NASCAR IS BACK ON-TRACK:
After a two-month hiatus due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, The NASCAR Cup Series returns to the race track on Sunday afternoon, May 17th, with The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina.
The 293-lap, 400-mile race at the historic 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval track, known as ‘The Lady in Black’, and ‘The Track Too Tough to Tame’, will mark the fifth event on the 2020 schedule and the first of four Cup races slated in the span of 11 days. The series return to racing will be a one-day show without the traditional practice and qualifying.
The entry list features 18 Team Chevy Camaro ZL1 1LE drivers. Owner points and a random draw played a role in determining the starting lineup. By virtue of the random draw, Alex Bowman will lead Team Chevy to the green with an outside, front row starting spot for his No. 88 Valvoline Camaro ZL1 1LE.
- Of the 116 Cup races at the Darlington venue since 1950, Chevrolet has captured 41 wins in NASCAR’s premier division, leading all other manufacturers.
- Of today’s active drivers, Jimmie Johnson, who pilots the No. 48 Ally Camaro ZL1 1LE, has scored the most victories with three (2012, and two in ‘04) at Darlington Raceway.
- A Team Chevy driver has sat on the pole 22 times. William Byron, who drives the No. 24 Axalta ‘Color of the Year’ Camaro ZL1 1LE, was the most-recent pole sitter at the track for the famed Southern 500 in September of last year.
- Matt Kenseth will make his season debut in the No. 42 Credit One Bank Camaro ZL1 1LE for Chip Ganassi Racing, which marks his first Cup race since retiring at the end of 2018.
FOUR RACES IN THE BOOKS
Leading into Race #5 of the season at Darlington, Team Chevy has scored 1 victory, 2 poles, and has three competitors in the Top-5 in the point standings. Hendrick Motorsports drivers Chase Elliott, No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Camaro Zl1 1LE is third; Alex Bowman, No. 88 ChevyGoods.com-NOCO Camaro ZL1 1LE is fourth; and Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Ally Camaro ZL1 1LE is fifth in the point standings. With his recent win at Auto Club Speedway in March, Bowman has clinched a spot in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
Elliott also captured the pole at the most recent race at Phoenix Raceway on March 8th, as did Ricky Stenhouse, No. 47 Kroger Camaro ZL1 1LE, at the season-opening Daytona 500 in February.
Of laps led this season so far, Elliott tops all drivers with a total of 186.
In compliance with the pandemic guidelines, The Real Heroes 400 will run without spectators, but you can view the live competition on Sunday, May 17th, at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX. Live coverage can also be found on MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS CAMARO ZL1 1LE – 3rd IN STANDINGS
“It’s exciting to have something new and I’m excited that we are going to be back on TV and give our fans something to watch. I think the silver lining is that we are going to be able to offer something to our viewers on TV.”
ALEX BOWMAN, NO. 88 VALVOLINE CAMARO ZL1 1LE – 4th IN STANDINGS
“I am definitely ready to get back in the No. 88 Chevrolet and race on track. Virtual racing was a great way to pass this time, but man am I glad to get back to the real track. Darlington is a tough track at times, but this team has brought some fast Camaro ZL1 1LE’s to the track this season and I have tons of confidence that they will do that this weekend.”
“Since we have been away from the track, I have really been focused on working out and keeping my mind focused. We moved into the new ABR shop and have been working to get that shop organized and put together. Josh (Wise) has had me working out like crazy, but it has definitely been key to stay on track and continue with our typical schedule.”
GREG IVES, CREW CHIEF OF THE NO. 88 VALVOLINE CAMARO ZL1 1LE
“Going to Darlington, unloading and going straight to the race is going to be interesting. We typically unload pretty close each weekend and Alex is good at adapting to what we have. The pit crew making quick stops and getting the team great track position helps put us in the right spot. We always say that the race is ultimately won in the shop, so this will be a true test.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 ALLY CAMARO ZL1 1LE – 5th IN STANDINGS
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING DURING THE BREAK?
“We are highly organized around the house; we have checked things off the list that we haven’t been able to get to for a very long time. I am an educator and homeschooler Dad now, as I assume most people out there have become. As things have opened up, I have been able to take some laps in a go kart with my girls, done some pedaling and dirt biking, and obviously I have done the iRacing thing.”
HOW DO YOU THINK DARLINGTON IS GOING TO GO WITHOUT PRACTICE OR QUALIFYING?
“It’s hard to say how things are going to go. But the depth we have in the No. 48 team and at Hendrick Motorsports, this is a great challenge for us. It could be beneficial for us. I think my physical fitness and knowledge of hydration will also certainly come into play racing twice a week – these race tracks are tough. I’m very excited for this opportunity.”
KURT BUSCH, NO. 1 MONSTER ENERGY CAMARO ZL1 1LE – 16th IN STANDINGS
“To get the call and know that we are going back to Darlington is huge and great for the sport of NASCAR. The industry has been collaboratively working together to make sure that this is done safely and properly to put on a good show. I’m excited to go to Darlington. The track is going to change a bunch over the course of 400 miles, but I’m excited to feel the car with the G-forces, the pit stop sequences with the guys and everything about getting back to live racing. It’s refreshing to know that we are headed back to the track soon.”
RICKY STENHOUSE JR., NO. 47 KROGER CAMARO ZL1 1LE – 17th IN STANDINGS
“I’m looking forward to getting down to Darlington Raceway this weekend and getting back in our Kroger Camaro. I felt like we got off to a great start and good momentum early this season and I’m ready to pick back up right where we left off. Going to Darlington with no practice and no qualifying is going to be fun. All of us drivers and teams will be in the same spot, same position in terms of things that we’re going to have to correct and make right on our race cars. That includes making sure everything in the driver compartment is how I want it. All the nut and bolt checks and everything that comes along that you would learn in practice is going to be key to having prepared when we get to the track. All of my guys on this No. 47 team have been working really hard to make sure everything is perfect and ready to go. The track is going to be really fast with no practice on it. Darlington definitely wears the tires out so it’ll be interesting to see how that changes throughout the race. Racing during the day will also be different for us at Darlington. We always start in the day and finish at night and I think that will play a big factor into how this race plays out. More importantly, I’m grateful to all of our frontline workers, all of our friends and partners at Kroger who have been busier than ever serving their communities, and to NASCAR for giving us a safe space to race and getting back to a little bit of our normal.”
BUBBA WALLACE, NO. 43 WORLD WIDE TECHNOLOGY CAMARO ZL1 1LE – 18th IN STANDINGS
“Darlington, Darlington. Man, Darlington Raceway tough. Obviously, the track has the nickname ‘Too Tough to Tame’ for a reason. It is one of those places where I have always had on the list to keep getting better and better at – because it’s such a special place and a unique place. There are two different corners. The focus level there is so much higher, I feel like, more than any other track. It’s so easy to over-step your boundaries, and get yourself in a tough spot and earn your Darlington stripe early.”
“With no practice and no qualifying, there is no room for error. There’s no ‘oaky, that’ll buff out. We can get it ready after we hit the fence in practice.’ It’s something where our Richard Petty Motorsports team has to be on top of our game, so we’ll be on the cautious side to start out.”
“I’m just excited to get the season back underway. It’s been a long break and a much-anticipated time to get back. I think it’s great that NASCAR is putting in every effort to get us back and put on a great show for the fans. But I think it’s also really awesome that we’re just showing up and racing at one of the toughest places that we go to. I hope everyone enjoys the show.”
JERRY BAXTER, CREW CHIEF OF THE NO. 43 WORLD WIDE TECHNOLOGY CAMARO ZL1 1LE
“Our whole team at Richard Petty Motorsports are all excited about going to Darlington Raceway because it’s been so long since we have been to the track. It is almost like preparing for the DAYTONA 500. You’ve been off all winter and you go start the season, everyone’s excited and it’s just a good thing. I think we are pretty well-prepared and we will go down there and see what we can do.”
WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 AXALTA ‘COLOR OF THE YEAR’ CAMARO ZL1 1LE – 19th IN STANDINGS
“I’m excited to get back on track this week. While being able to spend some time at home to regroup has been nice, I’m ready to get back behind the wheel and keep the momentum going that the No. 24 team had been working on this year. It will be different not having any practice or qualifying before we race, but everyone is in the same position. Darlington (Raceway) is a track that relies on car setup and tire management. You’re constantly on the wheel it feels like, so you try to work the grip limit while not over taxing it. I’ve had good runs going my last two races there, but we’ve just had bad luck. Hopefully that changes this time.”
AUSTIN DILLON, NO. 3 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER OFF ROAD CAMARO ZL1 1LE – 20th IN STANDINGS
IF YOU RUN AT DARLINGTON RACEWAY AND YOU DON’T HAVE A DARLINGTON STRIPE, HAVE YOU TRULY RACED AT THAT TRACK?
“Yeah, I have actually made it through without a Darlington stripe, but I have wiped out two cars in first practice. It’s a place that will bite you quick and you just have to have the right mentality going into it of what you are racing against. It’s not necessarily the competition as much as yourself. Mentally it’s a challenging place and I love that about it.”
IS DARLINGTON RACEWAY A PLACE WHERE YOU FEEL LIKE IT’S MORE IN YOUR CONTROL VERSUS SOME OTHER TRACKS?
“For sure, it is. It’s a place where if you do your job and you have to have a good car, obviously, everybody that runs well there does, but doing your job rewards you at the end of the night.”
TY DILLON, NO. 13 GEICO CAMARO ZL1 1LE – 24th IN STANDINGS
DARLINGTON IS A TRACK THAT TAKES A LOT OF MENTAL AND PHYSICAL CAPACITY FROM DRIVERS. WHEN YOU GO INTO TURN ONE, WHAT IS IT GOING TO BE LIKE?
“It’s going to be unique, probably a little more conservative than normal. You are going to be feeling everything out and hope that your car is all together in one piece and everything is working properly. Usually in practice, you get to feel it out and if there is anything that is off, you and your team can work on it. Drivers will probably be a little conservative on lap one, but it’s also really hard to be conservative at 190 mph. Darlington is definitely the hardest track to adapt to. It’s a track we always say is ‘too tough to tame’ and you race the racetrack, you don’t race the other guys around you, and it’s hard enough to race the racetrack. With no practice, no qualifying, fans are going to see talent rise to the top right away and as the race goes on, guys are going to work together with their teams to even out the field. The beginning of the race, especially, will be super fun and exciting under these unique circumstances. I’m pumped to get back to the track with my Germain Racing team and we are looking for a good run from our GEICO Chevrolet.”
TYLER REDDICK, NO. 8 CATERPILLAR CAMARO ZL1 1LE – 25th IN STANDINGS
IT LOOS LIKE IT’S GOING TO BE VERY WARM ON SUNDAY FOR THE RETURN TO RACING AT DARLINGTON RACEWAY. ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THAT FOR YOUR FIRST RACE BACK?
“I’m very excited about the possibility of the hot weather at Darlington Raceway, and the slipping and sliding we’ll probably see during these two races there, especially the first one. We’ve seen that race run a lot at night, so I think we’ll see two different races between the ones on Sunday and Wednesday. They are both going to be tough races, but I’m really looking forward to the race on Sunday during the middle of the day. I love hot, slick racetracks when we’re hot in the car, which probably seems strange to people, but I love it. It just seems like the hotter it gets, the more fun I have in a race car. Granted, a lot of that experience is on the Xfinity side so maybe I’ll think differently after a Cup race since most our races have been relatively cool this year. But I’m looking forward to being back at the track. I’ve been karting lately, trying to keep my instincts up for when I’m back in the No. 8 Caterpillar Chevrolet, and I think I’m ready to go on Sunday.”
THE INDUSTRY IS DOING A LOT TO RECOGNIZE FRONTLINE WORKERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY DURING THESE RACES. WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN STAND OUT AS WE HEAD INTO THE RACE WEEKEND?
“I really appreciate what everyone is doing to thank and honor frontline workers across the country and across multiple industries. Caterpillar has a great ‘Thank You’ campaign going on that focuses on those who are helping to keep moving our country forward during this time, and is including everyone from healthcare workers to truck drivers and construction workers. As someone who has a couple friends that are truck drivers who’ve been working non-stop lately, it’s really cool to see them get some recognition. Then on top of that, we’re going to be part of the Real Heroes Project through NASCAR and honor healthcare workers and systems by putting their names over ours on the door. I think that’s a really special way that we’re able to show some gratitude towards everything these people have done for us during this time. All their hard work does not go unnoticed, and it is the reason we’re able to return to racing like this.”
RYAN PREECE, NO. 37 COTTONELLE CAMARO ZL1 1LE – 33rd IN STANDINGS
“I’m absolutely ready to get back to the racetrack this weekend at Darlington Raceway. Darlington is going to be challenging. That track is its own special racetrack. Speed doesn’t seem to matter nearly as much as longevity and keeping the tires on our Cottonelle Camaro ZL1 1LE. It’s one of those tracks where you race the drivers less, and the track more. It’s going to be a lot of fun. We’re really thankful for everyone at Kroger for all of the hard work they’ve put in during this pandemic to keep their employees safe, shelves stocked and communities healthy. It’s going to be a safe environment and getting back to racing is hopefully a much-needed relief during the quarantine.”
MATT KENSETH, NO. 42 CREDIT ONE BANK CAMARO ZL1 1LE
“I’m just as excited as I’ve been to go racing in many, many years, and I’m really looking forward to getting to the track. I really like this group of guys at Ganassi; the cars look nice and the Camaro looks like they’re really fast, so I’m really looking forward to this first race. The 42 team has run really well at Darlington in the last two years, so setup-wise we’re probably not going to veer too far off of that. I think you’ll run those first thirty laps, see how the car feels and then be able to make some small adjustments and go from there. Everyone is going to be out there ready to pounce on whatever spot they can, so you just have to be smart. Especially for me, I just need to be smart and get through those first bunch of laps to get in a rhythm, get a little bit of room to move around, breath, get kind of acclimated, and go from there. I know that it’s going to be a big challenge, and I’m going to do my best to try and take advantage of the opportunity.”
— Team Chevy —