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      William Byron looks to build on career-best season as NASCAR gets back into gear with Clash at the Coliseum

      © 2023 Nigel Kinrade / NKP

      Clash at the Coliseum
      Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
      Sunday, Feb. 4 | 8 p.m. ET

      2023 IN THE REARVIEW: Embarking on his seventh season in the NASCAR Cup Series, William Byron is coming off a career-best year at the highest level of competition. With back-to-back wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway in March, Byron not only locked himself into his fifth consecutive playoff appearance but continued his winning ways collecting three more wins before the final 10-race stretch. The success didn’t stop there though. Byron picked up his first playoff victory at Texas Motor Speedway, which also was the 300th win for Hendrick Motorsports. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native then went on to lock himself into his first Championship 4 appearance at the Cup level, ultimately ending the season third in the points standings.

      COMING FOR THE CLASH: With the 2024 season kicking off with the Clash at the Coliseum, this will be the third year that the exhibition race will be held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. In the previous two events at the historic location, Byron was the only driver to run all 300 laps in the top 10 and ranks second for laps run in the top five for those races (157). He holds the second-best average running position (5.44) and is tied for the seventh-best average finish (8.00). In fact, Byron is one of only four drivers, including Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson, to finish in the top 10 in both races. While the 26-year-old driver has not won the Clash, he does have a win in one NASCAR special event (a Duel at Daytona victory in 2020).

      RUDY, RUDY, RUDY: Crew chief Rudy Fugle enters his fourth season with Byron at the Cup level. Their six wins were the most by a driver and crew chief combo last season. Reaching the Championship 4, the No. 24 Fugle-led team finished third in the 2023 Cup Series standings with four poles, 15 top-five finishes and 21 top 10s. The Fugle-Byron duo have nine victories together, which is tied for the fourth-most among active driver and crew chief pairings. In total, they have been together for 104 races.

      © 2023 Nigel Kinrade / NKP

      BYRON TALKS CLASH: “This is always a fun event for not only the fans, but the drivers. I think we have really seen it evolve the last two years. While there are no points on the line, you still want to go out there, have a good run and contend for a win. You want to show that the hard work in the offseason paid off. At the same time, you can’t let a bad day affect you or your season because it is such a unique event and venue. We’ve run well there the last two times. We just need a little bit more and I think we have a shot to start the year off with a win.”

      FULGE ON RETUNING TO COLISEUM: “It seems like every year we go to the LA Coliseum we have changes. The biggest difference this year is that we don’t have a true qualifying session like the past two years. Now your final practice run will set the heat races. You’ll want to make sure you have a good gap on your run and hit your marks because a good heat start is crucial. The other difference this year is that there will be another series racing before us. That brings the unknown of what the track will do with the additional laps and rubber.”

      © 2023 Lesley Ann Miller


      FABULOUS 40: In 2024, Hendrick Motorsports is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Among the categories that the Rick Hendrick-owned organization holds the record in for the NASCAR Cup Series are all-time wins (301), poles (246), laps led (79,757) and championships (14). The organization has won at least one race in each of the last 38 seasons. In addition, the team has at least three victories in each of the past 30 seasons, the longest streak by a team in the Cup Series.

      LAST YEAR LOOK BACK: Last season, Hendrick Motorsports notched a series-best 10 wins and placed two drivers – William Byron and Kyle Larson – in the Championship 4. Larson won four races as well as the non-points All-Star Race and finished second in the final standings. Byron won a best-in-series six times and placed third in the final standings. Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman each missed time with injuries and Elliott led the No. 9 team to the Round of 8 in the owner’s playoffs. The season saw the organization earn its 300th Cup Series victory (Byron at Texas Motor Speedway) and the engine department earn its 500th national series win (Larson at Darlington Raceway). The four-car team led the Cup Series in wins (10), top-five finishes (42), top 10s (67) and stage wins (19).

      FORMAT IN FOCUS: For the Clash at the Coliseum, drivers will be split into three groups for three timed sessions of practice on Saturday, Feb. 3. Each driver’s fastest lap time from final practice will determine the starting lineup for that night’s heat races. The four heat races of 25 laps will begin at 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1. Only green-flag laps will count and there will be no overtime. The top five from each heat race will advance to the Clash. The drivers that finish outside the top five in their respective heats move to the Last Chance Qualifier Race (LCQ) on Sunday, Feb. 4. The LCQ will be 75 laps (green-flag only with no overtime) and begin at 6:40 p.m. ET on FOX. The top-two finishers in the LCQ will advance to the Clash. The 23rd and final spot in the field will be awarded to the driver who finished the highest in the 2023 season driver points standings but has yet to automatically transfer into the Clash. The Clash will take place at 8 p.m. ET on FOX and run for 150 laps with a halftime break after 75 laps. Only the green-flag laps will count and the race must finish under green. Read more about the format here.

      LA REWIND: In last year’s second race at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Bowman finished a team-best fourth, while Larson was fifth. Byron rounded out the top 10. Elliott qualified for the main event for the second straight season. Larson is one of three drivers to finish in the top five both years on the purpose-built 0.25-mile track at the historic venue. Byron is one of four drivers to finish in the top 10 in both years of the event.

      TRACK POSITION: Three Hendrick Motorsports drivers rank in the top five for the best average running position in the main event at the LA Coliseum. Byron (5.44) is second, Bowman (5.65) holds third and Larson (6.88) rounds out the top five. In addition, Byron has run all 300 laps in the top 10 at the historic venue.

      CAPTURING THE CLASH: Hendrick Motorsports’ seven wins in the Clash are the third-most among all teams. All of their victories came at Daytona International Speedway, which was the home of the Clash from 1979 to 2020. The track’s road course hosted the 2021 edition of the Clash. Ken Schrader (1989 and 1990), Jeff Gordon (1994 and 1997) and Jimmie Johnson (2005 and 2019) each won the event twice, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. scored a win in 2008.

      SAVORING THE SPECIAL: The Rick Hendrick-owned organization has recorded a series-best 39 wins in special events. The team’s win totals in the Duel at Daytona qualifiers (16), NASCAR All-Star Race (11) and All-Star Open (five) are the most or tied for the most among all teams. Larson has five wins in such events with two coming with Hendrick Motorsports. Elliott has three wins, while Byron has one victory in those events.

      WIN LEADERS: In each of the last three seasons, a Hendrick Motorsports driver has led the Cup Series in wins. Larson won 10 races in his title-winning season of 2021, Elliott scored five victories in 2022 and Byron took home six wins in 2023. This is the organization’s longest streak of having the series’ wins leader since Gordon led the way in victories for five straight seasons from 1995 to 1999.

      Via Hendrick Motorsports