DARLINGTON, S.C. – William Byron earned the best starting spot among the four Hendrick Motorsports playoff drivers ahead of the Sunday’s postseason opener at Darlington Raceway.
Byron’s lap of 168.186 mph in the final round of group qualifying placed his No. 24 Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 third on the starting grid. The 24-year-old nearly won the spring race at the 1.366-mile track but was bumped from the lead with two laps to go in that event.
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Reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson will line up seventh for the Southern 500. The driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 posted a lap of 167.550 mph in the final round. While the 30-year-old has yet to win at the 1.366-mile track, he does have three runner-up finishes in his last four races there and five top-three finishes in his last seven starts at the venue.
Alex Bowman qualified 16th in the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. He picked up a Darlington stripe with some light contact with the wall during his qualifying lap. Chase Elliott will start 23rd in the No. 9 NAPA/Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native enters the playoffs as the top seed and regular-season champion.
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The 2022 season marks the fifth time that Hendrick Motorsports has had all four drivers make the playoffs – the most ever by a team. It is the 15th season that the team has had at least three drivers in the postseason and the 17th consecutive season that at least two of its drivers have made the playoffs. The latter two marks are the most of all organizations.
Joey Logano grabbed the pole position for Sunday’s event.
Byron was the second-fastest (166.495 mph) in the combined group practice sessions. Byron, Larson and Bowman ranked fourth, fifth and eighth, respectively, in the 10-lap consecutive averages from practice.
Sunday’s race at Darlington will mark a special milestone for Hendrick Motorsports. The playoff opener will be the 1,300th Cup Series race for the 14-time Cup Series champs. That total ranks fourth on the all-time list of races by team.
At the South Carolina track, the company has 14 wins - the most all-time by one team. NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon accounts for half of the 14 track wins with seven. Jimmie Johnson posted three wins, while Terry Labonte, Mark Martin, Tim Richmond and Ricky Rudd each tallied one trip to victory lane at the track "Too Tough to Tame." The Southern 500 has been won a record 11 times by the squad.
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Hendrick Motorsports has had plenty of success in the playoff era. The organization has posted a series-best 53 wins in the playoffs. Nine different drivers have won a playoff race for the Concord, North Carolina-based team, which is the most in the Cup Series ranks.
The 367-lap race will start at 6 p.m. ET with coverage on USA Network, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).