Having a fast and strong race car when it mattered from start to finish, including through a late overtime shootout, William Byron became the first repeat winner in the early stages of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series after scoring a dominant victory in the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday, April 9.
The 24-year-old Byron from Charlotte, North Carolina, led three times for 212 of 403 laps as he fended off a late challenge from Joey Logano through an overtime attempt to grab his second Cup victory of the season and his second grandfather clock trophy two days after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Martinsville, which marked his first NASCAR national touring series victory at the Paperclip-shaped short track in Ridgeway, Virginia.
With on-track qualifying occurring on Friday, Chase Elliott claimed his first pole position of the season after recording a pole-winning lap at 96.151 mph in 19.694 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Aric Almirola, who posted a fast qualifying lap at 95.641 mph in 19.799 seconds.
When the green flag waved and the race started amid a delay due to rain, Elliott launched his No. 9 Llumar Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to the front and clear of the field entering the first turn. He then went on to lead the first lap ahead of Aric Almirola, Cole Custer and the field. During the opening lap, AJ Allmendinger served a drive-through penalty through pit road due to his No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 failing pre-qualifying inspection three times on Friday.
Through the first 10 scheduled laps, Elliott was leading by more than a second over Custer followed by William Byron, Christopher Bell and Almirola while Chris Buescher, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson were in the top 10.
Fifteen laps later, Elliott continued to lead by less than two seconds over Custer’s No. 41 Haas Ford Mustang while third-place Byron trailed by two seconds in his No. 24 Raptor Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. By then and with Elliott still leading, Hendrick Motorsports became the first Cup team to lead 10,000 laps at a single track.
By the Lap 50 mark, Elliott, who was approaching lapped traffic, remained the leader by more than two seconds over teammate Byron followed by Custer, Bell and Almirola while Buescher, Harvick, Keselowski, Larson and Joey Logano were in the top 10. Rookie Austin Cindric trailed in 11th followed by Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch, Bubba Wallace, Chase Briscoe, rookie Todd Gilliland, Austin Dillon and Justin Haley. Tyler Reddick was mired in 21st ahead of Ross Chastain, Martin Truex Jr., Michael McDowell, Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suárez, rookie Harrison Burton, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Corey LaJoie.
Twenty laps later, the battle for the lead intensified as Byron caught and pressured teammate Elliott for the lead, though the former could not find a way to navigate his way around his teammate. By then, Hamlin, who was in 25th place behind Michael McDowell and Erik Jones, was trying to remain on the lead lap.
When the first stage concluded on Lap 80, Elliott, who was able to navigate his way through lapped traffic while also putting McDowell, Hamlin, Daniel Suárez and Erik Jones a lap down, captured his first stage victory of the season. Teammate Byron settled in second followed by Custer, Bell, Almirola, Harvick, Blaney, Logano, Cindric and Kurt Busch.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Elliott retained the lead after exiting pit road with the lead followed by teammate Byron, Bell, Almirola, Custer and Logano. Following the pit stops, Bubba Wallace was penalized for having a crew member jump over the pit wall too soon. In addition, Justin Haley and Brad Keselowski were penalized for having equipment over the wall too soon.
The second stage started on Lap 91 as teammates Elliott and Byron occupied the front row. At the start, Elliott took off with the lead while Byron and Custer battled for the runner-up spot. Behind, Bell and Logano dueled for fourth place in front of Almirola while Blaney moved up to seventh in front of teammate Cindric, Bowman, Harvick, Austin Dillon and Kurt Busch.
At the Lap 100 mark, Elliott was leading by more than a second over teammate Byron while Custer, Bell and Logano settled in the top five. Meanwhile, Hamlin and Erik Jones were battling for the 24th-place spot while both were scored two laps behind the leaders.
Twenty-five laps later, Elliott continued to lead by nearly seven-tenths of a second over teammate Byron followed by Custer, Bell, Logano, Almirola, Blaney, Cindric, Harvick and Austin Dillon. By then, Larson was in 11th ahead of Kurt Busch, Bowman, Briscoe, Kyle Busch, Truex, Chastain, Buescher, Reddick and Gilliland. Bubba Wallace was mired in 23rd behind Keselowski while Hamlin was pinned in 25th place, the second competitor a lap behind Erik Jones.
Through the first 150 scheduled laps, Elliott remained as the leader despite having his advantage decreased to four-tenths of a second over teammate Byron. By then, 22 of 36 competitors were scored on the lead lap while names like McDowell, Erik Jones, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Denny Hamlin, Harrison Burton, Daniel Suárez, AJ Allmendinger, Ty Dillon, Corey LaJoie and Justin Haley were lapped.
By Lap 165, Elliott stabilized his advantage to nearly half a second over teammate Byron. Behind, Team Penske’s Logano and Blaney moved into third and fourth while Custer was being pressured by Bell and Almirola for more.
When the second stage concluded on Lap 180, Elliott, who was navigating his way through lapped traffic, claimed his second consecutive stage victory of the event and of the season. Teammate Byron settled in second followed by Logano, Blaney, Custer, Austin Dillon, Almirola, Cindric, Bell and Harvick.
Under the stage break, the leaders returned to pit road and Byron managed to emerge out in front of teammate Elliott for the first time after exiting with the top spot followed by Blaney, Logan, Austin Dillon and Almirola. During the pit stops, Custer was penalized for hitting a loose tire while exiting his pit stall. In addition, Stenhouse was penalized for speeding on pit road.
With 208 laps remaining, the final stage started. At the start, Byron retained the lead ahead of Elliott and Logano while Blaney followed in pursuit. Behind, Austin Dillon was in fifth followed by Bell, Almirola, Kurt Busch, Cindric and Larson. Way behind the field, a brief stack-up occurred that started with Larson and involved Harvick, Kyle Busch, Bowman, Chastain and Briscoe, with the latter two making contact with Bowman, Busch and Harvick.
With less than 200 laps remaining and the race surpassing its halfway mark, Byron was out in front by seven-tenths of a second over teammate Elliott followed by Logano, Blaney and Austin Dillon while Bell, Almirola, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Cindric were in the top 10.
Fifty laps later, Byron continued to lead by less than three-tenths of a second over teammate Elliott, who started to reel in on his Hendrick Motorsports teammate for the top spot, while Logano, Blaney and Austin Dillon stabilized themselves in the top five. By then, 22 of 36 starters were scored on the lead lap.
Another 25 laps later, Byron extended his advantage to more than a second over teammate Elliott while the third- and fourth-place competitors of Logano and Blaney trailed by less than two seconds. Austin Dillon, meanwhile, was still in fifth place while trailing by more than three seconds.
A few laps later, Logano made contact with Elliott as Logano moved into the runner-up spot followed by Blaney and Austin Dillon while Elliott, who was trapped on the outside lane, fell back to fifth place. By then, Allmendinger, who was two laps behind, pitted.
Nearing the final 110 laps of the event, green flag pit stops ensued as Kyle Busch pitted his No. 18 M&M’s Toyota TRD Camry. Shortly after, teammate Martin Truex Jr. pitted his No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota TRD Camry, but he eventually returned to pit for a second time due to a flat right-front tire. Bowman also pitted along with Keselowski, Reddick, Bell, Elliott, Kurt Busch, Bubba Wallace, Almirola, Harvick, Larson, Logano, Austin Dillon, Cindric, Byron and others. Following the pit stops, Bell was penalized for having a crew member over the pit wall too soon along with Larson, who sped on pit road.
With 91 laps remaining, Byron cycled back to the lead after Blaney pitted. Logano cycled back into the runner-up spot followed by Austin Dillon and Elliott while Blaney settled in fifth.
A few laps later, the caution flew when Hamlin stalled his No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota TRD Camry through the frontstretch after running out of fuel.
Under caution, some like Elliott, Kyle Busch, Harvick, Erik Jones, Buescher, Bowman and Wallace pitted while the rest led by Byron remained on the track.
With 80 laps remaining, the race proceeded under green as Byron and Austin Dillon occupied the front row. At the start, Byron fended off Dillon to retain the lead while Dillon managed to fend off Logano for the runner-up spot. Behind, a flurry of battles ignited within the pack as Blaney and Kurt Busch battled for fourth place in front of Almirola, who ran into the rear of Blaney’s No. 12 Advance Auto Parts Ford Mustang, while Chastain, Kyle Busch, Briscoe and Cindric duked for seventh place.
Fifteen laps later, Byron stabilized his advantage to nearly seven-tenths of a second over Austin Dillon followed by Logano, Kurt Busch and Blaney while Almirola, Chastain, Kyle Busch, Briscoe and Reddick were in the top 10. By then, Elliott was in 11th followed by Cindric, Erik Jones, Wallace, Bowman, Buescher and Harvick, who got bumped by Elliott earlier and trapped on the outside lane as he lost a bevy of spots.
Down to the final 50 laps of the event, Byron continued to lead by more than a second over Austin Dillon followed by Logano, Kurt Busch, Blaney, Chastain, Almirola, Kyle Busch, Briscoe and Reddick.
Twenty laps later, Byron stabilized his advantage to a little above one-and-a-half seconds over Austin Dillon while Logano, Kurt Busch and Blaney remained in the top five.
With 20 laps remaining, Byron remained as the leader by less than two seconds over Austin Dillon while third-place Logano trailed by more than two seconds.
Down to the final 10 laps of the event, Byron was leading by more than two seconds over Austin Dillon followed by Logano, Kurt Busch and Blaney while Chastain, Almirola, Briscoe, Kyle Busch and Elliott were in the top 10. Cindric was in 11th ahead of Erik Jones, Wallace, Bowman, Harvick, Reddick, Keselowski and Buescher, all of whom were on the lead lap.
Just then, the caution flew with six laps remaining when Todd Gilliland locked up his front tires and hit the wall between Turns 3 and 4. The caution all but erased Byron’s advantage of more than two seconds over Austin Dillon as the field stacked up under a cautious pace. It also sent the event into overtime.
Under caution, some led by Kyle Busch pitted while the rest led by Byron remained on the track.
During the first overtime attempt, Byron and Logano occupied the front row followed by Austin Dillon, Blaney, Kurt Busch and Chastain. At the start, Byron dueled with Logano through the first turn until Byron managed to clear Logano’s No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang to retain the lead through the backstretch and entering Turns 3 and 4.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Byron continued to lead by a narrow margin over Logano while Austin Dillon followed in pursuit. Through the final circuit, Logano drew himself close to the rear bumper of Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet, but he could not execute a bump-and-run move through Turns 3 and 4 as Byron managed to pull away and fend off Logano to claim his second victory of the weekend and add another grandfather clock to his trophy case.
In addition to claiming his second victory of the season and second of the weekend at Martinsville, Byron claimed his fourth career win in NASCAR’s premier series in his 152nd career start. The victory was also the 27th at Martinsville for Hendrick Motorsports as HMS’ No. 24 car returned to Victory Lane at the Paperclip-shaped short track since Jeff Gordon won in November 2015.
“Man, it feels awesome,” Byron said on FS1. “I knew when that last caution came out, I thought everybody behind us would pit. Luckily, we stayed out. We were aggressive. We felt like we could re-fire on the tires and be OK. You got one of the most aggressive guys behind you and Logano. I chattered the tires in [Turns] 3 and 4 and left the bottom [lane] open, but [I] was able to block my exit and get a good drive off.”
This one’s for my mom,” Byron added. “This same weekend last year, she had a mini-stroke and was diagnosed with brain cancer. It means a lot to have her here. It’s been a crazy year, but she’s doing great. Thanks, everybody for the support. Kind of felt like she was riding there with me. It’s cool to have her here and I’m definitely gonna enjoy this one.”
Logano, who was within striking distance of claiming his first victory of the season, settled in second place followed by Austin Dillon, who has not won in the Cup Series since winning at Texas Motor Speedway in July 2020.
“It was a good race down to the end,” Logano said. “[It was] Really hard to pass…That final restart there, I had a front row. That’s what you can ask for. Got cleared to second, and Willy [Byron] kind of messed up off of [Turn] 4 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 [Turn] 3 to execute the ol’ bump-and-run. [I] Couldn’t get quite to him, but his corner entry was really strong, too, which I think allowed him to get in there pretty strong. Overall, the Shell/Pennzoil Mustang had a solid run. Just hate being that close to winning and not making it happen. But big points today, and it just stings. Second just sucks sometimes, that’s all.”
“Well, I’m a little bummed,” Dillon added. “I’d like to pride myself in when we get in those situations is being clutch. That was anything but that on that last restart. I spun the tires pretty good through the gears. Once I got back in line there, I had some grip and I feel like we had good forward drive all night long. I just felt like if we got through the gears, we’re gonna have a shot at them, but our Get Bioethanol Chevy was really fast. We’ve been working our tails off. I’m not gonna say we haven’t because we’ve been in the simulator. We’ve been working really hard to make these cars as good as possible. We wanna get [Richard Childress Racing] a win and that’s what we’re here racing for. Thank the good Lord for bringing us a good run. That was a lot of fun.”
Blaney and Chastain finished in the top five while Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Almirola, Briscoe and Elliott completed the top 10 on the track.
There were five lead changes for four different leaders. The race featured four cautions for 36 laps.
With his 10th-place result, Chase Elliott leads the regular-season standings by three points over Ryan Blaney, 12 over teammate William Byron, 27 over Joey Logano, 42 over Ross Chastain and 51 over both Alex Bowman and Martin Truex Jr.
1. William Byron, 212 laps led
2. Joey Logano
3. Austin Dillon, one lap led
4. Ryan Blaney, five laps led
5. Ross Chastain
6. Kurt Busch
7. Kyle Busch
8. Aric Almirola
9. Chase Briscoe
10. Chase Elliott, 185 laps led, Stage 1 & 2 winner
11. Austin Cindric
12. Alex Bowman
13. Erik Jones
14. Kevin Harvick
15. Chris Buescher
16. Bubba Wallace
17. Brad Keselowski
18. Tyler Reddick
19. Kyle Larson
20. Christopher Bell, one lap down
21. Cole Custer, one lap down
22. Martin Truex Jr., two laps down
23. Ty Dillon, two laps down
24. AJ Allmendinger, two laps down
25. Michael McDowell, three laps down
26. Harrison Burton, three laps down
27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., three laps down
28. Denny Hamlin, three laps down
29. Daniel Suarez, four laps down
30. Todd Gilliland, four laps down
31. Justin Haley, five laps down
32. Corey LaJoie, six laps down
33. Cody Ware, nine laps down
34. JJ Yeley, 11 laps down
35. Josh Bilicki, 12 laps down
36. BJ McLeod – OUT, Handling
Next on the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the series’ second annual Food City Dirt Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Course in Bristol, Tennessee, on April 17, which marks Easter Sunday. The event is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. ET on FOX.