CONCORD, N.C. – Watkins Glen International will be the site of the third and final start for the No. 17 Hendrick Motorsports entry in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this season.
At the seven-turn, 2.45-mile course, William Byron will pilot the ride for his third Xfinity Series start of the year, but his first in the No. 17 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro with crew chief Kevin Meendering. In his two previous starts this season, he drove the No. 88 JR Motorsports (JRM) Chevrolet Camaro with a runner-up finish at Texas Motor Speedway standing as his best result. The 24-year-old’s four Xfinity wins came in his championship season of 2017 with JRM.
The 82-lap race Xfinity race will provide Byron with additional seat time ahead of Sunday’s 90-lap event in the NASCAR Cup Series. In three Cup Series starts at Watkins Glen, he has two top-10 finishes.
Byron will look to add to the organization’s total of 26 wins in the series. Tony Stewart earned the last win-to-date for the team in 2009 at Daytona International Speedway. The No. 17 car number for the Xfinity races carries special significance to the Hendrick Motorsports family as it was the number that the late Ricky Hendrick drove over two seasons in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series from 2000 to 2001. The paint scheme is based on the truck he drove those seasons, including in his win at Kansas Speedway.
"I’m excited that I get extra track time this weekend with being able to run Xfinity on Saturday," Byron said. "I think it will be beneficial to get those extra laps before Sunday’s (Cup Series) race in similar race conditions. Plus, I want to be able to get Mr. Hendrick a win in the No. 17, especially since they’ve been so close this year already."
Kyle Larson will also be in the field for the Xfinity race as he will drive the No. 88 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro for JRM. It will be his second of three Xfinity starts with the final one also coming for JRM at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 3. The 30-year-old from Elk Grove, California, has 12 wins in his career in the series and won at this track in last year’s Cup Series race.
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Larson was the first to pilot the team’s No. 17 entry this season with a runner-up finish at Road America last month. Alex Bowman also earned a second-place result when he drove the car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course three weeks ago.
For team president and general manager Jeff Andrews, the organization’s limited foray into the Xfinity ranks has been well worth it.
"I think both races (so far) for us have been a success and have given our drivers a good opportunity for some on-track exposure to the different circuits they ran at," Andrews told HendrickMotorsports.com. "When we started with the thought of doing that, it was to try and get some more experience for those drivers, particularly around road courses."
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While this year’s three-race slate for the Hendrick Motorsports entry comes to a close at the road course in New York, Andrews wouldn’t rule out the potential of doing something similar next season.
"I certainly think whether it’s in the No. 17 HendrickCars.com Camaro that we fielded this year or through something with our partners over at JRM, there will be some opportunities there for our drivers to get track time again next year," Andrews said. "With the way the practice schedules are and the way the weekend is, just showing up and getting yourself familiar with those tracks before you get in the Cup (Series) car has proven to have some benefits."
Tune in to watch Byron and Larson compete at Watkins Glen at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday with coverage on USA Network, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).