In 2019, Joe Gibbs was all but certain of the championship in the NASCAR Cup Series when three of his four drivers finished fourth in the championship. Gibbs eventually became the master car owner when Kyle Busch won the season finale en route to his second series title.
With this year’s postseason set to begin at Darlington Raceway (6 p.m. ET, NBCSN), the conversation now turns Hendrick Motorsports. Since the organization is undoubtedly the Cup Series garage class, the question arises whether all four Hendrick drivers will be in the title race in Phoenix.
Byron and team # 24 are the lowest Hendrick with 2,014 points -Starting place on the eighth starting place. Byron earned his playoff spot by winning Homestead-Miami Speedway and finishing the regular season fifth overall. « I feel like our team, we’re doing the right things, » said Byron. “As the season progresses, it’s really easy for the guys to go their own way and the Crew Chiefs to go their own way and find setups that they think work better than other guys. At the end of the year you look back at the notes and think, man, it’s very different on paper than this other race car or team, and it wasn’t.
« We had periods of the season when one of us had problems or two of us but honestly we’re on the same path we started the year on. We all share notes; we all work very well together. So the possibility that the four of us will make it to Championship 4 is definitely there. ”
Byron said his team is a top eight team. Success in the playoffs for him would be a couple of wins and promotion to the title race.
In sixth place is Alex Bowman, who scored three early wins and has 2,015 points.
« I think it takes a lot of things that just go their way to make that happen, « Bowman admitted. “It’s hard to have problems with four cars for nine weeks to get to this point. But at the same time I think the Hendrick organization is super strong right now; Everyone from top to bottom in this shop is getting it down and working extremely hard.
« I think we have a great chance and I think we’re definitely going to be racing for a championship with our teammates this year. »
Gibbs in ’19 is the next an organization to reach the last four places. In the elimination era of the playoffs (2014-present), a team owner only entered multiple cars three times in the championship race.
Chase Elliott begins his title defense from the fifth seed with two wins and 2,021 points. Elliott said he doesn’t understand why he and his three teammates couldn’t all get to Championship 4. « I think it would be great, » said Elliott. « Mr. Hendrick deserves to win and that would guarantee him a championship, so I’m for it. »
Elliott defeated two Team Penske- Driver to win the title. He’s ready to try again and said he doesn’t feel much different than the champion going to the playoffs.
« I have a feeling of a similar one Place to be, « said Elliott. » I feel in a good place. I’m ready to go. I’m looking forward to the next 10 weeks – it’s my favorite time of year. It’s going to be exciting for us on the NASCAR front (and) in all sports on TV.
« It’s a fun time of year to be American. I’m proud of that and look forward to the opportunity. I feel good and we’re as ready as we ever will be I’m looking forward to Darlington. ”
Then there’s Kyle Larson, who won the championship in of the regular season and is the favorite for the crown. Larson won five races and is No. 1 on the grid with 2,052 points.
« You can see how tough this series is, » said Larson. “Ten weeks is a long time. Four weeks is a long time, so 10 is a long stretch here and a lot can happen. Every year I have the feeling that there are adversities that have to be overcome at some point.
“There are teams that come and go. I’m sure there are teams out there that haven’t peaked yet, and who knows if we’ve peaked yet. I do not really know. It’s hard to predict and expect anything in this series. Yes, we have a great opportunity, but that doesn’t mean you will. «
Kelly has been with NASCAR-Beat full-time since 2013 and joined RACER in 2017 as NASCAR’s chief writer. Her work has also appeared on NASCAR.com, NASCAR Illustrated Magazine, and NBC Sports. Crandall holds a degree in corporate communications from Central Penn College and is a two-time George Cunningham Writer of the Year from the National Motorsports Press Association.
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