pit box this weekend. In his previous 29 starts with five different drivers (Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Casey Mears and Kyle Busch), Gustafson has collected one win – with Elliott last season at Watkins Glen – one pole award, six top-five finishes and 12 top-10s.

LAST SIX: The driver of the No. 9 Chevy is currently on a streak of leading laps in six straight races, behind only Brad Keselowski’s active streak of eight straight. He has collected five top-five finishes (Talladega – first; Dover – fifth; Kansas – fourth; Charlotte – fourth; Pocono – fourth) in the last six events. Over those six races, he has averaged a starting position of 14.2 and finishing position of 6.3 while leading 281 laps.

DARLINGTON SCHEME REVEALED: Last week, the No. 9 team unveiled the Darlington throwback scheme via social media that will hit the track in September. The ride mirrors the fourth-ever NASCAR Cup Series car of Elliott’s father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott. He drove it while racing for his father, George Elliott, in the 1981 season. That year, Bill Elliott captured his first Cup Series pole at Darlington and earned seven top-10 finishes. Click here for a closer look at the throwback No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.

HOOTERS PAGEANT: Before heading to Sonoma, Elliott will serve as a judge for the 23rd Annual Hooters International Pageant at Lake Tahoe on Thursday. The crowned pageant winner will also become a brand ambassador for Hooters that leads the #Hooters9 Crew in cheering on the No. 9 team. The pageant will also feature a special concert from award-winning country music singer-songwriter Lee Brice. For more information, click here.

William Byron
No. 24 Hertz Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Driver William Byron   Hometown Charlotte, North Carolina
Age 21                         Resides Charlotte, North Carolina

2019 Season

  • 14th in standings
  • 15 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 4 top-10 finishes
  • 150 laps led

Career

  • 51 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 8 top-10 finishes
  • 211 laps led

Track Career 

  • 1 start
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 0 top-10 finishes
  • 0 laps led
William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Hertz Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, will be available to members of the media on Friday, June 21, at 1:30 p.m. local time in the Sonoma Raceway media center.

STATS DON’T LIE: Coming out of the second off-weekend of the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season, William Byron has had impressive stats in the first 15 races of his sophomore season. In the last three races, Byron has propelled himself from 19th to 14th in the driver point standings. He has started on the front row six times – the most of any driver this season so far – and is tied for first with the most pole awards (three). Byron has led laps in five consecutive races – the third-longest active streak among Cup drivers this season. He has also improved his average finishing position to 15.7 in the initial 15 races of this year compared to 20.1 in the same number of races in 2018.

HEY THERE, HERTZ: Returning to the West Coast, this time for the first road course event of the season, Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will carry Hertz Corporation, one of the world’s largest vehicle rental companies, on board for the third time this season. The can’t-miss Hertz-yellow Camaro will hit the track this weekend and again at ISM Raceway in the fall. Earlier this week, the third installment of the Hertz Heroes at Hendrick Motorsports series was released featuring competition systems group engineer H.A. Mergen. Watch his interview with No. 24 team crew chief Chad Knaus here.

SONOMA STATS: Last year, Byron made his Sonoma Raceway debut in the Cup Series, qualifying eighth and finishing 25th after fighting handling issues for much of the 110-lap race. Before his Cup start, Byron had two previous starts at the road course, both coming in the K&N Pro Series. Byron’s first road course race in a stock car came at Sonoma Raceway in 2015 in the K&N Pro Series West race, qualifying second and racing to a fifth-place finish. Byron returned to Sonoma for the K&N Pro Series West race last year, tying his best qualifying effort of second and crossing the finish line in third.

KNAUS’ KEENNESS: Climbing on top of the pit box for the 16th time with Byron and the No. 24 team in 2019, Knaus will call the shots for his 19th Sonoma race as a crew chief this weekend. Out of his previous 18 races at the California road course, Knaus has four top-five finishes and nine top-10s, including one win – his only victory as a Cup Series crew chief on a road course.

MENTIONING MICHIGAN: The Cup Series last competed almost two weeks ago at Michigan International Speedway. Byron qualified 21st but had to wait an extra day before getting on track after rain postponed the event until Monday, June 10. Spending the initial laps adjusting to the new aero package, Byron steadily climbed his way into the top-15 running order throughout the race, finding himself 13th as a caution came out with four laps remaining. Restarting in the bottom lane in overtime, Byron lost momentum in the closing laps, finishing the race in 18th.

Jimmie Johnson
No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Driver Jimmie Johnson   Hometown El Cajon, California
Age 43                             Resides Charlotte, North Carolina

2019 Season

  • 16th in standings
  • 15 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 6 top-10 finishes
  • 68 laps led

Career

  • 630 starts
  • 83 wins
  • 36 pole positions
  • 225 top-five finishes
  • 358 top-10 finishes
  • 18,771 laps led

Track Career 

  • 17 starts
  • 1 win
  • 0 pole positions
  • 4 top-five finishes
  • 9 top-10 finishes
  • 143 laps led
CALIFORNIA KIDS: The “Golden State” is not only home to El Cajon, California, native Jimmie Johnson – the No. 48 team has two other members who also call California home. Race engineer Julian Pena hails from Aliso Viejo, California, and graduated from Stanford University with a degree in mechanical engineering. Interior mechanic Matt Philpott originally hails from nearby Tracy, California, which is roughly 90 miles from Sonoma.

FINDING VICTORY LANE: Johnson has been able to sip wine in Victory Lane one time at Sonoma Raceway over the course of his career. His win at the road course came June 20, 2010, when he led 55 of 110 laps en route to the victory. He has finished inside the top 10 nine times at the venue, including most recently in 2015, when he led 45 laps before finishing sixth.

SONOMA STATS: At Sonoma, the seven-time Cup Series champion has the second-best average running position of all current drivers, 11.34, and an average finish of 11.0. Johnson has spent 77 percent of all laps run in the top 15 and has led 143 circuits around the now 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course.

STREAKING AT SONOMA: Johnson has not finished outside of the top 15 at Sonoma Raceway since a 17th-place result in 2007. He has finished outside of the top 17 just twice in his career at the track. In his last 10 races at the road course, Johnson has earned a win, three top-five finishes, seven top-10s and most recently an 11th-place result.

PICKING UP POINTS: In 2018, Johnson earned the fifth-most points of all drivers at road course races, earning 101 between events at Sonoma, Watkins Glen and the Charlotte Motor Speedway “roval.”

EARL BARBAN Q&A: Longtime spotter for the No. 48 team Earl Barban will participate in a question-and-answer session Sunday, June 23, in the Save Mart/Lucky Breaking Zone at Sonoma Raceway at 9 a.m. local time.

OFF-WEEKEND FUN: Over the off-weekend break, Johnson, his wife Chandra and daughters Genevieve and Lydia enjoyed a vacation in Greece, traveling to Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini.

Alex Bowman
No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Driver Alex Bowman   Hometown Tucson, Arizona
Age 26                         Resides Charlotte, North Carolina

2019 Season

  • 10th in standings
  • 15 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 5 top-10 finishes
  • 94 laps led

Career

  • 132 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 2 pole positions
  • 6 top-five finishes
  • 19 top-10 finishes
  • 368 laps led

Track Career 

  • 3 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 1 top-10 finish
  • 0 laps led
AXALTA ON BOARD: This weekend marks the sixth of 12 events in which the Axalta colors will adorn Alex Bowman’s No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Axalta will be on the No. 88 machine this weekend at Sonoma Raceway and again next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. Last year, Hendrick Motorsports announced that Axalta signed a four-year contract extension that will take the partnership through 2022. The leading global supplier of liquid and powder coatings 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.

ALL ABOUT POINTS: In the last six races, Bowman and the No. 88 team have gone from 21st in the point standings to 10th. Within those six events, the driver has averaged a start of 11.2 and finish of 6.3. He is tied for the most top-10 finishes among all Cup Series drivers during that span with five.

BOWMAN TURNS LEFT AND RIGHT: Bowman will make his fourth start at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday. The Tucson, Arizona, native’s first and only top-10 at the track came last season when he finished ninth at the conclusion of the 110-lap event. Out of 330 total laps run in his three races at the track, Bowman has completed 99.7 percent. Last year, Bowman made a start at the California-based track in the K&N Pro Series West, qualifying seventh before an engine issue relegated him to a 24th-place result.

FIRST WIN: If Bowman were to capture the victory this weekend at Sonoma Raceway, he would be the second driver to get his first win at the venue. The driver of the No. 88 Chevy would be a part of a group of 15 drivers to get their first career win at a road course, including teammate Elliott, who captured his first Cup win at Watkins Glen International last year.

IVES AT SONOMA: No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives has called the shots four times at Sonoma Raceway for Hendrick Motorsports. The Michigan native has three top-10 results at the track along with one 11th-place finish. Ives’ drivers have completed 100 percent of the total laps run during those four events. The crew chief’s best finish at the track came in 2017 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished sixth. Last season, Ives led Bowman and the No. 88 team to a ninth-place finish at Sonoma.

BY THE NUMBERS: Bowman earned an average finish of 9.0 on road courses last season, the sixth-best of all drivers. In addition, he ranked sixth on the list of drivers with the most points scored on road courses in 2018 with 97 points earned. The 26-year-old driver has led 94 laps this season, the sixth-most of drivers without a win in 2019.

DEAR DIARY: Bowman’s sixth diary piece for Motorsport.com came out last week and he discussed his off-weekend plans and what the past six races have meant to him and the entire No. 88 team. You can find Bowman’s June diary piece here.

PITCH TO WIN BIG: Small Business Week ran from May 5-11 and recognized small businesses everywhere. Nationwide and BlueVine are teaming up to give away up to $100,000 to one small business to help it grow. From now until June 30, small-business owners can visit www.pitchtowinbig.com to enter for a chance to win funds to achieve their business goals. Nationwide and BlueVine will select the contest finalists, who will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Nationwide’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, to pitch business leaders during a live “Pitch to Win” event. The winning pitch will win the $100,000 prize, with second place receiving $20,000 and third place taking home $10,000.

EYES SET FOR THE GLEN: On Monday, June 17, Hendrick Motorsports partner Axalta Coating Systems, along with Bowman, announced a joint branding initiative with CARSTAR for the upcoming race at Watkins Glen International on Aug. 4. CARSTAR is North America’s premier network of independently owned and operated collision repair facilities. The CARSTAR logo will be featured on the television panel and roof of the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Watkins Glen. In addition to the branding on the car, Bowman will also wear a special helmet designed through the “Accelerate the Cure” contest. Those affected by cystic fibrosis can design a helmet for Bowman in order to raise awareness for the disease. Those interested can visit the “Accelerate the Cure” website to submit an entry. The deadline to submit is July 5.

Hendrick Motorsports

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT SONOMA: At Sonoma, Hendrick Motorsports has earned six victories, nine pole positions, six runner-up results, 31 top-five finishes, 54 top-10s and 650 laps led, all of which lead the NASCAR Cup Series all-time. The organization has secured at least one top-10 finish in all but two of the 29 races in which it has competed at Sonoma. At least one Hendrick Motorsports driver has finished inside the top 10 in all but two of the 30 races in which they have competed at the track, including each of the last 13 races at the California track, the longest active streak by a team. A Hendrick Motorsports driver has led at least one lap in 19 of the last 24 races at the road course.

ROAD COURSE WARRIORS: Hendrick Motorsports leads organizations all-time with 16 wins on road courses. Joe Gibbs is second with 11 wins on road courses, followed by Wood Brothers Racing with eight.

SPREADING THE LOVE: The organization’s 16 road course wins have come via six different drivers, which is tied with Team Penske for the most all-time. Jeff Gordon leads the way for Hendrick Motorsports with nine road course victories, followed by Tim Richmond with three and Chase Elliott, Geoff Bodine, Jimmie Johnson and Ricky Rudd with one apiece.

ORGANIZATION STATS: To date, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 12 championships, 253 race victories, 221 pole positions, 1,055 top-five finishes and 1,809 top-10s in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led more than 68,000 laps since 1984.

QUOTABLE / 

Chase Elliott on racing at Sonoma:
“I have enjoyed road racing in these cars. I think road course racing suits these cars well, which is fun. We don’t do it a whole lot and that makes it cool when we do have a chance. I’ve enjoyed it. Sonoma is a very tough racetrack and it’s been an extreme challenge for me to try and get around there at a decent pace. I always look forward to going out there. It’s a cool part of the country and since we only go there once a year, that’s what makes it special.”

Elliott on the difference between Sonoma and Watkins Glen:
“Everything. You are still road course racing, for sure, but your habits and tendencies that you’d have at Watkins Glen, you would just never get away with at Sonoma. It’s a lot more finesse, I feel like, at Sonoma, a lot more making sure you hit your marks and doing the right things to make your tires live. Watkins Glen, with the repave that happened a few years ago now, it’s kind of just everything you’ve got, every lap, and it’s very different. Obviously, the pace is polar opposite. Sonoma isn’t slow, but it is certainly not fast like Watkins Glen is.”

William Byron on the carousel at Sonoma:
“I haven’t experienced the carousel at Sonoma before. I think it’s going to be different for all of us this weekend. We were talking about that last week in the shop, there’s going to be a lot of differences such as the gearing ratio that we’ll use now. It’s going to create a new challenge for all of us, which I feel like evens the playing field some.”

Byron on road courses:
“I like them. I’ve done a lot of work with Max Papis to really improve on them throughout my career. I think my instincts for road course racing are really starting to show more and I think I’m becoming a quicker study at those places. I’m still working on learning what the car needs there or what I’m supposed to need for a race, which is the hard part. I feel like I can make a good lap time and get in a good rhythm, though, which is half the battle.”

Jimmie Johnson on the Carousel at Sonoma:
“I grew up on the West Coast, watched a lot of races at Sonoma Raceway that included the carousel, and I even did a driving school and learned how to drive that track as a teenager with the carousel. Then I showed up on the NASCAR circuit and they didn’t have the carousel (laughs). So, naturally, I am really excited that they are now opening that back up to us and we will be running through there this time around.”

Alex Bowman on road courses:
“Honestly, sometimes I never know if I like road course racing or not! Last year, (No. 88 team crew chief) Greg (Ives) and the guys brought a great Camaro ZL1 to the track. I was able to learn a lot about the track and we ended up with a top-10 finish. I was able to run a few laps on the simulator prior to this weekend and test out the addition of the carousel to this weekend’s event. I think our Axalta team will bring another great car this weekend and look forward to continue our streak of good finishes.”

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

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