Byron Gives Hendrick A Ruby Victory At Martinsville


William Byron celebrates in victory lane Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. (HHP/Jacy Norgaard photo)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – William Byron gave NASCAR Hall of Fame team owner Rick Hendrick the most special 40th anniversary present possible Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.

With all four Hendrick Motorsports cars carrying special ‘Ruby Anniversary’ paint schemes to celebrate the team’s founding and first NASCAR Cup Series win from 1984, Byron led a one-two-three finish for the organization at the half-mile paper clip.

The 26-year-old from Charlotte, N.C., held off teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott in a two-lap, overtime sprint to the finish for his series-best third win of the year.

It marked the 13th Cup Series victory of Byron’s career – tying him with late Hendrick Motorsports driver Tim Richmond on the all-time list – and his second in the last three spring races at Martinsville.

“It’s so special; I don’t even know quite how to put it into words,” Byron said as he climbed from his car.

The turning point in the race came during a 189-lap green-flag run in the final stage, which forced a cycle of pit stops where timing and fresh tires proved critical to success.

Crew chief Rudy Fugle called Byron down for service with 104 to go, making Byron the first of the frontrunners to make his final stop. That decision ended up flipping the order, with fresh tires allowing Byron to leapfrog Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott, who were the top two prior to the pit cycle.

Byron Hamlin

William Byron (24) passes Denny Hamlin Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. (Jacob Seelman/RFD photo)

As the cycle worked itself out, Elliott came out right alongside Hamlin, with Byron close behind as the trio worked through traffic. Elliott took the effective lead quickly, before Byron went to work and chased them both down.

Byron passed Daniel Suarez for the top spot outright on lap 327 and led all but one lap the rest of the way. It didn’t come without drama, however, as John Hunter Nemechek blew out a brake rotor with three to go, causing a flat tire that put Nemechek into the wall and forced the last of five yellow flags.

That sent the race well past its scheduled distance, needing 15 extra laps due to extended cleanup from the fire that broke out on the right-front corner of Nemechek’s No. 42 Toyota Camry XSE.

At the final choose of the afternoon, Byron elected the bottom lane, with Elliott taking the outside of the front row and Larson starting right behind Byron in the second row.

The lineup allowed the trio of Hendrick drivers to effectively settle the race among themselves, with Elliott giving Byron a tap to the rear bumper just prior to the white flag before Byron sped off to win the race and the signature Ridgeway grandfather clock trophy by .550 seconds.

For a driver who grew up dreaming of driving for Hendrick Motorsports, Sunday’s triumph was beyond anything Byron said he ever could have imagined, even if it was more dramatic than he would have liked.

“I grew up a Hendrick fan, and to be here for the 40th anniversary [of the company] and see all the effort that goes into this organization to make it successful … it’s all about the people,” said Byron. “This whole weekend has been pretty awesome. It’s badass to win [again] at Martinsville. We’ve been struggling at the short tracks, but I’ve got a great team and we’ve just kept inching up on it.

“It stunk to [have to] do a restart there at the end like that, but that's the way it goes. I have to thank Chase [Elliott] for racing me clean there at the end; it can get really physical here and he kept it fair,” Byron added. “He gave me a shot, which is to be expected at a short track like this, but thankfully we were all able to finish it off.”

Larson utilized the shorter inside lane to work past Elliott on the final lap, coming home second behind Byron in the first one-two-three finish by a single organization in Martinsville Speedway history.

Though he led the first 86 laps Sunday after starting from the pole, Larson never quite seemed to have the strength that he did early on once his car got back into traffic.

“It’s really special to be part of a one-two-three there. Just a great day for Hendrick Motorsports,” noted Larson. “It’s been a great 40 seasons for the team. … William did a really good job. He kind of schooled us all there after that green flag stop and did a really good job passing all of us. He was able to set a good pace but still got through traffic, which was a key all day.

“My car felt really good, but I think [the Hendrick cars] were all kind of the same speed, honestly,” he continued. “We just lost a little bit of track position in the second stage and never quite overcame it.”

Elliott narrowly took third place in a side-by-side run to the finish line with 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace.

Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney completed the top five in what was the 6,000th start for owner Roger Penske across all forms of worldwide motorsport, followed by Joey Logano and Tyler Reddick.

Alex Bowman finished eighth in the fourth Hendrick Motorsports entry, with the Stewart-Haas Racing pair of Ryan Preece and Chase Briscoe closing out the top 10.

Aside from the two stage breaks, the only natural cautions in Sunday’s race were a lap-113 yellow for debris, a lap-203 spin by Christopher Bell, and Nemechek’s crash with three laps to go in regulation.

Hendrick Motorsports Vice Chairman Jeff Gordon headed up the team’s leadership personnel in attendance at Martinsville, with Rick Hendrick at home following a recent knee replacement surgery.

Byron’s victory was the 305th overall Cup Series win for NASCAR’s winningest team, as well as its 29th at Martinsville, which is a record by any single team at one racetrack in premier series competition.

NASCAR Cup Series drivers will return to action Sunday, April 14 at Texas Motor Speedway with the running of the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400. Byron is the most recent winner at the facility.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.