A Chevrolet driver has only won two of the eight NASCAR Cup Series races run so far in 2020, but their speed, specifically from Hendrick Motorsports, hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Thursday night, Chase Elliott went to victory lane in the second race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He was the first of four Chevrolets in the top 10, and Elliott closed the deal after teammate Alex Bowman flexed some muscle by winning the race’s second stage and leading the second-most laps of any driver, 51.
“I think the best group out there right now is Hendrick,” said Ryan Blaney, whose Team Penske Ford finished third. “They have really great speed right now on the mile-and-a-half or the biggest tracks. I’ve seen it. They’ve kind of had some unfortunate circumstances, which actually our team has capitalized on at a couple of tracks, but Hendrick is really strong.
“I feel like we’re close with our group. We’ve just got to find a little bit more.”
Elliott was in a position to win the Coca-Cola 600 last Sunday night before pitting ahead of overtime. In two Charlotte races, Hendrick drivers have led 298 laps and won three of the five stages.
Elliott and Bowman are the only two Chevy winners this year. Bowman dominated at Fontana back in March for his second career win in the series. Bowman is also one of two drivers, alongside Harvick, who has already led over 300 laps this season, and he leads the series in stage points (110) and stage wins (four). Elliott has won three stages.
There are three Chevy drivers in the top 10 in points. Chevy drivers have combined for 821 laps led.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. started the year by delivering a Daytona 500 pole for Chevrolet. Elliott took the pole at Phoenix, and Kurt Busch was fastest in qualifying for the Coke 600.
Denny Hamlin also pointed out the manufacturer’s speed. But Hamlin took it a step further in discussing how the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was built toward the current package, since Chevrolet rolled out a new body this season.
“They’re fast, and they’re really the only manufacturer that got to build a car directly for the package that we run,” said Hamlin after finishing second to Elliott at Charlotte. “These other cars, the Toyotas and Fords, were built on the low-downforce package, and then we added a bunch of spoiler and splitter to them. Certainly, there was an advantage knowing that, ‘OK, this is the real package, how can we optimize downforce and drag?’ and I think the Chevys have done that.”
NASCAR moved to a high-downforce, low-horsepower package last season. Chevrolet had been struggling with its Camaro, which debuted in 2018, and made a switch coming into this year. While visually, it may not look much different, crew chief Chad Knaus of William Byron’s No. 24 team admitted during the winter that the Camaro ZL1 1LE was an entirely different car than what teams had been running.
Given the numbers, it’s hard to argue with winning crew chief Alan Gustafson, who said everyone at Hendrick Motorsports is excited and proud of the Chevy Camaro.
“The thing is a rocketship, and we appreciate all the work that’s gone into it,” he said. “It’s fun to race, and we feel like we’ve got a really competitive car.”