DARLINGTON, S.C. – Chase Elliott led the way for the quartet of Hendrick Motorsports drivers in qualifying at Darlington Raceway. The South Carolina track is hosting the Round of 16 opener in the NASCAR playoffs.
Elliott’s starting spot for the Southern 500 will be 13th in the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Darlington represents the first non-superspeedway where Elliott will make a second start this year. In the May race, he finished third, which is his best career result at "The Lady in Black." Over 13 starts, he has four top-five finishes and six top-10s in 13 starts.
The 27-year-old is not in the driver championship but his team is in the owner playoffs. They enter the owner playoffs in 16th with 2,001 points. They are minus-7 to the elimination race to advance to the Round of 12.
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Kyle Larson will start 18th in the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevy. The 31-year-old driver starts the playoffs ranked sixth in the standings at 2,017 points and is plus-10 to the elimination line of advancement into the next round. Darlington is one of his best tracks with five top-five finishes, seven top-10s and 715 laps led in 11 starts.
William Byron lines up 23rd in the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The 25-year-old driver is the top seed in the postseason with 2,036 points. He is plus-29 to the elimination line for a spot in the Round of 12. Byron has a series-best five wins and one of those victories came at Darlington in the spring. In 10 starts, he has three top-five finishes and four top-10s at the 1.366-mile track.
Byron (166.642 mph) and Larson (166.340 mph) placed fourth and seventh in practice. Byron was seventh and Larson was eighth on the 10-lap consecutive average chart. Larson was second and Byron was fourth on the 15-lap chart. The 2021 champion was the best car on the 20- and 25-lap average board.
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Alex Bowman will take the grid from the 24th position in the No. 48 Ally Chevy. The 30-year-old driver missed the spring race with a fractured vertebra, so this will be his first race at the South Carolina track with crew chief Blake Harris. He has three top-10 finishes in 11 starts at this track, with a best finish of second coming in NASCAR’s return to racing following a stoppage due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Christopher Bell earned the pole position for the 367-lap race on Labor Day weekend.
As an organization, the Rick Hendrick-owned team has 14 Cup Series championships. Jimmie Johnson won seven titles, which is tied for the most in series history. Jeff Gordon earned four championships, while Terry Labonte, Elliott and Larson have one each for the Concord, North Carolina-based team.
Since the playoffs began in 2004, Hendrick Motorsports has posted a series-best 55 wins in the postseason races. Johnson has the most with 29 victories. Among the current driver lineup, Elliott tops the board with seven wins, followed by Larson with six and Bowman has one.
Hendrick Motorsports’ 15 Cup Series wins at Darlington are the most all-time by a team. Gordon's seven wins account for nearly half of the total. Johnson posted three wins at the 1.366-mile track, including the organization's 200th Cup Series win in 2012. Byron, Labonte, Mark Martin, Tim Richmond and Ricky Rudd each tallied one trip to victory lane for the team at the track "Too Tough to Tame." On 11 occasions, Hendrick Motorsports has won the Southern 500.
RELATED: Hendrick Motorsports' winning history at the Southern 500
Tune in to watch the playoff opener at Darlington on Sunday, Sept. 3, at 6 p.m. ET on USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).