CONCORD, N.C. - The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs are here. All four Hendrick Motorsports are part of the 16-driver field.
Fresh off a regular season that saw Elliott win the regular season title and the team tally a series-best nine wins, Hendrick Motorsports is looking to add to its trophy case this postseason with its 15th championship.
RELATED: Elliott receives 2022 regular season championship
For the fifth time in team history, the company has had three drivers (Elliott, Kyle Larson and William Byron) with multiple wins in the same season – the most for any one organization out of the 12 times it has happened in Cup Series history. The other occurrences for Hendrick Motorsports were in 2005 (with Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson), 2012 (with Gordon, Johnson and Kasey Kahne), 2014 (with Gordon, Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and 2021 (with Elliott, Larson and Alex Bowman). Hendrick Motorsports is the only team to accomplish that feat so far this season.
Who is in the playoffs?
All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers – Elliott, Larson, William Byron and Alex Bowman will compete against 12 others for the 2022 Cup Series title. The other postseason drivers are: Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, Chase Briscoe, Kyle Busch, Ross Chastain, Austin Cindric, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Tyler Reddick and Daniel Suarez.
How do the standings look entering the Round of 16?
1-Elliott: 2,040 points
2-Logano: 2,025 points
3-Chastain: 2,020 points
4-Larson: 2,019 points
5-Byron: 2,014 points
6-Hamlin: 2,013 points
7-Blaney: 2,013 points
8-Reddick: 2,012 points
9-Harvick: 2,012 points
10-Bell, 2,011 points
11-Busch: 2,010 points
12-Briscoe: 2,009 points
13-Suarez: 2,007 points
14-CIndric: 2,006 points
15-Bowman: 2,006 points
16-Dillon: 2,005 points
How are the playoffs structured?
There are three rounds ahead of the Championship Race. A win by a playoff eligible automatically moves you through to the next round. Drivers will carry playoff points with them into every round by the Championship 4 and this will be added to their total after the field resets for each round.
The Round of 16 consists of Darlington Raceway, Kansas Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway. After Bristol, the four lowest playoff drivers on points (who haven’t won in that round) are eliminated.
The Round of 12 is made up of Texas Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL. After Charlotte, the four lowest playoff drivers on points (who haven’t won in that round) are eliminated.
The Round of 8 will take place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Martinsville Speedway. After Martinsville, the four lowest playoff drivers on points (who haven’t won in that round) are eliminated.
For the third straight year, the championship will be contested at Phoenix Raceway. When the checkered flag flies in the desert, the top finishing Championship 4 driver will take home the title. No stage points or playoff points are awarded in the “winner-take-all” finale. In the elimination era (since 2014), the Cup Series title winner has won the final race to be crowned the champion.
How many Cup Series championships does Hendrick Motorsports have?
Hendrick Motorsports has 14 Cup Series titles among five drivers. Jimmie Johnson won a record-tying seven titles (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2016), Jeff Gordon won four (1995, 1997, 1998 and 2001), while Terry Labonte (1996), Elliott (2020) and Larson (2021) each have one.
Let’s see how this year’s four-driver lineup stacks up heading into the playoffs.
Chase Elliott, No. 9
POINTS POSITION: First with 2,040 points
POSITION TO CUT LINE: +33 heading to Darlington
SEASON STATS: Four wins, 10 top fives, 17 top 10s and 719 laps led
PLAYOFF ELIMINATION HISTORY: Won championship in 2020; Reached Championship 4 in 2021; Eliminated in Round of 8 in 2017, 2018 and 2019; Eliminated in Round of 12 in 2016.
BEST TRACKS: Charlotte ROVAL with two wins, three top 10s and an average finish of 5.0 in four races. Phoenix with one win, five top fives, eight top 10s and an average finish of 10.7 in 13 starts.
OUTLOOK: The regular-season champion has been a picture of consistency throughout the season with a five-race run of top-two finishes with three wins helping him pull away for the 15-point bonus for being the top driver in the regular season. He enters the playoffs tied for the most top fives, holds the best average finish in the field and has led the most laps. His playoff point total gives him a little buffer to fall back on. In the Round of 16, Kansas and Bristol have been solid tracks for him in recent years with Elliott grabbing a playoff win at Kansas in 2018. The No. 9 pit crew has been one of the best on pit road all year, putting their driver in advantageous positions and that should continue in the postseason. And while the Round of 12 lurks for everyone, he does have three wins at Talladega and the Charlotte ROVAL combined. His Martinsville history bodes well for the Round of 8 as does his sneaky good record at Homestead-Miami - average finish of 9.0 in six starts. Expect a deep run from the 26-year-old as he looks to grab his second Cup Series title.
WHAT HE’S SAYING ABOUT THE PLAYOFFS: "I feel like I’ve had a pretty large variety of experiences. Close calls. We’ve had one (postseason) go our way. Fortunately and unfortunately, we’ve lived through the ups and downs of what it can offer. It’s very unforgiving but obviously, if you can make it and achieve the goal, it’s rewarding."
Kyle Larson, No. 5
POINTS POSITION: Fourth with 2,019 points
POSITION TO CUT LINE: +12 heading to Darlington
SEASON STATS: Two wins, 10 top fives, 13 top 10s and 307 laps led
PLAYOFF ELIMINATION HISTORY: Won championship in 2021; Eliminated in Round of 8 in 2019; Eliminated in Round of 12 in 2017 and 2018; Eliminated in Round of 16 in 2016.
BEST TRACKS: Darlington- with three runner ups, five top fives, seven top 10s and an average finish of 8.9 in nine starts. Las Vegas with one win, five top fives, nine top 10s and an average finish of 9.2 in 12 starts.
OUTLOOK: While Larson doesn’t enter this year’s postseason with the treasure chest of playoff points he carried with him last year, the reigning Cup Series champion is a threat to repeat. The Round of 16 sets up well for him given his solid record at Darlington and past success at Kansas and Bristol – two tracks he won at in last year’s playoffs. While the Round of 12 is going to be tricky for most to navigate, he is the defending winner of the race at the Charlotte ROVAL. The two 1.5-mile tracks in the Round of 8 should be a boost to the Elk Grove, California, native if he reaches that round as he has won at Las Vegas and his proclivity for running the fence at Homestead-Miami is well known. Larson came on late to grab his second win of the season in the second-to-last regular season race. Don’t sleep on Larson making another deep postseason run – he is tied for the most top-five finishes in the field.
WHAT HE’S SAYING ABOUT THE ROUND OF 16: "That first round are tracks that I really like. Darlington (Raceway), Kansas (Speedway) and Bristol (Motor Speedway). Anyone of those three in the first round. I wish they kind of spread those three tracks throughout all the rounds because I feel like those are all places we can win at."
William Byron, No. 24
POINTS POSITION: Fifth with 2,014 points
POSITION TO CUT LINE: +7 heading to Darlington
SEASON STATS: Two wins, four top fives, five top 10s and 611 laps led
PLAYOFF ELIMINATION HISTORY: Eliminated in the Round of 12 in 2019 and 2021; Eliminated in Round of 16 in 2020.
BEST TRACKS: Homestead-Miami where he has a win with crew chief Rudy Fugle in 2021 and is the defending race winner. Byron is the most recent winner at Martinsville and has three straight top fives (all with Fugle) and five top 10s in his last six starts there.
OUTLOOK: Byron has had front-running speed most of the year and he has led the second-most laps this season. After winning two of the first eight races in 2022 and becoming the first driver to win multiple races in the Next Gen era, the finishes haven’t been there of late. Since his Martinsville win, the 24-year-old driver has had a string of bad luck marring promising days. For playoff advancement, that will have to change. The Round of 16 shapes up nicely for him as the Charlotte, North Carolina, native nearly won at Darlington in the spring and was leading at Kansas before cutting a tire in stage two. Should he get through to the Round of 8, that could pay off well for the young driver as he has the pace on the intermediates all year, won at Homestead-Miami last year and won in the spring at Martinsville.
WHAT HE’S SAYING ON HIS SEASON TO DATE: "We certainly started this season on a high. We got a couple wins in the first quarter of the season and then struggled in the second quarter of the season with speed and performance. I feel like the third quarter we’re coming back to how we were in the first part of the year."
Alex Bowman, No. 48
POINTS POSITION: 15th with 2,006 points
POSITION TO CUT LINE: -3 heading to Darlington
SEASON STATS: One win, three top fives, 10 top 10s and 29 laps led
PLAYOFF ELIMINATION HISTORY: Eliminated in Round of 8 in 2020; Eliminated in Round of 12 in 2018, 2019 and 2021.
BEST TRACKS: Kansas with two top fives, five top 10s and an average finish of 9.9 in nine starts since the start of the 2018 season. Charlotte ROVAL with two top fives, four top 10s and an average finish of 6.0 in four starts.
OUTLOOK: It’s been a tale of two seasons so far for Bowman. In the first half, he had a career-best nine top 10s through the first 14 races of 2022. The second half saw a tough stretch where he didn’t get the finishes he was getting in the first half of the year. The playoff reset leaves him in a packed position where qualifying well and grabbing stage points will take on a critical role. Non-drafting 1.5-mile tracks have been a strong point for the 29-year-old this season as his lone victory in 2022 came at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as have top-10 runs at Kansas and Charlotte. Should he reach the Round of 8, the Tucson, Arizona, native has won at both Vegas and Martinsville during his time at Hendrick Motorsports. If Bowman can find the consistency he had over the course of the first half of the year, that could lead to a nice playoff run.
WHAT HE’S SAYING ABOUT PLAYOFF LESSONS: "Just to go out and try to execute like you do each and every week. I don’t think you can try to go do anything more than you have all year. You just have to go run well. You can’t turn it up. You got to be ready to go when those 10 weeks show up. We’ve been able to put together some really good runs through the playoffs in the past, so hopefully we can have another good one."