CONCORD, N.C. - This weekend, Hendrick Motorsports and the NASCAR Cup Series head to Texas Motor Speedway for the opening race in the Round of 12.
Since 1997, the 1.5-mile oval, located in Fort Worth, Texas, has made at least one visit to the track. From 2005 to 2020, the venue hosted two points-paying races each season. The facility has hosted one of the 10 playoff races in every year of the postseason except one (2004). Compared to the non-drafting facilities of the same length, Texas is the fastest 1.5-mile track the Cup Series will visit.
As part of a repave of the track ahead of the 2017 season, a re-profiling was done in turns one and two, decreasing their banking to 20 degrees and expanding the race surface width from 60 to 80 feet in that section of the track. Turns three and four remained at 24 degrees of banking.
"It is such a tough place for an intermediate (track)," No. 5 crew chief Cliff Daniels said. "The two ends are so different with not a lot of banking and a tight radius in (turns) one and two and then a lot of banking and a bigger radius in (turns) three and four."
In all, Hendrick Motorsports has won 10 times at Texas. Jimmie Johnson's seven wins are a track record. Terry Labonte, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Larson each account for one victory at the track for Rick Hendrick's team.
PHOTOS: See every Hendrick Motorsports winner at Texas Motor Speedway
Carrying the points lead in the No. 24 Liberty University Chevy is none other than William Byron. Texas has been a sneaky good track of late for the Charlotte, North Carolina, native. In the two points-paying races since Rudy Fugle joined as the team's crew chief (before the 2021 season), Byron has an average finish of 4.5, two top 10s and 97 laps led. He also won here in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series with Fugle as well. The 25-year-old driver has the best average finish (5.25) on 1.5-mile tracks in 2023 and has won on that track type this year (Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March). As the round begins, Byron is 25 points to the good on the cutline.
For the second time in the 2023 playoffs, Larson will aim to earn another opening-round victory on Sunday, this time in "The Lone Star State." In 2021, the driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 dominated the competition as he led 256 laps en route to a win in the year of his championship. This season, Larson has again found success on the 1.5-mile tracks, with the fourth-best average finish (9.50). On top of that, he enters this round coming off a historic Round of 16 that saw him post a 2.33 average finish -- best in the Round of 16 in the era of elimination-style playoffs. Larson enters this round 12 points above the cutline as he looks to advance into the Round of 8.
Chase Elliott enters this weekend with a four-race streak of top-10 finishes. Thanks in part to this consistency, the No. 9 Kelley Blue Book group was able to advance into the Round of 12 in the race for the owner championship. When looking at the statistics from the Round of 16, this was not by chance. Elliott's 9.43 average running position was the seventh best of any driver in the field and the highest of those not in the driver playoffs. In 12 starts at Texas, the 2020 Cup Series champion has two top-five finishes and six top-10s. The No. 9 team enters this round, minus-13 to the cutline to advance.
Alex Bowman will look to break through for another win on a 1.5-mile track in the Next Gen car. At Texas, he has a pair of top-five finishes, each coming in the playoff races of 2019 and 2020. In races run on 1.5-mile tracks in the Next Gen car (since the start of 2022), Bowman has the third-best average finish (9.75). The 30-year-old driver has three top-10 finishes in his past six races on the season as the team looks to close out the season on a high note in the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
Here's what you need to know to catch this weekend’s action.
RELATED: See this weekend's paint schemes for Texas
WHAT TIME IS PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING?
Group practice will take place on Saturday, Sept. 23 at 12:30 p.m. ET with coverage on USA Network. Immediately following practice, group qualifying will begin at 1:20 p.m. ET with coverage also on USA Network.
Byron will be part of Group A, while Bowman, Elliott and Larson are in Group B.
WHAT TIME IS THE RACE?
The 400-mile Cup Series main is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET with coverage on USA Network. A post-race show will take place on Peacock.
CAN I LISTEN ON THE RADIO?
Both races will be broadcast on the PRN Radio Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (channel 90).
CAN I STREAM ONLINE?
FIVE FAST FACTS HEADING INTO TEXAS
1: Byron's pit crew ranks as the best pit crew in terms of average four tire stop time (11.011 seconds).
6: Of the seven tracks left on the 2023 schedule, Larson has won at six of them with Hendrick Motorsports.
6.25: Elliott's average finish over the past four races this season. Over that stretch, that mark is tied for the best in the series. He has not finished lower than eighth.
8.33: Bowman's average finish in three starts at 1.5-mile tracks in 2023. It is the highest mark of any driver who has not reached victory lane on that track type this season.
62: Percentage of laps that Hendrick Motorsports has led at Texas in the last two races (416 of 668).