Sunday, May 15, 2022

Hendrick Motorsports Looks to Continue 1.5-mile Mastery at Kansas

Hendrick Motorsports Looks to Continue 1.5-mile Mastery at Kansas

Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman earn top-10 starting spots at Kansas


Kansas Speedway has been a strong track for the quartet of Hendrick Motorsports drivers in recent years. The 1.5-mile track stands as the next stop on the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule as it hosts the 13th race of the season on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.


Dating back to 2021, Hendrick Motorsports has won the last four races on 1.5-mile tracks including a 1-2 finish at Kansas last fall. Kyle Larson's October win was the organization's eighth victory at the Sunflower State track, which is the most among all teams. The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 led nearly half of the laps at this track last year – 262 of a possible of 534 laps.


However, crew chief Cliff Daniels isn't resting on last year’s triumph.


"We had success there last year, but this weekend is another track we are visiting for the first time with the Next Gen car so there is still a lot to learn," Daniels said. "Kansas is just one of those tracks where you have to respect the track because it can draw you into thinking it’s pretty straightforward, but the lanes can change a lot throughout the race."


Larson has four top fives and six top 10s in 14 starts here. NASCAR's reigning Cup Series champion has won four of his last 10 races on 1.5-mile tracks after going winless in his first 71 races on that track length.


Chase Elliott also has a win to his name at Kansas with his victory coming in 2018. In fact, this has been one of his best tracks as his 9.8 average finish there is second only to Kevin Harvick among active drivers. That mark also stands as his best 1.5-mile track among active tracks on the Cup circuit. He has six top-five finishes and eight top-10s in 12 starts.


Over the last seven races here, the driver of the No. 9 UniFirst Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, he has five top-five finishes and one finish outside the top six in that stretch. The current Cup Series points leader enters Sunday with a streak of eight straight top-10 finishes on 1.5-mile tracks – his longest streak on that track length.


"Each track presents its own set of challenges, but I think our team as a whole has done a good job of adapting and I don’t think that will be any different this weekend," Elliott said.



Larson, Bowman earn top-10 starting spots at Kansas

Hendrick Motorsports drivers Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman will be starting inside the top 10 for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway.


Larson’s final round lap of 178.772 mph in the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 earned him third on the starting grid. The reigning Cup Series champion is the most recent winner at this track and led 262 laps here last year. The Elk Grove, California, native was also third on the 10-lap average board following the group practice session.


Bowman’s mark of 177.567 mph earned the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 the eighth spot in the lineup. This is the Tucson, Arizona, native’s sixth top-10 start at Kansas and in the previous five, he earned top-10 finishes.


Since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2016, Alex Bowman's 9.7 average finish at Kansas is his best mark of any active oval in the Cup Series. Among his two top fives in 13 starts, Bowman was the runner-up finisher in the 2019 spring race. The Tucson, Arizona, native’s five top 10s match his most at any one track (Dover Motor Speedway being the other) in the series and he has four top-10 finishes in his last seven runs there.


On top of that, the driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 won earlier this season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a 1.5-mile track that used the same base rules package being run at Kansas.


"Kansas Speedway has always been a place I feel like I run well at," Bowman said. "Getting the win at Las Vegas this season helps our confidence at a similar track. We have to stay focused and take it one race at a time and this week, it is a place that I enjoy racing at."


While coming off a heartbreaking result in the closing laps at Darlington Raceway may still sting, William Byron's Kansas numbers show he has a really good chance to bounce right back. The 24-year-old driver has five straight top 10s at the venue, which is his longest such streak in his young Cup career. HIs five top 10s in eight starts are tied for his most at any on track with Martinsville Speedway and Pocono Raceway.


Entering this weekend, the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is tied for second in the point standings with Ryan Blaney, 65 markers behind his teammate Elliott. Like Bowman, Byron also has a win on a 1.5-mile track in 2022 with his first victory of the year coming at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March.


In fact, Byron, Bowman and Elliott are three of the five drivers (Ross Chastain and Martin Truex Jr. are the others) to finish in the top 10 in both 1.5-mile races this season and the Charlotte, North Carolina, native is one of two drivers (Chastain is the other) to finish in the top five in both races.


"We’re continuing to build on our intermediate package as the season goes with the Next Gen car," No. 24 crew chief Rudy Fugle. "I think we can really use some of our notes from Vegas for this weekend especially since we will be using the same right side tire we ran there. I also think some of our notes from the fall race at Kansas last season will correlate as well. With its progressive banking and with how sensitive it is to temperature, we'll have to keep up with the track not only throughout the weekend but throughout the race on Sunday to be in contention at the end."


(Data courtesy of Racing Insights)

  1. 4: Dating back to last October at Texas Motor Speedway and including last fall's at Kansas (two races won by Larson), Hendrick Motorsports has won the last four races on 1.5-mile tracks. That mark is tied for the longest such streak in Cup Series history, matching Furniture Row Racing's streak in 2017
  2. 5: The amount of top-10 finishes for Bowman at Kansas, which is tied with Dover Motor Speedway for his most at a track in the Cup Series. Five is also the streak of top-10 finishes that Byron has at this venue, dating back to October 2019.
  3. 8: The number of wins Hendrick Motorsports has at Kansas, which is the most among all teams. NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson both won three times at this track. Elliott and Larson each have been victorious once.
  4. 9.75: Elliott's average finish at the Kansas City, Kansas track, which is the second-best mark among active Cup Series drivers. Going by average finish, this is tied as Elliott's third-best oval track.v
  5. 2,535: The number of miles Hendrick Motorsports has led at Kansas in the Cup Series. The organization is 401 miles away from having led 100,000 miles in the sport's top series.


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