Just like Thanos, Hendrick Motorsports running well at Martinsville is inevitable.
Saturday night saw the NASCAR Cup Series bring its new Next Gen race car to one of its oldest racetracks. While the temperatures and the shifting and other factors contributed, there wasn’t much in the way of racing as there was a long game of “follow the leader.”
The first two stages were dominated by Dawsonville’s favorite son, Chase Elliott, who won his first pole of the season and was fastest in practice. The number 9 Camaro looked poise to finally catch his first win on an oval since 2020 and secure his spot in the playoffs. Unfortunately he was beaten off pit road by his teammate William Byron at the end of stage two and faded from there after puzzling pit strategy and losing track position. Elliott did retain the points lead though, by finishing in tenth.
There was a surprise player in the conversation towards the final stage though as Austin Dillon, who I’m still convinced will win a race this season, had really good long run speed and was able to work his way into second late into the night. Dillon brought home his best Martinsville finish of his career by coming in third.
Sealing up the runner up position was Joey Logano, who continues to be in the midst of his longest career winless streak, being unable to bump William Byron out of the way late. Logano was happy with the top five, but was visibly disappointed by not being able to get by the 24.
“That final restart there, had a front row,” Logano said. “That’s what you can ask for. Got cleared to second, and Willy kind of messed up off of four and let me get to him, and he did a really good job of brake-checking… He did what he was supposed to do, and kind of got me all stuffed up behind him, and I couldn’t accelerate off the corner and be as close as I needed to be down into three to execute the ol’ bump-and-run.”
Logano will look to repeat at Bristol Dirt next week, the site of his last points paying victory.
William Byron posted his fourth career victory and secured his first career multi win season by taking the checkered flag at the famous short track. Byron was incredibly impressive and certainly earned the victory. He fended off all challengers to his lead with ease and survived the final overtime restart.
The victory is a special one for the Byron family. Byron elaborated on why in his post race interview. “This one’s for my mom. This same weekend last year, she had kind of a mini-stroke and was diagnosed with brain cancer. It means a lot to have her here, and it’s been a crazy year, but she’s doing great, and thanks, everybody, for the support. I kind of felt like she was riding in there with me. It’s cool to have her here, and I’m definitely going to enjoy this one.”
After pretty awful on track action, it was good to know how special the win was for Byron and his family. If one thing is for certain, there’s a lot to unpack from the race. The Next Gen is going to have to be better at the next real short track race on the schedule. I hope they put in the effort to get things straightened out.
Next weekend is The Food City Dirt Race at Bristol. The first two short tracks over the Next Gen era have been snoozers. Will this continue that trend or will this be something entirely different? I can’t wait for the answer.
Photo Credit to the official Twitter account of Hendrick Motorsports @HendrickMotorsports