Hendrick Motorsports looks to continue momentum in Daytona


Slowly and surely Hendrick Motorsports is turning things around.

The evidence of that is not just in its two Cup wins this year with Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman, though those are significant.

In 2018, Hendrick won three times, all with Elliott. But the first victory – Elliott’s first Cup win – didn’t come until race No. 22 at Watkins Glen International Speedway.

But the improvements for Hendrick through 17 races this season are not just with the No. 9 and No. 88 teams.

All four of Hendrick’s cars have put together a better resume heading to Daytona than they did at this point last year.

Here are some numbers courtesy of Racing Insights.


Through 17 races, Elliott has six top fives, seven top 10s and two poles while leading 406 laps. Last year, Elliott had 11 top fives, 21 top 10s, one pole and led 325 laps all season.

William Byron has made significant improvement from his rookie year.

Byron has five top-10 finishes, 180 laps led and three poles this year. Byron’s entire rookie campaign saw four top 10s, 61 laps led and no poles. At Sonoma Raceway last month, Byron led every lap in the first stage to earn his first career stage win.

Byron heads to Daytona trying for some redemption. After he earned the pole for the Daytona 500, he crashed nine laps from the finish.

“The thing with Daytona though is you can’t really prepare for it; it’s about making sure you’re still there in the end,” Byron said in a media release. “The hope is to collect as many points as possible in the first two stages to help balance out what may happen in the end, but even then, it’s easy to lose a ton as well. Hopefully though we can get the result that I think our team deserves. I honestly feel like we should be contending for the win at the end.”

Jimmie Johnson, still mired in the longest winless streak of his career at 76 races, is marginally ahead of his 2018 pace.

The No. 48 team has a pole, two top fives and 78 laps led in 2019. Johnson had no poles, only two top fives and 40 laps led in all of 2018

Bowman’s four top fives in 2019, including his win, come after having he earned the first three top fives of his career last season.

Bowman’s top 10 total (six) is tied for his total at this point last year.

In the last eight races, Bowman has led the Cup Series in most points earned with 323. That’s 20 points more than Elliott in second. Byron has earned the eighth most points with 257.

From Racing Insights, here’s what’s contributed to Bowman’s large points gain, anchored by his streak of three consecutive runner-up finishes.


Can Bowman and the rest of Hendrick continue to build on their momentum this weekend in Daytona?

They have recent history on their side given Johnson’s win the Busch Clash in February and the team’s performance at Talladega in April. That’s where Elliott and Bowman finished 1-2 for Hendrick’s first win of the year and when Bowman began his surge. Meanwhile, Byron placed 21st as the last driver on the lead lap. Johnson finished 33rd after he hit the wall on Lap 25 upon cutting a tire.

“Going to Daytona this weekend, we have a little bit of a monkey off our back,” Bowman said in a media release. “I was one who definitely kept track of the point standings and now we can go out and focus on stage points and race wins. Being locked into the playoffs is an amazing feeling. Our goal is to get to Miami and be in the running for a championship.
“This team brought an amazing car to Talladega earlier this year and I know that these guys were back in the shop this weekend putting together a great car for this weekend. The superspeedway program at Hendrick Motorsports has always been good and the teams all work together pretty well on track. I think we have a shot at the win this weekend too, which is a great feeling.”

While Hendrick Motorsports had only one win in the last 10 Daytona points races with a restrictor plate (Dale Earnhardt Jr., July 2015), it has held the crown for more than two years when it came to pure qualifying speed.

In the first Daytona race with the tapered spacer packages, Hendrick will try to extend its record streak of five consecutive Daytona poles.

COTA Truck race results: Zane Smith wins

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series XPEL 225
Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

Reigning series champion Zane Smith won Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas for the second year in a row.

The victory is Smith’s second of this year.

MORE: COTA Truck race results

Kyle Busch finished second and was followed by Ty Majeski, Tyler Ankrum and Ross Chastain.

The key moment came when Parker Kligerman‘s truck came to a stop on the frontstretch at Lap 28. Smith, running second, made it to pit road before it was closed. Busch, who was leading, had already passed pit road entrance.

Smith gained the lead with the move, while Busch had to pit under the caution and restarted 16th. Smith was able to build a lead and beat Busch by 5.4 seconds.

Stage 1 winner: Christian Eckes

Stage 2 winner: Kyle Busch

Who had a good race: Ty Majeski’s third-place finish is his best of the season. … Tyler Ankrum’s fourth-place finish is his best of the year. … Corey Heim has finished sixth two races in a row. … Rookie Nick Sanchez finished seventh, giving him back-to-back top 10s.

Who had a bad race: Parker Kligerman was running third when electrical issues forced him to stop on track just after the end of the second stage. … After winning the first stage, Christian Eckes had mechanical issues and had to pit for repairs, costing him several laps.

Notable: Front Row Motorsports has won the Truck COTA race all three years. Todd Gilliland won the race in 2021 and Zane Smith has won it the past two years.

Next: The series races April 1 at Texas Motor Speedway (4:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series XPEL 225
COTA winner Zane Smith’s truck catches fire after he did his burnout on the frontstretch. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

COTA Cup starting lineup


Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, who has won two of the first five races of the season, will lead the Cup field to the green flag Sunday at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron will be joined on the front row of the starting lineup by Tyler Reddick, the only driver to win multiple races at road courses last year.

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Austin Cindric starts third and is joined in the second row by Jordan Taylor, who is filling in for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 Hendrick car.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

William Byron wins Cup pole at COTA


William Byron will start on the pole for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron won the pole with a lap of 93.882 mph around the 3.41-mile road course Saturday. He becomes the first Cup driver to win a pole at four different road courses: Charlotte Roval (2019), Road America (2021), Indianapolis road course (2021) and COTA (2023).

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Byron will be joined on the front row by Tyler Reddick, who had posted the fastest lap in Friday’s practice and fastest lap in the opening round of qualifying Saturday. Reddick qualified at 93.783 mph.

Austin Cindric (93.459 mph) qualified third. Former IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, substituting for an injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, qualified fourth with a lap of 93.174 mph. AJ Allmendinger (93.067) will start fifth.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

Ross Chastain, who won this event a year ago, qualified 12th. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen qualified 22nd, former world champion Jenson Button qualified 24th, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 31st and IndyCar driver Conor Daly qualified 35th.

Sunday Cup race at Circuit of the Americas: Start time, TV info, weather


Is this Toyota’s weekend?

Chevrolet won the first four races of the season. Ford won last weekend with Joey Logano at Atlanta. Is it Toyota’s turn to win its first Cup race of the season? Or does Chevrolet return to dominance?

Chevrolet drivers have won 11 of the past 12 Cup races on road courses. The exception was Christopher Bell‘s win for Toyota at the Charlotte Roval in last year’s playoffs. Chevrolets have won the two previous Cup races at COTA: Chase Elliott in 2021 and Ross Chastain in 2022.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: Brendan Hunt, who plays Coach Beard in “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+, will give the command to start engines at 3:38 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting at 2:45 p.m. … Driver introductions at 3:05 p.m. … Invocation will be given by Sage Steele, ESPN broadcaster, at 3:30 p.m. … Jaime Camil, actor from “Schmigadoon” on Apple TV+, will perform the national anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 68 laps (231.88 miles) on the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 15. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Pre-race coverage begins at 2 p.m. on FS1 and moves to Fox at 3 p.m. … Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and will also stream at goprn.com; SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.


FORECAST: Weather Underground – Mostly cloudy with a high of 80 degrees and a 2% chance of rain at the start of the race.

STARTING LINEUP: COTA Cup starting lineup

LAST YEAR: Ross Chastain scored his first career Cup win in a physical battle with AJ Allmendinger on the final lap. Alex Bowman finished second. Christopher Bell placed third.


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