NASCAR Cup Series Championship
Sunday, Nov. 6 | 3 p.m. ET
OH SO CLOSE: Last Sunday at Martinsville Speedway marked the final race of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs Round of 8 before the Championship 4 was locked into the season finale. After qualifying 25th, William Byron tried to make up track position throughout the 500-lap event, reaching seventh by the time the checkered flag came out. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to advance him into the next round of the playoffs. With points reset prior to the race at Phoenix Raceway, Byron now sits sixth in the driver point standings, 11 points behind fifth place.
PLAYOFF POWER: Even though he was eliminated from the 2022 playoffs following the race at Martinsville, Byron holds an average finish of 9.33 through the nine playoff races – second-best behind Denny Hamlin (6.44).
PIT ROAD PROWESS: In the first nine races of the 2022 playoffs, the No. 24 pit crew has an average four-tire pit stop time of 11.045 seconds – the best average in the field in the timeframe. 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).
VENTURING TO THE VALLEY OF THE SUN: Heading to a track that he has found success at, Byron will return to Phoenix for the 10th time in his Cup career. Across his nine Cup Series starts at the 1-mile oval, Byron has a track-best finish of eighth (March 2021). In fact, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native has four top-10 Cup Series finishes – tied for the fourth-most at a track for Byron. The driver of the No. 24 also has two NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Phoenix on his résumé, both coming in 2017. He started on the front row and finished in the top-four in both races, including a win in November. With that victory, he became the youngest winner ever at Phoenix in the Xfinity Series at 19 years, 11 months and 13 days.
DYNAMIC DUO OUT WEST: In 2016, Byron was behind the wheel for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the 1-mile oval with crew chief Rudy Fugle atop the pit box. The duo won the pole and went on to lead 112 laps. Unfortunately, an engine failure while Byron was leading with 10 laps to go ended his night early and his chances to advance on to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway – where they ended up finding redemption and winning.
RUDY’S PHOENIX PERFORMANCE: Heading to Phoenix for the fourth time in his Cup Series crew chief career, Fugle has a series-best finish of eighth that came in the spring of 2021. Aside from those three Cup Series starts, the Livonia, New York, native has eight Truck Series races and three Xfinity Series events under his belt at the Arizona venue. In the eight Truck Series starts, he has four pole awards and his drivers have led a total of 471 laps. While only notching one win at Phoenix (Erik Jones, 2013), Fugle has two runner-up results, four top-five finishes, and six top 10s. In fact, his Truck Series drivers have only finished worse than ninth two times.
AT IT AGAIN WITH AXALTA: Heading to the 2022 season finale, Axalta will be back on board Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Sunday’s race. Now in its 30th year of partnership with Hendrick Motorsports, this is Axalta’s fifth season as a primary partner on Byron’s No. 24.
BYRON ON THE IMPORTANCE OF CLOSING THE SEASON STRONG: “It’s unfortunate that our playoff run came to an end last weekend, but there’s still more for us to fight for this weekend. We have a shot to finish fifth in both the driver and owner’s points and that’s still something to be proud of. We’ve had a bit of an up-and-down season. We started strong getting wins early on, and then tried a few things during the summer that didn’t work out like we wanted. We really got back to the basics and that showed in our playoff run. We have one more race to put a solid weekend together and head into the offseason on a high note.”
FUGLE ON PHOENIX: “I’m curious to see how the race this weekend at Phoenix is going to play out. Typically in the past, you head to the final race and it seems like the Championship 4 drivers are on a different level and you’re racing for fifth. But with the Next Gen car, we’ve seen that the playing field is a bit more even. That could really shake things up, plus with the way the resin was applied differently, there’s more unknowns than normal. It’s going to be nice to have a full 50 minutes of practice to be able to make bigger changes you may not have normally made, but it also gives you time to overthink and go too far. We all want to end the season on a high note, and that’s what we plan to do.”
CHASING 15: Chase Elliott will be going after Hendrick Motorsports’ 15th NASCAR Cup Series driver championship on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway. The organization has won a sport-best 14 Cup Series titles with five drivers (most among all teams in the series) taking home the honors. Jimmie Johnson is tied with a series-best seven championships (2006-2010, 2013 and 2016), Jeff Gordon has four (1995, 1997, 1998 and 2001) and Terry Labonte (1996), Elliott (2020) and Kyle Larson (2021) each have one. Since the start of the 1995 season, Hendrick Motorsports has won 54% of all the Cup Series crowns.
IN THE OWNER’S MIX: The driver’s championship is not the only title the organization is in pursuit of. The No. 5 HendrickCars.com team and Larson have an opportunity to win the owner’s championship for the second straight season. Should Larson and the No. 5 team accomplish that feat, it would mark the third time the driver and owner championships were split. This also occurred in 1954 and 1963.
NUMERICAL NOMENCLATURE: To date, Hendrick Motorsports’ 14 titles are divided up among four car numbers: No. 48 with seven, No. 24 with four, No. 5 with two and the No. 9 with one. The four different car numbers to win a championship for one team is a Cup Series record.
CREW COUNT: A record six crew chiefs are responsible for the 14 Cup Series championships for the Concord, North Carolina, based squad. Chad Knaus has won seven, while Ray Evernham has three. Gary DeHart, Robbie Loomis, Alan Gustafson and Cliff Daniels each have one. Gustafson and Daniels are after titles this season in the driver and owner’s races, respectively.
CHAMPIONSHIP 4 SCORE: Elliott’s third straight Championship 4 appearance marks the sixth time that a Hendrick Motorsports driver has reached the final round since the elimination-style format was adopted in 2014. Among the previous five instances, the Rick Hendrick-owned organization has won the championship in three of those: Johnson in 2016, Elliott in 2020 and Larson in 2021. Elliott and Larson’s title-clinching victories came at Phoenix in the two years that the 1-mile track has hosted the championship coronation.
DOUBLE-DIGITS: In 2022, Hendrick Motorsports set a new record for the most seasons with 10 or more points-paying Cup Series wins. Including its 11 victories this year, the organization has hit the double-digit mark 12 times since it was founded in 1984. Hendrick Motorsports was previously tied with Petty Enterprises, which posted 11 seasons with 10 or more wins.
LEADING THE WAY: With 11 wins through the 35 NASCAR Cup Series races in 2022, the four-car team has earned the most victories so far this season. It is the only team to see all four drivers win a race this season. On top of that, Elliott and William Byron rank first and second in laps led this year.
PLAY IT OFF: Hendrick Motorsports holds the all-time record for Cup Series playoff race wins with 55, which is 20 more than second-place Joe Gibbs Racing.
DASHING IN THE DESERT: Eight different drivers are responsible for the team’s 12 wins at the Arizona venue. Johnson’s four victories top the board followed by Gordon with two. Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Labonte, Elliott and Larson each have one triumph at the 1-mile track.
SUCH A FINE SIGHT TO SEE: In races run out west, Hendrick Motorsports has 41 wins in its history. In the past 14 races in that location of the country, the organization has won seven times with two of those victories coming at Phoenix.
CLOSING TIME: The storied team has won the last race of the season eight times. The three most recent of those victories resulted in Cup Series championships in 2016, 2020 and 2021.