William Byron wins Cup race at Martinsville Speedway
William Byron got a perfect restart in overtime to claim the win Saturday night at Martinsville Speedway.
Byron, who led a race-high 212 of 403 laps, earned his second NASCAR Cup Series win of 2022, marking the first multi-win season of his career and making him the first repeat winner of the season.
The No. 24 Chevrolet went to Victory Lane at Martinsville for the first time since Jeff Gordon won his 93rd and final career win there in 2015.
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In overtime, which was set up after Todd Gilliland contacted the Turn 4 wall with six laps to go, Byron lined up to the inside of Joey Logano. The duo ran nose to nose through Turn 1, but Byron rolled the center of the corner perfectly and pulled away for the victory.
Chase Elliott led the first 185 laps, sweeping each of the night’s two stages. The only cautions through the first 312 laps flew for those aforementioned stage breaks. That was until Denny Hamlin, who had a miserable night, stalled on the frontstretch at Lap 313 for the third caution of the night. Gilliland’s wall contact was the fourth and final caution period.
Under the Stage 2 caution, Byron beat Elliott off pit road for the first lead change of the evening at Lap 186. The No. 24 Chevrolet proceeded to lead all but six of the remaining 218 laps. Ryan Blaney led for five laps during a green-flag pit cycle, and Austin Dillon was credited with a lap led on the Lap 320 restart in which he beat Byron back to the start/finish line.
The lack of lead changes highlighted the difficulty drivers found while attempting to pass around the tight 0.526-mile oval. Cole Custer spent each of the first two stages inside the top five, but a tire violation on pit road under the Stage 2 yellow sent the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford to the rear of the field to start Stage 3. Custer finished 21st, one lap down.
Like Custer, Bell ran inside the top five for much of the evening. However, a pit-road penalty at Lap 294 for his crew coming over the wall too early forced him to serve a pass-through penalty under green-flag conditions. Bell finished 20th, the first car off the lead lap.
Completing the top five behind Byron were Logano, Dillon, Blaney and Ross Chastain. Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Aric Almirola, Chase Briscoe and Elliott rounded out the top 10.
There were no issues in post-race inspection. The Nos. 10 and 43 cars will be taken to the NASCAR R&D Center for further inspection.
Stage 1 winner: Chase Elliott
Stage 2 winner: Chase Elliott
Who had a good race: Austin Dillon proved to have an excellent car Saturday and was one of very few cars who could charge through the field, particularly on the long run. Dillon was second before the choose zone on the final restart but chose to line up behind leader Byron. The No. 3 Chevrolet spun its tires and eventually finished third behind Logano. ... Ross Chastain didn’t seem to have a car to contend with the frontrunners on Saturday but capitalized late en route to his fifth top-five finish in the last six races.
Who had a bad race: Denny Hamlin qualified 25th and was never a factor in Saturday’s race. The five-time Martinsville winner finished 28th, three laps off the pace. It was a stark contrast from one week ago, where he and Joe Gibbs Racing looked to have turned a corner on short tracks by winning at Richmond Raceway on April 3. Likewise, teammate Martin Truex Jr., who won three of the last five races at Martinsville, finished 22nd and two laps down.
Notable: Hendrick Motorsports has now won three of the last four races at Martinsville, courtesy of three different drivers (Chase Elliott, November 2020; Alex Bowman, November 2021). The program also notches its 27th win at Martinsville and exceeded 10,000 laps led at the facility, the first team to do so at a single track.
Next race: The series hits the dirt as NASCAR heads to Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17 (7 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).