AVONDALE, Ariz. – William Byron led the way in a practice at Phoenix Raceway among the four-car fleet for Hendrick Motorsports. 

Byron’s speed of 132.484 mph in the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 placed ninth overall on the speed chart. The 24-year-old native of Charlotte, North Carolina, was eliminated from the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs last weekend upon the completion of the Round of 8. 

Chase Elliott was 10th in the session in the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and was third-fastest among the Championship 4 drivers. He will battle Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain and Joey Logano for the 2022 title. Chastain topped the practice session at the Arizona venue.

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Elliott will be going after Hendrick Motorsports’ 15th NASCAR Cup Series driver championship on Sunday at Phoenix. The organization has won a sport-best 14 Cup Series titles with five drivers (most among all teams in the series) taking home the honors. Jimmie Johnson is tied with a series-best seven championships (2006-2010, 2013 and 2016), Jeff Gordon has four (1995, 1997-1998 and 2001) and Terry Labonte (1996), Elliott (2020) and Larson (2021) each have one. Since the start of the 1995 season, Hendrick Motorsports has won 54% of all the Cup Series crowns. 

Kyle Larson finished 13th in practice in the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The No. 5 team has an opportunity to win the owner’s championship for the second straight season. They will be battling the same three teams as Elliott – the No. 1 (Chastain), the No. 20 (Bell) and the No. 22 (Logano) – for the honors. Should Larson and the No. 5 team accomplish that feat, it would mark the third time the driver and owner championships were split. This also occurred in 1954 and 1963.

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In his first track time in the Cup Series since the Round of 12 opener, Alex Bowman came in 19th in practice in the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Bowman is back behind the wheel for crew chief Greg Ives’ final race after missing the previous five races with a concussion suffered in an accident at Texas Motor Speedway on Sept. 25. Ives announced in August that he was stepping down from the pit box to spend more time with his family and he will be transitioning to a new role in the organization.

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On the 10-lap average board, Elliott was the highest-ranking playoff driver in fourth and had the best average among the Hendrick Motorsports camp. Byron was sixth in that statistical measure and Larson came in seventh. The placement is even stronger on the 15-lap average board with the trio of Elliott, Larson and Byron ranking second through fourth. 

"I felt like we made some good gains in practice and we have some good long-run speed in our NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevy," Elliott said. "We'll keep working on things tonight and try to go lay down a good lap tomorrow in qualifying."

Teams got 50 minutes of practice at the 1-mile track ahead of Saturday’s group qualifying session that will take place at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network. Bowman and Elliott will be in Group A, while Larson and Byron are part of Group B.

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Elliott’s third straight Championship 4 appearance marks the sixth time that a Hendrick Motorsports driver has reached the final round since the elimination-style format was adopted in 2014. Among the previous five instances, the Rick Hendrick-owned organization has won the championship in three of those: Johnson in 2016, Elliott in 2020 and Larson in 2021. Elliott and Larson’s title-clinching victories came at Phoenix in the two years that the 1-mile track has hosted the championship coronation. 

Eight different drivers are responsible for the team’s 12 wins at the Arizona venue. Johnson’s four victories top the board followed by Gordon with two. Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Labonte, Elliott and Larson each have one triumph. 

The final race of the season will take place on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).