By: Ashley McCubbin
Going into a season, every driver sets the goal to make the playoffs, and then get into the Championship 4. With how strong Hendrick Motorsports has been, each of Rick Hendrick’s foursome believe they can do that.
No team has ever swept the Championship 4, but with having won six races in a row (seven counting the NASCAR All-Star Race), the possibility seems stronger than ever. However, both Alex Bowman and William Byron know it’s tough task to be able to do that.
“I think it’d be great,” Byron told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “I think that would be another record to try and break – or to try and set, and that’d be awesome. For me personally, that’s the goal everywhere –to try and make it to the Final 4 and have a shot at the championship. It doesn’t matter how you get there, everyone has an equal shot. So I feel like for us on the 24 that’d be a huge accomplishment.
“Rudy (Fugle)’s first year in the Cup Series, he’s blown me away with how quickly he’s adapted. I know he’s really hard on himself, but he’s doing a really job and bringing me really fast cars. So I’m extremely excited for the team I’ve got behind me. I feel we’re just a couple steps away from being really, really good.”
Even with everything going as they want, Bowman points out the many variables of the format from elimination rounds to bonus points make it tough for someone, let alone four across an organization. Despite winning three of the last 11 events, the driver of the No. 48 Ally Racing Chevrolet isn’t totally confident yet with a lack of bonus points compared to competitors.
Bowman used last year as an example, saying he placed sixth in the standings even with scoring the most points of any driver through the playoffs.
“Just need to make sure that we get a lot of those and have a good playoff run similar to last year to be there for the final four,” he told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “That’s definitely the goal with all four cars – I don’t know how realistic it is, as it takes a lot of things to go right, but I think we’re capable of doing it if those things do go right.”
Certainly with 42 points compared to the second-most of 23 by Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson has himself looking the best of the foursome. It makes sense, as he has led the way by winning four races and scoring 12 stage victories.
The key to them winning more than their teammates is simple, per Byron. They are first on the average speed chart, have a fast pit crew, and Larson’s talent behind the wheel.
“It’s hard to beat that combination; usually that’s kind of the track record that it takes to win, but I feel we’re right there,” Byron shared. “We had the fastest car at the All-Star race but didn’t execute well with the green flag, but now I feel we’re in a position to go back to Pocono with probably one of the fastest car, if not the fastest car, and capitalize on it. Being in the top three is great and I feel like we’re just one little step away from winning.”
While some may feel Larson is putting pressure on the entire team to perform with his success and that can be a bad thing, Bowman is taking a different approach. He says all the teams being competitive, it lights a fire underneath them to find their secret.
“I don’t think it’s extra pressure,” Bowman commented. “We just know that the parts and pieces were there; we just have to put them together correctly to maximize everything. So like I said, looking forward to getting on-track with him this weekend.”
Bryon agrees with those sentiments, saying it’s better than the alternative and not having strong cars.
“I think every week that goes by, you get a little more excited and amped up for the race, and more power to him. They’ve been doing a really good job,” Bryon added. “They don’t lose spots on pit road, and they keep the lead and dominate the races. We’re just right there so I feel like we’re really close. “