CONCORD, N.C. – The anticipation of a new season brings with it excitement and enthusiasm for a fresh campaign. It's a chance to build off the following season and reach new heights.
Drivers and teams are getting ready to hit the track at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in February for the exhibition Clash at the Coliseum. When the teams descend upon Daytona International Speedway two weeks later, the most prestigious event on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule will be decided and the points-paying part of the season will be off and running.
HendrickMotorsports.com sat down with all four of the organization's drivers – Alex Bowman, William Byron, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson – to find out the track they are most excited to get to in 2023 once everyone departs Daytona. All four drivers offered varying answers.
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Elliott’s selection was a track that is returning to the schedule for the first time since 1996 in North Wilkesboro Speedway. The .625-mile track will play host to the All-Star Race on May 21. Hendrick Motorsports swept the final season of points-paying races there with Jeff Gordon winning the final race there to date on Sept. 29, 1996. Elliott won a Pro All-Star Race in 2010 at the track.
"North Wilkesboro is something super different," Elliott said. "I’m looking forward to getting there and trying to relearn an old track. It’s been a long time. That one stands out to me of anything we have on the schedule right now."
Bowman also mentioned that he was excited for North Wilkesboro having run a Pro Cup race there. However, the Tucson, Arizona, native said he was most looking forward to getting back to his home track.
"I’m excited to get back to Phoenix (Raceway)," Bowman said. "Any time we are starting to have a good run there, something happens. Looking for more opportunities to try and improve on our results there. Hopefully, we can knock that off the bucket list and keep digging."
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Echoing the theme of hometown tracks, Byron, a Charlotte, North Carolina, native chose a race just down the road from the campus of Hendrick Motorsports.
"Looking forward to the (Charlotte) 600 this year," Byron said. "It is always an important race for me. I have been close to winning it a couple of times. Just got to close the deal this year."
In the 2021 Charlotte 600, Byron finished fourth for his best finish at the 1.5-mile venue. He also won the pole for the 2019 edition of the sport’s longest race by mileage.
Coming close to a win at a track was also the basis for Larson’s selection.
"I always look forward to going to Darlington (Raceway)," Larson said. "I’ve always wanted to win at Bristol (Motor Speedway) and we won a race at Bristol (in 2021). So that track is kind of next on my list. I want to win everywhere, but Darlington is a track that I have been really fast at in the past so I always get excited for that race."
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In his Cup career, the 30-year-old driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet has five top-three finishes at the 1.366-mile South Carolina venue – three of those were runner-up finishes. Larson also noted that he was also very much looking forward to the Chicago Street Course and racing inside a major city.
The 2023 season is right around the corner with all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers taking part in the Clash at the Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 5.