WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – William Byron and Kyle Larson will both start in the top five for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International.
Byron will line up second (124.961 mph) in the No. 24 Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, matching his best starting spot at the seven-turn road course. It is also his sixth front-row starting spot of the 2023 season. The 25-year-old driver has two top-10 finishes in four Cup Series starts. Watkins Glen is also the home track on the circuit for No. 24 crew chief Rudy Fugle, who hails from Livonia, New York.
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Larson qualified fifth (124.874 mph) in the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevy and has won the last two races at Watkins Glen. Since his first start at this track in 2014, he has not started outside the top six. Overall in eight starts, he has two wins, three top-five finishes and five top-10s.
"Even when I was at Ganassi, I would say this was one of our better tracks for racing," Larson said about his track record at the 2.45-mile road course. "Then you come to Hendrick Motorsports and they have a really good package here and setup. Chase (Elliott) has pretty much dominated and won lots of races here and led lots of laps. Things just kind of worked out the last couple of years to get the wins."
Elliott will line up 15th in the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The 27-year-old driver’s average finish of 5.7 is the best among active drivers at Watkins Glen. He earned the first Cup Series win of his career at this track in 2018 – one of seven victories (most among active drivers) for Elliott on serpentine layouts. In addition, he has finished in the top five in the last three road course races in 2023, with a runner-up finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course as his best result in those races.
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Bowman is set to start 18th in the No. 48 Ally Chevy. He is coming off his second top-five finish at a road course this season – a fifth-place result at Indianapolis. In an effort to get more seat time, the 30-year-old driver will run the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday afternoon. Bowman starts second in that race.
The Watkins Glen race is the second-to-last race in the regular season for the Cup Series. Elliott and Bowman are both 80 points outside the provisional playoff cutline. While pointing into the playoffs is still mathematically possible, a win is the most likely path into the postseason for both drivers.
Denny Hamlin will lead the field to green in the 90-lap race.
Byron (123.809 mph) and Larson (123.770 mph) placed third and fourth in group practice. Elliott (123.421 mph) was seventh on the board. Byron and Larson ranked one-two in the best 10-lap consecutive average category and second and third in the best five-lap consecutive average category.
Elliott (2018-19) and Larson (2021-22) have won the last four races at Watkins Glen. The track did not host a race in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The last time an organization won five races in a row at a track was when Hendrick Motorsports earned five consecutive victories at Pocono (from 2012-2014). The longest streak by any team at any track is eight by Junior Johnson and Associates (from 1980-1984) at Bristol Motor Speedway.
With 26 wins, Hendrick Motorsports has the most all-time triumphs on road courses in Cup Series history. The two closest teams in this statistic have combined for only 23 wins. Since its inaugural season in 1984, the organization has won 27.37% of road course events (26 wins in 95 races). The team also tops the board among Cup Series squads on road courses in poles (25), top-five finishes (87), top-10s (147), laps led (2,208) and stage wins (14).
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Among those 26 serpentine layout wins, 10 have come at Watkins Glen - most among all Cup Series teams. Jeff Gordon’s four wins lead the squad followed by two each for Elliott and Larson. Tim Richmond and Ricky Rudd notched one victory at the track near New York’s Finger Lakes region
Watch the quartet of Hendrick Motorsports drivers compete at Watkins Glen on Sunday, Aug. 20, at 3 p.m. ET with coverage on USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).