AVONDALE, Ariz. – William Byron got the better of Kyle Larson in NASCAR Cup Series qualifying at Phoenix Raceway but both Hendrick Motorsports drivers will start the championship race inside the top five.
Byron earned the pole position for Sunday’s 312-lap event with a lap of 132.597 mph in the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 during the final round of qualifying. This is the fourth pole of the season for the 25-year-old driver and the 12th of his Cup Series career. The last two championship winners took the green flag from the top starting spot in the field, which brings with the selection of the No. 1 pit stall at the 1-mile track. This is Byron’s first time in the Championship 4 and he is looking to become the fourth-youngest champion in series history.
"I don't feel any different this week," Byron said. "I feel like it's a lot of pressure to get to the final four. I feel like all of us would say that it's a big accomplishment to get here. You'd like to have this every year. You'd like to this the same meaning behind the championship weekend. I'm excited. I feel like we have a great opportunity."
Byron leads the series in wins (six) and the second of those victories this year came at Phoenix. A two-tire call by crew chief Rudy Fugle ahead of the overtime finish set up his driver to start on the front row with Larson. From there, Byron was able to get ahead of Larson and hold off the field for the win. In 11 starts at the desert oval, Byron has six top-10 finishes.
Larson is going to start from fourth in the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevy. The 31-year-old driver posted a lap of 132.297 mph for his 12th starting spot in the top five this season. In the spring race at Phoenix, Larson led a race-high 201 laps and has led 310 circuits over the last four races there.
The Elk Grove, California, native is no stranger to the Championship 4. In his first appearance in the championship round in 2021, Larson was victorious at Phoenix to cap off a 10-win season with a title. He is looking to become the 18th multi-time champion and the third active full-time driver to record multiple championships in the sport’s top series. He has seven top-five finishes and 11 top-10s in 18 starts at Phoenix.
"I wish I would have got the pole," Larson said. "Just was a little bit off of William (Byron) there. I think honestly if I would have qualified a little bit better the first round, I think what I did in the second round would have caught him off guard a little bit sooner than it did and I probably would have beat him and gotten the first pit stall selection.
"Just got to execute every chance you get. I just didn't execute quite good enough the first round."
Both Byron and Larson will start ahead of their fellow Championship 4 competitors as Christopher Bell (13th) and Ryan Blaney (15th) will start outside the top 10.
The Hendrick Motorsports teammates are looking to bring home a series-best organization’s 15th Cup Series championship. NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2024 inductee Jimmie Johnson accounts for half of those with seven (2006-10, 2013 and 2016). NASCAR Hall of Famer and team vice chairman Jeff Gordon racked up four titles (1995, 1997-98 and 2001). NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte (1996), Elliott (2020) and Larson (2021) each have one championship for the team. Nine of those titles have come in the playoff era (2004-present).
Elliott will take the grid from the 20th position in the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. In 14 starts at Phoenix, the 27-year-old driver has one win, which came in the 2020 championship race. He also has five top-five finishes, eight top-10s and 546 laps led.
Alex Bowman is set to line up 23rd in the No. 48 Ally Chevy. The 30-year-old driver has two top-10 finishes in 16 starts at the 1-mile track. His 195 laps led at Phoenix are his second-most at any one track.
The Rick Hendrick-owned organization has a series-best 13 wins among nine drivers at Phoenix. Johnson tops the board with four, followed by Gordon with two victories. Kyle Busch, Byron, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Elliott, Labonte, Larson and Mark Martin have each tallied one triumph at the 1-mile track for the team. Elliott and Larson's wins came in the 2020 and 2021 championship races. The organization also leads the way in poles (15), top-five finishes (54), top-10s (100) and laps led (3,435) at the Arizona venue.
In this year's spring race at Phoenix, Hendrick Motorsports dominated the event as the team earned the win and led 265 of the 317 laps run. Byron notched the victory as he beat Larson in an overtime finish. Larson scored the pole position in that event and finished fourth. In addition, Bowman and Josh Berry (filling in for an injured Elliott) notched top-10 finishes as all four cars placed in the top 10.
Tune in to watch the championship race at Phoenix on Sunday, Nov. 5, at 3 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).