AVONDALE, Ariz. – Kyle Larson earned the best starting spot among the Hendrick Motorsports quartet as he will line up fourth for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series 2022 season finale at Phoenix Raceway.
Larson’s lap of 133.844 mph put the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in row two. The No. 5 team has an opportunity to win the owner’s championship for the second straight season. They will be battling the No. 1 (Ross Chastain), the No. 20 (Christopher Bell) and the No. 22 (Joey Logano) teams for the honors. The top finishing driver of that foursome when the checkered flag falls will take home the owner’s crown.
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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Chase Elliott will start from the fifth spot on the grid after putting down a lap of 133.437 mph in the final round of qualifying. Elliott earned the second-best starting spot among the Championship 4 drivers – Logano will start from the pole position, Bell qualified 17th and Chastain is slated to start 25th. Just like with Larson and the owner’s title, the top finishing driver of that foursome when the checkered flag falls will take home the driver’s championship.
"I was pretty pleased with our qualifying effort," Elliott said. "I thought we went faster than we did yesterday for a one-lap pace. I was pleasantly surprised with that. Hopefully, it holds on tomorrow and we can have a good day."
The driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 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.
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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.
"I feel like we've done a good job as a team throughout the week controlling the things that we have directly in front of us in our hands," Elliott said.
William Byron will begin the 312-lap race from the eighth spot. This marks the sixth time in seven races that the 24-year-old will start inside the top 10. The driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was eliminated from the playoffs last weekend in the Round of 8 finale at Martinsville Speedway.
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Alex Bowman will start 24th 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.
"Having a goal to come back this year kept me working really hard and really accountable for what I was doing," Bowman said.
"… I think that was good for me and obviously a lot of motivation to come back with Greg. Definitely a lot of different emotions. We’re obviously caught up in trying to run the best we can. Just trying to enjoy it. Really happy for him and the next step in his career."
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 at the 1-mile track.
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Tune in to watch the final race of the 2022 season on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).