CONCORD, N.C. – Hendrick Motorsports entered the playoffs with three drivers in the running for a championship, and the organization now moves to the second round of the playoffs with three drivers still in the running for a championship.
Following the Round of 16 finale Sunday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course, Chase Elliott, William Byron and Alex Bowman advanced to the Round of 12.
Byron and Bowman did so on points, while Elliott advanced on the strength of his hard-fought win Sunday at the “roval,” where all four Hendrick Motorsports teammates finished in the top 10.
“We've worked extremely hard, and to see the cars run like they did today, super proud of them,” Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick said. “To finish in the top 10 with four cars, it's really hard. I've never seen the competition as tough as it is right now with as much talent as there is in the top 10 drivers. It's going to be a dogfight all the way to Homestead.”
This season is the series-best 12th in which Hendrick Motorsports has sent at least three drivers to the playoffs, and Sunday’s win by Elliott moved the organization’s all-time record to 44 victories in the playoffs.
"To get a home-track win for so many guys means a lot,” Elliott said of the Charlotte win. “I've never done that. I can tell it's special for everyone. When you can do that here, it means a lot.”
Now, attention turns to the Round of 12, which consists of races at Dover International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway.
Those have been strong tracks for Hendrick Motorsports this season.
Notably, Bowman finished second at all three tracks back-to-back-to-back earlier this year, and Elliott owns wins at all three in his career, including a trip to Victory Lane at Talladega this season.
"Obviously Dover we finished second in the spring, so our race car is going to be really strong there and we've got to go capitalize on that,” Bowman said.
Byron earned a top-10 at Dover earlier this year, and he knows what his seven-time champion crew chief Chad Knaus brings to the table at the Delaware track where he owns 11 wins.
“Chad's got a good setup for that place, he's won there so many times with Jimmie (Johnson),” Byron said. “So, hopefully we can have a great run there and be a little more aggressive.”
With the Round of 16 in the rear-view mirror, Elliott said the main thing he’ll take away from Sunday’s win is the confidence that the No. 9 team can run with the best in the playoffs. And the extra playoff points that now transfer with him to the next round are certainly an added benefit.
"I think we've been a championship-caliber team,” Elliott said. “I feel like we're really close to asserting ourselves among those top four or five teams.”
Now, he’s excited to take on the upcoming tracks, and so is Hendrick.
“The organization is getting better – all the cars have got speed,” the owner said. “I'm just looking forward to Dover and Kansas. I think they're going to be great races for us.”