Hendrick Motorsports Media Advance: Martinsville

5 KYLE LARSON

 

Age: 31 (July 31, 1992)

 

Hometown: Elk Grove, California

 

Resides: Mooresville, North Carolina

 

Crew Chief: Cliff Daniels

 

Standings: 4th

 
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No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

 

PUSHING THROUGH THE PLAYOFFS: Kyle Larson has won the opening race in two of the three rounds of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs (Round of 16 at Darlington Raceway and Round of 8 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway). His win at Vegas locked him into the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway. The driver that won the opening race of the Round of 8 has gone on to win the championship in three of the last five seasons, including Larson in 2021. Looking ahead, the driver of the No. 5 has claimed victories at the remaining two tracks on the schedule (Martinsville Speedway in 2023 and Phoenix in 2021).

CONTENDING FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP: The 2021 Cup Series champion returns to Phoenix next weekend where he will contend for his second title in the sport’s top series. Larson won the championship in 2021 in his only year transferring to the final round. Since the start of 2021, the 31-year-old driver has had the most wins in the playoffs (eight) and is ahead in that category by five victories. Throughout the 2023 playoffs, Larson leads the field in average running position (7.08), most laps run in the top five (1,480) and the most laps run in the top 10 (1,762).

MARTINSVILLE MEMORIES: This spring, Larson earned his first victory at Martinsville and Hendrick Motorsports’ 28th Cup Series win at the Ridgeway, Virginia, track. With crew chief Cliff Daniels’ strategy calls setting up the team to have track position late, Larson led the final 30 laps to earn the victory. In his 17 starts on the 0.526-mile short track, Larson has earned one win, four top-five finishes, five top-10s and led 210 laps. In his last two races at Martinsville, he has an average finish of 1.50.

SHORT-TRACK STRENGTH: In 2023, the HendrickCars.com driver has two wins and one runner-up finish in short-track races in the Cup Series. In addition, Larson won the All-Star Race during the series’ historic return to the 0.625-mile track of North Wilkesboro Speedway. Larson has four points-paying short-track wins in the Cup Series (Richmond Raceway in September 2017, Bristol Motor Speedway in September 2021, Richmond and Martinsville in April 2023), with the latter three coming in his time at Hendrick Motorsports. On short tracks in the Next Gen car (since 2022), Larson has led the fifth-most laps (256). 

IN 2023: This season, Larson leads the series in laps led (1,127) and is tied with Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron for the most top-five finishes (14). He is in a six-way tie for the fifth-most top-10 finishes (16). Larson ranks third in the following statistical categories: average running position (11.02), most laps run in the top five (3,664) and most laps run in the top 10 (5,285). He also ranks second-best on restarts, based on information from Racing Insights.

FOUR TIRES FAST: After 34 races this season, the No. 5 HendrickCars.com pit crew has the second-fastest average four-tire pit stop time of 11.068 seconds. The team’s five-man pit crew consists of Blaine Anderson (front-tire changer), R.J. Barnette (tire carrier), Brandon Harder (fueler), Brandon Johnson (jackman) and Calvin Teague (rear-tire changer).

EXTRACURRICULAR: In addition to Larson’s full-time Cup Series schedule, he races late models and sprint cars in his spare time. On Monday, Larson and his brother-in-law Brad Sweet acquired the All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car Series from NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart. Following the inaugural season of the High Limit Sprint Car Series, the mid-week series that Larson and Sweet co-own, the two learned a lot and wanted to further contribute to and grow the sport of sprint car racing. 

WIN A CHEVROLET COLORADO Z71: Want to drive Larson’s 2023 Chevrolet Colorado truck? One lucky winner will win his ride. Fans can donate now to enter a drawing for a chance to take home the Z71 Crew Cab 4WD package with custom features and styling. This special sweepstakes raises funding for the Kyle Larson Foundation’s “DRIVE FOR 5” campaign that supports youth, families and communities in need. The campaign is nearing its fundraising goal of $500,000. Click here to check out this sweet custom ride and enter to win today. The drawing closes on Sunday, Dec. 3, and the winner will be chosen on Monday, Dec. 11. 

 
 
 
 

9 CHASE ELLIOTT

 

Age: 27 (Nov. 28, 1995)

 

Hometown: Dawsonville, Georgia

 

Resides: Dawsonville, Georgia

 

Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson

 

Standings: 17th

 
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No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

 

WIN AND IN: Chase Elliott and the No. 9 team need to win Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway to advance to the Championship 4 in the owner playoffs. The team’s most recent start at Martinsville marked the return of Elliott to the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 following his leg injury in early March. After qualifying 24th, Elliott and the team rallied to finish 10th – the latest in a three-race streak of top-10s at the track for the group. Elliott and crew are no strangers to victory at the 0.526-mile track as they earned the win in 2020, punching their ticket to the Championship 4 in the Cup Series playoffs. They went on to capture the championship after scoring the victory the very next week at Phoenix Raceway.

PAPERCLIP PERFORMANCE: Elliott is set to make his 17th Martinsville start in the Cup Series this weekend. The 27-year-old driver made his Cup Series debut for Hendrick Motorsports at the track on March 29, 2015. Since then, he has led a total of 957 laps there – his most laps led at any track – including pacing the field for 185 circuits or more in three of the last six Cup events. Across his 16 Cup starts at Martinsville, he has one win (fall 2020), five top-five finishes and 10 top-10s. He leads all drivers there in stage wins (six) and is also in a three-way tie for the second-most top-10s (six) in the last eight Martinsville races. Elliott’s 10 top-10 finishes at Martinsville are tied for his most at a single track (with Kansas Speedway and Michigan International Speedway). Since the start of 2020, the driver of the No. 9 has earned the most points (306) at the Virginia short track.

GOING BACK TO ‘22: Last season, Elliott was one of only six drivers, including teammate William Byron, to finish in the top 10 in both Martinsville Cup Series races. In the spring 2022 race, Elliott and the No. 9 team started from the pole and swept the first two stages. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native led 185 laps during the race, including the 10,000th lap led by a Hendrick Motorsports driver at Martinsville – the only track to see a team lead over 10,000 laps at one venue. Elliott ultimately took the checkered flag in the 10th position after the race was sent into overtime. In the fall, the driver of the No. 9 started the race in second and finished second in each of the first two stages, leading 54 laps en route to a 10th-place result. 
 
SHORT-TRACK STATS: On Sunday, Elliott will make his 45th short-track start in the Cup Series. In those races, he has garnered one win (Martinsville 2020), 14 top-five finishes, 23 top-10s, two pole awards and 1,491 laps led. His 240 laps led on short tracks in the Next Gen car (since 2022) are seventh-most in the series. This season in three Cup starts on short tracks, Elliott has two top-10 results – 10th at Martinsville and seventh at Bristol Motor Speedway. In the spring Richmond Raceway race, which Elliott missed due to his injury, Josh Berry filled in as the driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet, earning a runner-up finish. 

AG’S PAPERCLIP PAST: No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson is set to call his 38th Martinsville Cup Series race from atop the pit box. In his previous 37 Cup Series starts at the track, he has three wins, 15 top-five finishes, 27 top-10s and 1,934 laps led at the venue. Gustafson most recently visited victory lane at the Virginia short track with Elliott in November 2020 to solidify the No. 9 team’s spot in the Championship 4. The veteran crew chief’s other two wins came with NASCAR Hall of Famer and team vice chairman Jeff Gordon in October 2013 and November 2015.

GET UP AND GO: NAPA Auto Parts is on board the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 this weekend at Martinsville. The Atlanta-based company has been Elliott’s primary partner for 11 of his 16 Cup Series starts at the short track, including his 2020 victory. This season marks NAPA’s 10th year partnering with the five-time National Motorsports Press Association Most Popular Driver, dating back to his first season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Get a closer look at the 2023 paint scheme here.

 
 
 
 

24 WILLIAM BYRON

 

Age: 25 (Nov. 29, 1997)

 

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

 

Resides: Charlotte, North Carolina

 

Crew Chief: Rudy Fugle

 

Standings: 1st

 
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No. 24 PODS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

 

CAREER SEASON: Heading into the Round of 8 finale for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, William Byron continues to add to his already impressive 2023 season stats. After 34 races, Byron leads the series in wins (six), stage wins (eight), average finishing position (11.12) and top-10 finishes (20). He is tied for the most top-five finishes with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson (14). In addition, he has also led a single-season career-best 921 laps – second to Larson (1,127). Byron ranks second for the season in average running position (9.96), laps run in the top five (3,783) and laps run in the top 10 (5,382). 

PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: Byron enters Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway leading the points standings. He is the highest driver without a win in this round, 30 points above the elimination line to advance to the Championship 4. So far in the playoffs, Byron has the fourth-best average finish (5.50) all-time through the first eight races of the elimination-style playoffs. He also has victories at both of the remaining tracks: Martinsville (2022) and Phoenix Raceway (2023). The 25-year-old driver is looking to advance to his first Championship 4 at the Cup Series level. No matter what any other competitor does on Sunday, Byron and the No. 24 team need just 36 points to lock themselves in for the championship fight.

DIME PIECE: Over the last 10 races of the season, Byron leads the series in points (413), top-five finishes (six), top-10s (nine) and average finish (5.30). In that stretch, he is tied for the most wins (two) and runner-up finishes (two).

MARTINSVILLE MINUTES: Despite his young age, Byron’s time at Martinsville goes back to when he attended his first Cup Series race at the paperclip-shaped track in 2006 as a fan. Since then, he has moved through the NASCAR ranks and is poised to make his 12th Cup Series start at the 0.526-mile track. Of his 11 Cup Series starts at the half-mile short track, Byron has one win (April 2022), four top-five finishes (tied for his most at a track), six top-10s and 221 laps led (tied for his third-most at a track).

THE FUGLE FILES: This Sunday’s race will mark crew chief Rudy Fugle’s sixth in the Cup Series at Martinsville. In his first five Cup Series starts at the 0.526-mile short track, Fugle has one win (2022), three top-five finishes and four top-10s with the No. 24 team. Aside from his Cup Series starts, the Livonia, New York, native has 14 races at the Virginia venue under his belt, all in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series. In those 14 races, Fugle has accumulated one win (March 2019), six top-five finishes and 12 top-10s. Two of those previous starts were with Byron in 2016, where the duo started seventh in both races and raced to a third-place result in the spring and an eighth-place finish in the fall. 

PIT ROAD PROWESS: After 34 races in the 2023 season, the No. 24 pit crew remains in the top spot with the fastest average four-tire pit stop time of 10.940 seconds. On Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the No. 24 team had the fastest average four-tire pit stop time of 9.986 seconds. The No. 24 pit crew consists of Spencer Bishop (jackman), Jeff Cordero (front-tire changer), Orane Ossowski (rear-tire changer), Ryan Patton (tire carrier) and Landon Walker (fueler).

WELCOME PODS: Last week, Hendrick Motorsports announced that PODS Enterprises LLC, the industry leader in portable moving and storage solutions, will join Byron and the No. 24 team as the primary sponsor for this weekend’s Round of 8 finale at Martinsville. PODS has assisted with more than six million moves with locations serving 46 states and was recently recognized on Newsweek’s list of America’s Best Customer Service 2024 in the “Moving Services” category. For a closer look at Byron’s No. 24 PODS Chevy, click here

 
 
 
 

48 Alex Bowman

 

Age: 30 (April 25, 1993)

 

Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

 

Resides: Concord, North Carolina

 

Crew Chief: Blake Harris

 

Standings: 21st

 
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No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

 

FOND MEMORIES: This Sunday, Alex Bowman returns to Martinsville Speedway, a track where he has previously won. The 30-year-old driver captured the victory in the 2021 penultimate race – his fourth win in his career-best season in the NASCAR Cup Series. In that race, Bowman finished eighth in the first stage and second in stage two before leading the final eight circuits en route to victory. His win is one of four victories for Hendrick Motorsports in the last six races at the 0.526-mile short track.

SHORT-TRACK SURGES: Bowman is no slouch at short tracks. The Tucson, Arizona, native has two wins (Richmond Raceway and Martinsville both in 2021). He has also finished fourth this year in the exhibition race at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and eighth at Richmond in the spring. 

SET FOR THE RESTART: Bowman is tied as the sixth-best driver on restarts in 2023, according to data from Racing Insights. That mark is the second-best among the Hendrick Motorsports quartet, as teammate Kyle Larson is second in this statistical category. 

THE BOYS OF FALL: The No. 48 pit crew currently holds the 10th-best four-tire pit stop average in 2023, clocking in at 11.369 seconds. The over-the-wall crew is made up of Andrew Bridgeforth (rear-tire changer), Jacob Conley (fueler), Brandon Grier (tire carrier), Allen Holman (jackman), and Donnie Tasser (front-tire changer).   

SAVE THEM ALL: Bowman and his primary partner Ally are teaming up this year to bring back the Best Friends Animal Society donation effort. This week, the duo will make charitable contributions to the SPCA of Martinsville and Henry County, which serves the local community in Martinsville, Virginia. Bowman and Ally will donate $4,800 to Best Friends and the SPCA of Martinsville and Henry County. Ally will increase its donation to $10,000 if the No. 48 team wins on Sunday. Bowman and Ally have won at the 0.526-mile oval, donating $10,000 to the Pittsylvania Pet Center in Chatham, Virginia. 

SHINING BRIGHT IN THE DAYTIME: For the race at Martinsville, the No. 48 Ally Chevy will adorn its “day” scheme. This scheme hosts a white base with bright plum, grapefruit and seafoam stripes down the sides. Check out all the angles of the ride here. 

 
 
 

HENDRICK

MOTORSPORTS /

Hendrick Motorsports
 
 

 

2023

 

 

All-Time

 

 

Martinsville

 

Races

 

34

 

 

1,343

 

 

79

 

Wins

 

10*

 

 

301*

 

 

28*

 

Poles

 

6

 

 

245*

 

 

19*

 

Top 5

 

40*

 

 

1,230*

 

 

90*

 

Top 10

 

64*

 

 

2,109*

 

 

145*

 

Laps Led

 

2,262

 

 

79,579*

 

 

10,531*

 

Stage Wins

 

18*

 

 

97

 

 

7

 

 

*Most **Most (tie)
 

PLAYOFF LOWDOWN: For the fourth straight season, Hendrick Motorsports has had at least one driver qualify for the Championship 4 in the NASCAR Cup Series. Kyle Larson’s win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway locks him and the No. 5 team in as one of the four drivers and teams chasing after the title next week at Phoenix Raceway. William Byron remains in the playoff field on the driver’s side of things, while the Nos. 9 and 24 teams are battling for the owner championship. This year’s playoffs have seen the organization triumph in the opening races in the Round of 16 (Larson at Darlington Raceway), the Round of 12 (Byron at Texas Motor Speedway) and the Round of 8 (Larson at Las Vegas).

CHAMPIONSHIP COUNT: With 14 Cup Series championships, Hendrick Motorsports has the most titles in the sport’s top series. NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2024 inductee Jimmie Johnson accounts for half of those with seven (2006-10, 2013 and 2016). NASCAR Hall of Famer and team vice chairman Jeff Gordon racked up four titles (1995, 1997-98 and 2001). NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte (1996), Chase Elliott (2020) and Larson (2021) each have one championship for the team. Nine of those titles have come in the playoff era (2004-present). 

FINAL FOUR: The organization has had four drivers reach the Championship 4 in the elimination-style format. Gordon (2015), Johnson (2016), Elliott (2020, 2021 and 2022) and Larson (2021 and 2023) have all accomplished that feat. 

RECORD SETTERS: Hendrick Motorsports has posted a series-best 58 wins in the playoffs, which is 21 more than the closest team. Johnson has the most with 29 victories. Among the current driver lineup, Larson tops the board with eight wins, then Elliott at seven victories and Byron and Alex Bowman with one each. At Martinsville Speedway, the organization has won 12 of the 19 playoff races, including seven of the last 11.

GOOD SIGN: In six of the last seven occurrences where a Hendrick Motorsports driver has won at least six races, that driver has gone on to win the title (Johnson in 2007-10 and 2013 and Larson in 2021). Byron has a half dozen wins in the 2023 season. 

CLOCKING IN: With its 28 victories at Martinsville, Hendrick Motorsports holds the Cup Series record for the most wins at a single circuit. Nine different drivers (the greatest number of different winners at Martinsville) have won at this track for the organization, led by Gordon and Johnson with nine victories apiece. Darrell Waltrip recorded four wins. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Geoff Bodine and current drivers Byron, Bowman, Elliott and Larson have each taken home one victory. The team is the only one to lead over 10,000 laps at any one track with 10,531 circuits out front.

MARTINSVILLE MOJO: In the past six races at Martinsville, each of the four current drivers for the Concord, North Carolina-based team have scored a win. Larson is the most recent driver to triumph at the short track with a win in April. Byron took home a win in April 2022, while Bowman was victorious in October 2021 and Elliott visited victory lane in November 2020 in the playoff race. Over the same stretch of six races, the organization’s best finish has been no lower than second.

NO SHORTAGE: Hendrick Motorsports leads all active Cup Series teams with 57 points-paying victories on short tracks, which is 11 more than the next closest team. Gordon’s 17 short-track wins lead all drivers in team history. The active driver lineup has combined for seven of those short-track successes: Larson (three), Bowman (two), Byron (one) and Elliott (one). 

VICTORY IN VIRGINIA: Team owner Rick Hendrick grew up in Palmer Springs, Virginia, and his teams have won 40 Cup Series races in his home state. Hendrick Motorsports has gone to victory lane in Virginia at least one time in 28 different seasons, including each of the past four. The most recent 12 races in Virginia have seen one of his cars emerge victorious on six occasions with all four active drivers winning.

NEXT GEN NUMBERS: With three wins on short tracks since 2022, Hendrick Motorsports has the most victories on that track type in the Next Gen car. Those victories came by Larson at Martinsville and Richmond Raceway (both in 2023) and Byron at Martinsville (in 2022). Three drivers are among the top seven in laps led in the Next Gen era on short tracks: Byron (third at 451), Larson (fifth at 256) and Elliott (seventh at 240). 

STUDYING THE TRENDS: In the last 12 Cup Series races, the organization has had at least one driver finish in the top five. Those top fives came at Michigan International Speedway (Larson), the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course (Elliott and Bowman), Watkins Glen International (Byron), Daytona International Speedway (Elliott), Darlington (Larson and Byron), Kansas Speedway (Larson), Bristol Motor Speedway (Larson), Texas (Byron), Talladega Superspeedway (Byron), the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL (Byron), Las Vegas (Larson) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (Byron). This is the best streak by any team since Hendrick Motorsports’ 14-race streak with at least one top-five finish in 2021.

 
 
 

QUOTABLE /

 

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on his mindset heading to Martinsville Speedway: “It’s obviously both comforting and exciting to know that the No. 5 HendrickCars.com team is locked into the Championship 4 by our (Las) Vegas (Motor Speedway) win. Martinsville (Speedway) had historically been a challenging track for me and transparently not a favorite. In April, our team was able to help change that. Securing my first win at the Virginia short track was super rewarding. Our team is always actively trying to build consistency, so really focusing on another solid weekend in Martinsville would help us build a good mindset to tackle the championship at Phoenix (Raceway).”

Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on the No. 5 team’s confidence at Martinsville: “We certainly enjoy going to Martinsville (Speedway). It’s a track I’ve gone to since I was a kid and it’s also just a tough track in general. I know Kyle (Larson) doesn’t give himself the credit he deserves coming to Martinsville (Speedway) and he has come a long way. We’ve had some strong runs there lately but would recognize the fact that you’ve got to be sharp on your setup, balance and approach to the race. We’ve got to do the things we can do to make sure Kyle (Larson) is comfortable making speed. We have all of those things on our minds. We want to perform at a very high level and keep our strength at a high level to keep us operating at the level that we need to go into Phoenix.”
 


Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on racing at Martinsville: “Martinsville (Speedway) is very challenging because it’s very hard to get your balance right there. I feel like getting the balance proper and perfect is like a knife edge at that track. You can go from being really good to really bad with not even changing anything potentially, just the track adjusting throughout a race and laying rubber or picking up rubber after a restart or something. It’s a very fine line of getting it right. Hopefully, we’re on the good side of that this weekend.”

Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on the significance of having Elliott back behind the wheel for the spring Martinsville race: “That race was unique for a lot of reasons. Chase (Elliott) getting the chance to qualify was important. We made a few collective errors there that hurt us and I think we should have had a much better lap than that. Being able to go over that and prepare for that helps a lot. Hopefully, we qualify better and it results in getting a good pit stall. We were just going over some pit road stuff that we feel like we can improve on. So yeah, just having that firsthand experience generates a lot of valuable areas of improvement. It was really good to be able to have him back for the race in the spring, for sure.”
 


William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on what his preparation and goals are for this weekend at Martinsville: “We spent this week digging through notes from earlier this year and last at Martinsville (Speedway). There was a wheel force test last week running the new tire so the teams could get information. We’re just trying to use what we have to hopefully get the car in a good place for when it’s unloaded. The fun thing about racing is you’re trying to get to the final four to go for a championship but it comes down to we all want to win every week. When you peel away all the layers of racing, it’s all about winning. We do the same processes every week with the goal of winning. That’s our number one goal still and there’s nothing like having winning momentum heading into Phoenix (Raceway).”

Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on what the car needs for a good setup at Martinsville: “It starts with a good practice and qualifying on Saturday at Martinsville (Speedway). I think with this new tire we should have more grip but we’re supposed to have more fall off. You never really know about that until you get to the race. The tire was designed to make the car harder to drive, so that’s definitely something we have to tackle. It always starts with the entry to the corner and at Martinsville it’s hard because you can’t be loose in but you can’t be tight either. You have to be able to get to the curb in the center of the turn at the right spot and the right angle and that comes down to having the correct braking. If you do those things, you should have some turn at the center point and then the exit takes care of itself.”
 


Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on what it takes to win at Martinsville: “Martinsville (Speedway) is such a tough place to win at. You have to have good pit stops, a clean race car and make changes as the track evolves – a lot has to go your way to run well here. Obviously, we finished 11th in the spring and I won there in 2021, so those good runs give me confidence to go be competitive again this weekend. We know it’s a long race and we will do everything we can to prepare for this Sunday and try to be there at the end.”

Blake Harris, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, on returning to Martinsville this weekend: “Last time we were in Martinsville, Alex (Bowman) narrowly missed out on a top-10 day. We had decent speed for most of the day and just got caught out on a pit cycle. Kyle (Larson) won in the spring and along with Hendrick Motorsports’ rich history of success at this track, I am confident we can bring a solid car to compete with this Sunday. This weekend will be about building our notebook for next year and getting Alex in contention. The goal remains the same – get our No. 48 up front and contend for the win. These last two races will be about building momentum into the 2024 season.”

Hendrick Motorsports PR