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2018 Atlanta: Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR Monster Energy Race Preview
Posted by: newsla on Feb 22, 2018 - 06:10 AM
NASCAR News
2018 Atlanta: Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR Monster Energy Race Preview


ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY (1.54-MILE OVAL)
LOCATION: HAMPTON, GEORGIA
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE TWO OF 36)
TUNE IN: 2 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, FEB. 25 (FOX/PRN/SIRIUSXM)

 
Chase Elliott
No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

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

2018 Season
• 23rd in standings
• 1 start
• 0 wins
• 0 pole positions
• 0 top-five finishes
• 0 top-10 finish
• 4 laps led

Career
• 78 starts
• 0 wins
• 3 pole positions
• 22 top-five finishes
• 38 top-10 finishes
• 922 laps led

Track Career
• 2 starts
• 0 wins
• 0 pole positions
• 1 top-five finish
• 2 top-10 finishes
• 0 laps led

Dawsonville, Georgia, native Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, will be available to members of the media on Friday, Feb. 23, at 1:20 p.m. local time in the Atlanta Motor Speedway media center.

NAPA AUTO PARTS CAMARO ZL1: NAPA AUTO PARTS will return to the hood of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Last week, it was announced that the Atlanta-based company has grown its relationship with 12-time NASCAR Cup Series champions Hendrick Motorsports with a new agreement that immediately expands its majority sponsorship of driver Chase Elliott and the No. 9 team in 2018 and extends its support for another two years through the 2020 racing season. The new agreement increases NAPA’s majority sponsorship of Elliott from 24 to 26 races.

HOMETOWN TRIFECTA: In addition to NAPA AUTO PARTS, No. 9 team primary partners Hooters and Kelley Blue Book are headquartered in Atlanta. Hooters, a casual dining establishment with a deep history in NASCAR, will make its season debut in July at Daytona International Speedway. Kelley Blue Book will make its return to the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in August at Bristol Motor Speedway.

1.5-MILE TRACK STATS: Elliott’s production at 1.5-mile tracks during the 2017 season was impressive, collecting two second-place finishes (tied for second among NASCAR Cup Series drivers), seven top-five finishes (second) and nine top-10s (third). The Dawsonville, Georgia, native also averaged the third-best average finish of Cup drivers (9.82) on 1.5-mile tracks last year.

GEORGIA ON HIS MIND: On Sunday, Elliott could become just the second Georgia-born driver to win a race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, joining his father, Bill Elliott, who won five races at the track. Six drivers have won their first career Cup race at Atlanta: Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Jerry Nadeau, Jim Hurtubise, Bob Burdick and Bobby Johns.

DAYTONA REWIND: The No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS team started the 60th running of the Daytona 500 from fourth after winning Duel qualifying race No. 2. Elliott had an impressive showing for much of the event but was involved in a mid-race incident that ultimately ended the team’s day, relegating the driver to a 33rd-place result.

TAKING IT TO THE BOOTH: On Saturday, Elliott is scheduled to make his way to the broadcast booth during the 163-lap NASCAR Xfinity Series event. The driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in the Cup Series will join the NASCAR on FOX crew as a guest analyst for the second time during FOX Sports 1’s live coverage from Atlanta Motor Speedway beginning at 2 p.m. ET.

DESI9N TO DRIVE: On Wednesday, Feb. 21, Elliott will visit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite to unveil patient-designed racing shoes from the Chase Elliott Foundation's second annual “DESI9N TO DRIVE” art collaboration with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The racing shoes will be worn by Elliott and his three Hendrick Motorsports teammates during the NASCAR Cup Series race weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, signed and then put on the auction block for nine days (Feb. 21 to March 2) at the NASCAR Foundation online auction site located at www.fanaticsauctions.com to benefit Children’s summer camps.

CHASIN’ 9 SALE: This weekend in Atlanta, the No. 9 team will wear special, limited-edition NAPA hats at the racetrack. The hats are part of NAPA AUTO PARTS' “Chasin’ 9 Sale.” In the month of March, if customers spend $25 in store they will receive the No. 9 NAPA Racing/Chase Elliott hat, while supplies last.

William Byron
No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

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

2018 Season
• 26th in standings
• 1 start
• 0 wins
• 0 pole positions
• 0 top-five finishes
• 0 top-10 finish
• 0 laps led

Career
• 1 start
• 0 wins
• 0 pole positions
• 0 top-five finishes
• 0 top-10 finishes
• 0 laps led

Track Career
• 0 starts
• 0 wins
• 0 pole positions
• 0 top-five finishes
• 0 top-10 finishes
• 0 laps led

DAYTONA 500 RECAP: Last Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, William Byron persevered to finish with a 23rd-place result in the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Starting 33rd after being forced to a backup car following last Thursday's Duel qualifier race, Byron ran a race-high 11th prior to a multiple-car incident on Lap 59. The No. 24 team was able to keep Byron on the lead lap and he worked his way back up to 11th. However, a tire issue triggered Byron to bring out a caution on Lap 93, which caused him to lose a lap undergoing repairs on pit road. He later raced his way back onto the lead lap in the final stage, but another flat tire caused further damage to the No. 24 car and required Byron to spend several laps on pit road for repairs.

AT ATLANTA: While superspeedway racing is known to be unpredictable, Atlanta Motor Speedway marks the first real opportunity to see where drivers and teams stack up on the intermediate tracks that comprise the bulk of the NASCAR Cup Series schedule. This weekend marks Byron’s first Cup start at the 1.54-mile oval in Hampton, Georgia, but he has two starts at the track in other series. In last year’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race, Byron finished seventh and was the third-highest finishing Xfinity regular. In the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, Byron was running second when he lost an engine, relegating him to a 32nd-place finish. Atlanta historically has been a good track for the No. 24 team, as Jeff Gordon earned five wins at the track in the iconic No. 24 Chevrolet. Even more promising, Hendrick Motorsports has had at least two drivers finish in the top five in each of the last four races at Atlanta.

FIRST CUP PRIMARY FOR LIBERTY U: The new blue, red and white No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will make its 2018 debut this weekend at Atlanta. Liberty University will be the primary sponsor of Byron and the No. 24 team for 12 races in both 2018 and 2019. The school began its support of Byron in 2014 when he drove late models for Hendrick Motorsports affiliate JR Motorsports and is now in its fourth season sponsoring the 20-year-old driver. Founded in 1971, it is the largest private, nonprofit university in the United States, the largest university in Virginia and the largest Christian university in the world. Byron is currently a sophomore working toward an undergraduate business communications degree through the school’s online program.

XFINITY CHAMP APPEARANCES: On Thursday, Feb. 22, Byron will visit an Xfinity store in downtown Atlanta to sign autographs for customers and employees. The 2017 Xfinity Series champion will be at the store (945 Battery Ave. SE, Atlanta, GA 30339) from 6:30-7:30 p.m. local time as part of a store event that begins at 4:30 p.m. Byron will also make an appearance at the Xfinity Zone stage at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday at 11:10 a.m.

CHEVY STAGE: Byron will visit the Team Chevy stage at Atlanta Motor Speedway for a question-and-answer session on Sunday, Feb. 25, at 11:05 a.m. local time.

THUNDERBIRDS FLIGHT RECAP: On Tuesday, Feb. 13, Byron experienced the ride of a lifetime when he got the chance to fly with the United States Air Force Thunderbirds in Daytona Beach, Florida. He explained afterward how powerful the G-forces were on his body as he experienced a variety of aerial maneuvers in the F-16 aircraft, including a turn where he experienced forces up to nine Gs, over the course of the one-hour flight. Byron even got an opportunity to take the controls and fly the plane himself. Check out his experience – including footage from inside the cockpit – in the link here.

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
• 36th in standings
• 1 start
• 0 wins
• 0 pole positions
• 0 top-five finishes
• 0 top-10 finish
• 0 laps led

Career
• 580 starts
• 83 wins
• 35 pole positions
• 222 top-five finishes
• 341 top-10 finishes
• 18,663 laps led

Track Career
• 26 starts
• 5 wins
• 0 pole positions
• 14 top-five finishes
• 16 top-10 finishes
• 586 laps led

HOT IN ATLANTA: Johnson has a total of five wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway – the most among active drivers. He has scored two of the four wins Hendrick Motorsports has captured at Atlanta in the last seven years and five of the organization’s record 14 victories at the track. The two most recent wins came back to back, with Johnson starting from 37th in 2015 and 19th in 2016. Johnson has a Cup Series record 28 wins on 1.5-mile tracks – 11 more than former teammate Jeff Gordon, who is second all-time with 17.

DAYTONA IN THE REAR VIEW: The 2018 Daytona Speedweeks events were not kind to seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros team. First, Johnson narrowly missed starting on the front row for the Daytona 500 by just .085 seconds, posting the third-best qualifying speed. Next, an incident took Johnson out of The Clash at Daytona early. He then blew a tire in the first Duel qualifier, forcing the team to a backup car for "The Great American Race." Johnson started the Daytona 500 from 35th and made it to the top 10 in only 26 laps. He was running eighth before he was collected in a multi-car accident on Lap 59 coming to the Stage 1 finish. Johnson ultimately settled for a 38th-place finish in the 60th running of the Daytona 500.

84 IS NEXT: Johnson is on the verge of 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 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.

APPEARANCES IN ATLANTA: Johnson will make an appearance for a question-and-answer session with fans at the “Trackside Live” experience located in Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Fan Zone on Sunday, Feb. 25, at 10:35 a.m. local time.

Alex Bowman
No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

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

2018 Season
• 14th in standings
• 1 start
• 0 wins
• 1 pole position
• 0 top-five finishes
• 0 top-10 finish
• 13 laps led

Career
• 82 starts
• 0 wins
• 2 pole positions
• 0 top-five finishes
• 3 top-10 finishes
• 216 laps led

Track Career
• 2 starts
• 0 wins
• 0 pole positions
• 0 top-five finishes
• 0 top-10 finishes
• 0 laps led

DAYTONA REWIND: After capturing the pole for Sunday’s 60th running of the Daytona 500, Alex Bowman brought the field to the green flag in his No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The 24-year-old driver led the Daytona 500 for the first time – leading 13 total laps – before being caught up in a lap 199 incident and finishing 17th. He spent 147 of the first 199 laps running inside the top 10.

BOWMAN AT ATLANTA: Bowman has two previous starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series, with his best finish of 23rd coming back in 2015. Bowman drove for GMS Racing in last year’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at the track, where he started fifth and finished sixth. In addition to his one truck appearance, Bowman made one Atlanta start in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2013, when he started 18th but suffered engine complications, relegating him to a 34th-place finish.

AXALTA CAMARO ZL1: Bowman will be behind the wheel of the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend. The Tucson, Arizona, native last drove an Axalta paint scheme at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2016. Atlanta will be the first of 15 NASCAR Cup Series events in which Axalta will adorn the No. 88 machine.

IVES AT ATLANTA: No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives has three previous starts calling the shots atop the pit box at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the Cup Series, which include two top-five finishes with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Ives was the crew chief for two races at the track for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, capturing one top-five finish and two top-10s in addition to earning the pole with Chase Elliott in 2014.

Hendrick Motorsports

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT ATLANTA: Hendrick Motorsports leads all NASCAR Cup Series teams with 14 wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway, one of 13 active tracks on the circuit where the organization holds the most wins among all Cup teams. Hendrick Motorsports' most recent victory at Atlanta came in 2016 thanks to Jimmie Johnson. The organization has earned 59 top-five finishes, 89 top-10s and five pole positions at the Georgia track.

SIX DRIVERS FIND VICTORY LANE AT ATLANTA: Car owner Rick Hendrick's first Atlanta Motor Speedway NASCAR Cup Series win came on March 19, 1989, with driver Darrell Waltrip. The organization has posted Atlanta victories with six different drivers: Jeff Gordon (five wins), Johnson (five wins), Waltrip, Ken Schrader (1991), Jerry Nadeau (2000) and Kasey Kahne (2014).

1.5-MILE CHAMPS: Hendrick Motorsports has a NASCAR Cup Series record 57 total wins on 1.5-mile tracks, 15 more than the next closest team, Joe Gibbs Racing. Johnson also holds the record for most 1.5-mile track victories with 28 over Gordon (17), Tony Stewart (15), Dale Earnhardt (14) and Richard Petty (13).

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 Elliott, Byron or Bowman wins at Atlanta, 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, 1,029 top-five finishes and 1,740 top-10 finishes in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led 67,270 laps since 1984.

QUOTABLE /
Chase Elliott on his goals for 2018:
"Atlanta will always be a special place for me. I remember watching the races from the playground as a kid in the driver/owner lot. Haven’t raced a ton here, but I was able to get the pole in 2014 in the Xfinity Series. I would love to make some more memories to go down in the book at Atlanta."

William Byron on Atlanta:
“I’m looking forward to going to Atlanta where we can show some of our strength as a team. We expect the track to be pretty slick because of the older pavement. The biggest key is going to be trying to get our car to handle well and make sure we can keep the long-run speed in it. Qualifying is going to be a different animal with the tires falling off so quickly. You’re probably only going to get one run each round, so you have to make sure that run counts. We want to qualify well so that we don’t have to pass as many cars on Sunday.”

Jimmie Johnson on looking ahead from Daytona to Atlanta:
“I was really bummed out after last week in Daytona. We had a fast Lowe’s for Pros Chevy Camaro and it was so disappointing we got caught up in a wreck so early in the day. I spent a few days with my girls at Disney World after the race and now we are ready to take on Atlanta. The track is such a challenge for both the drivers and the teams. I’m stoked they decided not to repave it just yet – that was a popular decision among the drivers. The surface is so abrasive that the tire falloff is so great, you will see us pitting halfway through a fuel run just to gain four or five seconds. I can’t wait to get there and slide around on the track.”

Alex Bowman on the Daytona 500:
“It was great to sit on the pole last week in Daytona and have the No. 88 up front. We had a great Camaro ZL1 the entire race and (No. 88 team crew chief) Greg (Ives) made great calls. There at the end, I was in a bad spot on that restart and we got caught in an accident. It wasn’t the finish we wanted, but we will move on to Atlanta.”

Bowman on the Camaro ZL1 at Atlanta:
“I am all for the rough racetrack at Atlanta Motor Speedway. That is a track that always puts on a really good show and I am excited to see how this new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 drives. I haven’t driven one on a downforce track yet, so really looking forward to seeing where we unload.”

Bowman on the return of Axalta:
“The Axalta paint scheme on this No. 88 Camaro ZL1 looks great. I am excited to get back behind the wheel of the No. 88 Axalta machine this weekend in Atlanta. The track is rough and has a lot of bumps, which makes for great racing. Hopefully we can put the new Camaro ZL1 in Victory Lane this weekend.”

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