Byron leads Hendrick Motorsports to 1-2-3 finish at Martinsville on anniversary weekend

William Byron said he had nightmares coming to Martinsville Speedway this weekend, remembering his last visit when he struggled to a 13th-place finish.

He not only overcame those fears, he put a cherry on top of the weekend when Hendrick Motorsports celebrated the anniversary of its first win 40 years ago by picking up No. 305.

“It was one of the worst experiences as a team, but one of the best experiences to realize the resilience that our team has. And I think that that showed today,” Byron said of last October’s penultimate race of the season.

This Sunday was different. Electing to stay out on old tires for the two-lap overtime finish, Byron won for the third time this season in eight races and led an historic 1-2-3 finish for Hendrick.

“It’s awesome and it’s way bigger than me,” Byron said.

Byron took the lead with 73 laps to go and held on after a second straight race ended in overtime, outrunning teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott for the win.

Byron, the first of the contenders to pit under a green flag with 104 laps to go, moved to the front 31 laps later and was never threatened after getting the jump at the start of overtime. It was his second victory on the 0.526-mile, paper-clip shaped oval.

“It was a great call. It didn’t get us the track position right away, but we had a little bit more heat in our tires,” Byron said of the call to pit, which ultimately gave him the lead. “So, seemed like I fired off a little bit faster than those guys and was able to get ahead of them.”

He stayed out when John Hunter Nemechek crashed in turn three with three laps to go, as did Elliott and Larson, running second and third, and they produced the first 1-2-3 finish for any team in Martinsville’s long history hosting stock car races.

Larson rallied to finish second, Elliott third, Bubba Wallace fourth and Ryan Blaney, last fall’s winner here, fifth. The fourth Hendrick driver, Alex Bowman, finished eighth.

“This is a huge win for the organization,” four-time Hendrick series champion Jeff Gordon, now the vice chairman of the organization, said.

The race featured long green flag runs, with two of the five cautions pre-planned at the end of stages one and two. There were 13 lead changes among eight drivers.

The victory was the 29th for Hendrick at NASCAR’s smallest, oldest track, a record for an organization at any venue. Geoff Bodine had the first win at Martinsville on April 29, 1984. It convinced team owner Rick Hendrick not to fold his fledgling team.

All four Hendrick cars featured ruby red paint schemes, marking the anniversary.

The Hendrick organization hosted more than 1,000 current and former employees for the race, but the owner was not able to attend, having recently undergone knee replacement surgery.

“He’s super bummed out that he couldn’t be here,” Gordon said.

Larson, the defending race winner and pole-sitter, led all 80 laps in the first stage. Joey Logano gambled by taking right side tires only during pit stops after the stage and led the first 83 laps of green-flag racing in the second stage before Denny Hamlin passed him to win the stage.

Hamlin, a five-time winner at Martinsville, finished 11th.


Christopher Bell, who began the race sixth in points and already with a victory, went three laps down early, gained one back after stage two stops, then spun out early in the final stage, bringing out the fourth caution. He finished 35th out of 37 drivers, four laps down.


The series move across the country to Texas Motor Speedway, where the drivers hope the repaved track will have cured some to allow for more passing since the repave.



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