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      Defending champ William Byron returns to Texas Motor Speedway looking to stay hot

      © 2024 Danny Hansen / NKP

      AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400
      Texas Motor Speedway
      Sunday, April 14 | 3 p.m. ET

      C(LOCKED) IN ANOTHER ONE: After qualifying 18th at Martinsville Speedway, William Byron wasted no time powering his No. 24 Axalta 40th Anniversary Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 through the field, finishing the opening stage in eighth. Byron maintained his top-10 running position in stage two, picking up another eighth-place result. During the final stage, crew chief Rudy Fugle timed the green-flag pit sequence right, putting the No. 24 in position to battle for the lead once the cycle was complete. Even with a green-white-checkered overtime attempt, Byron held off his Hendrick Motorsports teammates to pick up his third win of the season, headlining a 1-2-3 finish for the organization on its 40th anniversary weekend.

      THREE-PEAT: This is the first time in Byron’s NASCAR Cup Series career that he has won three times within the first eight races of the season and the first time a driver has accomplished this feat since 2019. Over the last 30 years, it has only been done 10 times with Hendrick Motorsports drivers accounting for six instances. Of the previous five times a driver went on to win the championship in a season where they won three of the first eight races, four of them were for the Rick Hendrick-owned team. (Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon in 1995 and 1997 and Jimmie Johnson in 2007 and 2010 both won titles in the years they won three of the first eight races.)

      24 IN ’24: Adding another win to his 2024 stats, Byron continues to be nothing short of impressive. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native has one pole award, three wins (leads the series), three top-five finishes (tied for third-most) and five top 10s (tied for the most) this season. He’s also led 149 laps – sixth-most among the field – and has moved up to fourth in the 2024 Cup Series points standings.

      WHAT’S IN A NUMBER: With his win at Martinsville, Byron continues to extend the history and legacy of the No. 24. The iconic car number ranks third on the all-time list with 106 Cup Series wins, trailing only the No. 43 (200 wins) and the No. 11 (233 wins). All of Byron’s 13 premier series wins have come in the No. 24, while Gordon accounts for 93 wins. The No. 24 also has 11 wins at the paperclip-shaped track, moving to the third-most by a car number over the No. 48 (10). To top it off, his win on Sunday moves him to the fifth-most wins by a Hendrick Motorsports driver (13 in 224 starts).

      NEXT GEN DUO: Since the introduction of the Next Gen Cup Series car in 2022, Byron and Fugle have a series-leading 11 wins. The duo leads Hendrick Motorsports teammates driver Kyle Larson (eight wins) and crew chief Cliff Daniels (seven wins). Fugle and Byron now rank fourth for the most wins by an active driver and crew chief pairing with 12 wins total.

      1.5-MILE MAGIC: Byron is no stranger to success on mile-and-a-half tracks during his Cup Series career. Since the start of 2021 (not counting races on Atlanta Motor Speedway after its reprofiling for 2022), he has had three wins, two runner-up finishes, nine top-fives and 17 top 10s in 24 races on 1.5-mile tracks. In fact, in the Next Gen car, Byron has two wins and collected 564 points on mile-and-a-half tracks – second in both categories to Larson. He also has four consecutive top-10 finishes on 1.5-mile tracks – the longest active streak by a driver.

      TEXAS TOUGH: Byron will return to Texas Motor Speedway as the defending winner after his fall triumph in 2023, which also brought Hendrick Motorsports its 300th Cup Series win. He has one runner-up result in nine starts, two top-five finishes and five top 10s. Byron’s three consecutive top-10 runs at Texas are the second-longest active streak on the 1.5-mile oval. The 26-year-old driver has five additional national starts at Texas, with one win and an average finish of 3.50 in two NASCAR Truck Series starts and a 6.00 average finish in three NASCAR Xfinity Series races.

      FUGLE HAS ‘NO LIMITS’: Sunday marks Fugle’s fourth Cup Series points-paying event at Texas. In his three previous Cup Series starts, the Livonia, New York, native has one win (September of 2023), two top-five finishes and three top 10s. Fugle has 18 additional national series starts atop the pit box at Texas, where he has visited victory lane at the “No Limits” track five times in the Truck Series – the most for him at any track on the circuit – most recently in 2019 where he swept both races. Byron’s June 2016 triumph is one of those five victories. In his 15 Truck Series starts, Fugle’s drivers have also racked up seven top-five finishes, 11 top 10s and 493 laps led.

      PIT ROAD PROWESS: After eight races in the 2024 season, the No. 24 pit crew continues their success from last year. The five-person crew currently ranks third in average four-tire pit stop time at 10.945 seconds.

      © 2024 Danny Hansen / NKP

      BYRON ON CONTINUING TO BUILD THEIR MILE-AND-A-HALF PROGRAM: “It’s going to take adjusting to what the track is like. We have a good idea already of where our setup needs to be from past experiences. All of the Hendrick Motorsports cars were fast in the fall at Texas and we take what we learn from our teammates as well as our own experience to try to keep building. We obviously don’t know what the other teams and OEMs are doing, so we just need to see how competitive we are when we unload and make adjustments from there.”

      FUGLE TALKS TEXAS: “This will be the first time we’ve raced at Texas in the Next Gen car when it hasn’t been extremely hot and it’s the first time we’re going there in April in a very long time. It’s another tough track but a fun one to win at as well. We were lucky enough to win the last time we were there. We’re trying to build on our mile-and-a-half program. We were confident at Las Vegas this year but had the incident with the trash bag. We still have some good notes, though, from that race that we will build off of for this weekend.”

      FUGLE ON STRATEGY OPTIONS THIS WEEKEND: “There’s going to be a stay-out option and a two-tire option possibly at some point in the race. You just have to pick the right time to do it. It could get you stage points or a stage win but then you pit and come out 25th because of those who pitted earlier. You’re really trying to forecast the entire race at all times, which is a tough thing to do. That’s one of the hardest parts of Cup racing. The races are so long that you have to strategize through the entire event and it constantly can change.”

      © 2024 Matthew T. Thacker / NKP

      HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS

      FABULOUS 40: In 2024, Hendrick Motorsports is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Among the categories that the organization holds the NASCAR Cup Series record for are all-time wins (305), poles (249), laps led (80,453) and championships (14). With William Byron’s win at Martinsville Speedway, the team has won at least four races a year in 30 of the last 31 seasons. It is also the sixth time the team has won at least four of the first eight races in a season (1995, 1996, 1997, 2007 and 2022 were the other occurrences).

      1-2-3: Last Sunday at Martinsville, Hendrick Motorsports became the first team to record a top-three sweep at the 0.526-mile track—a venue where the team has won a track record 29 times. Byron won the race, Kyle Larson placed second and Chase Elliott finished third. In its history, the organization has three additional 1-2-3 finishes: the 1997 DAYTONA 500, the 2021 race at Dover Motor Speedway (where the team finished 1-2-3-4) and the 2023 spring race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

      TALLYING TOP FIVES: In the last four races in the 2024 season, at least two drivers from the squad have finished in the top five. At Martinsville, it was the Byron-Larson-Elliott 1-2-3 finish. At Richmond Raceway, Larson placed third and Elliott was fifth. For the Circuit of The Americas race, Byron won and Alex Bowman was fourth in the final running order. Bowman and Larson finished fourth and fifth in the Bristol Motor Speedway spring race, respectively. This is the organization’s longest streak since the final four races of the 2021 season.

      FROM THE POLE: Hendrick Motorsports is one pole position away from becoming the first Cup Series team to reach 250. Across 31 tracks, 20 drivers, including all four of the team’s current drivers have won poles for the squad. Team vice chairman Jeff Gordon’s 81 pole positions are the most by a driver in the organization’s history and Daytona International Speedway tops the track list at 23 pole positions.

      PIT POWER: Based on Racing Insights data, all four Hendrick Motorsports pit crews rank in the top six among Cup Series teams for the fastest average four-tire pit stop. The No. 9 pit crew is second (10.848 seconds), followed by the No. 24 pit crew in third (10.945 seconds) and the No. 5 pit crew in fourth (11.022 seconds). The No. 48 pit crew is sixth (11.138 seconds).

      LONE STAR LOWDOWN: With 11 points-paying wins at Texas Motor Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports is the most victorious team at the track. Jimmie Johnson accounts for seven of those and holds the track record for most Cup Series wins. Terry Labonte, Byron, Gordon and Larson each have one win at the 1.5-mile venue.

      LAST TIME AT TEXAS: On Hendrick Motorsports’ previous visit to the Fort Worth, Texas, facility on Sept. 24, 2023, history was made as the team became the first to reach 300 wins in the Cup Series. Byron secured the landmark victory by leading the final six laps. Larson led 99 laps on the day but was involved in a late-race incident in turn one while battling for the lead.

      NO LIMITS TO LEADING: In the past three races at Texas, the Concord, North Carolina-based team has led 55.94% of the laps run (523 of 935). Over that span, Larson leads all drivers in laps led (374), while Byron has paced the field for the fourth-most laps (103) and Elliott has led the fifth-most circuits (45).

      NEXT GEN NUMBERS: Team owner Rick Hendrick’s six wins on 1.5-mile tracks in the Next Gen car lead all organizations in the Cup Series. Since 2022, Larson has three wins on 1.5-mile tracks, while Byron has two victories and they are two of the four drivers with multiple victories on that track length. In addition, Larson (566) and Byron (564) rank one-two in points earned on 1.5-milers in the Next Gen era. Additionally, Bowman has one triumph on this track length in this span of time. Earlier this year at Las Vegas, Larson scored the victory in the series’ lone 2024 race at a 1.5-mile layout.

      SWEEP SENSATIONS: In four of Hendrick Motorsports’ six Next Gen wins on 1.5-mile tracks, a driver has swept the stages en route to the win. Larson did this in all three of his victories on 1.5-mile tracks (Homestead-Miami Speedway in October of 2022 and Las Vegas in October of 2023 and March of 2024) and Byron accomplished it in one of his wins (Las Vegas in March of 2023).

      Via Hendrick Motorsports