LAS VEGAS – The 2019 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs opened Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and all three Hendrick Motorsports teammates in the 16-driver field started strong with top-10 finishes.
Chase Elliott led the way for the organization with a fourth-place result, followed by Alex Bowman in sixth and William Byron in seventh.
Jimmie Johnson nearly made it four-for-four with top-10 finishes, taking the checkered flag in 11th.
Martin Truex Jr. captured the win and automatically advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
Below is a closer look at how the Hendrick Motorsports drivers fared Sunday evening at Las Vegas.
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Starting Sunday’s race inside the top 10, Elliott maintained his position until a cycle of green-flag pit stops midway through the opening segment. He returned to the track in 11th, which is where he would finish Stage 1.
- Gaining a spot on pit road, Elliott began the second stage in 10th, and he quickly found the top five shortly after the green flag waved. By Lap 100, he had moved all the way into the runner-up position, which he held until a cycle of green-flag stops. When he returned to the track, he found second once again, though he fell a bit in traffic as the laps wound down. The driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 took the green-checkered flag to finish Stage 2 in fifth, gaining six extra points.
- The No. 9 team’s quick work gave Elliott two more positions on pit road, and the No. 9 Chevy lined up third for the final segment restart. Shortly after the green flag waved, the driver raced his way into the lead on Lap 172, a position he held until a caution flag waved 10 laps later. Due to varying tire strategies on pit road, Elliott took the restart on Lap 186 in eighth. During another caution shortly thereafter, Elliott was part of a smaller group that headed back to pit road, and the No. 9 team elected to take left-side tires. That put him in 25th for the ensuing restart.
- Within three laps of the restart, Elliott was up to 15th, and by Lap 208 he had advanced to seventh. His run toward the front continued when he found fifth place on Lap 221, and he retook the lead when green-flag stops began shortly thereafter. Following his own trip to pit road, he regained a top-10 position as the field began to cycle through stops, moving all the way up to fourth with 11 laps to go. He held that position through the checkered flag to finish fourth in the opening race of the playoffs.
WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 LIBERTY UNIVERSITY CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Byron opened the playoffs with a 14th-place starting spot Sunday evening, but a pit of pit strategy allowed him to climb inside the top five before making a green-flag pit stop midway through Stage 1. He returned to the track in 15th, but quickly got back to work in the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. By Lap 70, he had climbed up to seventh, which is where he would finish the opening segment to pick up four extra points.
- Quick work by the No. 24 team allowed Byron to gain three positions on pit road to begin the second stage in fourth. On the restart, the driver raced three-wide for the lead before settling into second, a position he held until the 100-lap mark when he fell to third. Following a green-flag stop, he returned to the track in sixth, and he maintained that spot through the green-checkered flag to gain five extra points.
- Byron started the final segment in eighth and moved up to sixth before contact from a competitor caused a left-rear tire rub on the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Following the contact, he dropped back to ninth before spinning on Lap 182. He was able to keep the car from taking any extra damage and headed down pit road quickly to remain on the lead lap on the other side of the caution.
- Byron lined up 17th on the restart and fell to 22nd before another caution flag waved. However, he started moving in the right direction again on the next restart, finding 11th by Lap 199 and moving to ninth on Lap 208. As green-flag pit stops began, the No. 24 team elected to keep Byron on the track and he took over the race lead before heading to pit road himself. Returning to the track as the field began to cycle through stops, he regained a top-10 position. With 11 laps to go, he settled into eighth place, picking up one more spot down the stretch to finish the opening race of the playoffs in seventh.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 ALLY CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Rolling off the grid inside the top 10 Sunday evening, Johnson fell back in traffic when the green flag flew. He moved inside the top five as other competitors headed to pit road before making a green-flag stop of his own, returning to the track in 20th. He gained four positions before the end of the segment, finishing Stage 1 in 16th.
- Johnson started Stage 2 in 19th, climbing to 16th before another cycle of green-flag pit stops. After returning to the track in 23rd, he gained seven positions to climb back to 16th before the green-checkered flag signaled the end of the second segment.
- Shortly after the green flag waved at the start of the final stage, Johnson raced up to 12th, and following a pair of cautions, he had made his way back inside the top 10 in 10th. He climbed as high as eighth on Lap 199 before falling back just a bit and settling into 11th on Lap 214. Johnson remained on the track as green-flag stops began, climbing to third before heading to pit road. He returned to the track outside of the top 15 as field began to cycle through stops, but found 14th with eight laps remaining. He continued to climb as the laps wound down, finding 11th before the checkered flag waved.
ALEX BOWMAN, NO. 88 NATIONWIDE CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Bowman took the green flag Sunday in 19th and he found himself outside of the top 20 on multiple occasions throughout the opening stage. But following a green-flag pit stop, he moved from 23rd up to 15th before the green-checkered flag waved at the end of Stage 1.
- Starting the second stage in 12th, Bowman was shuffled back in traffic to 17th before beginning to push back toward the top 10. Following a green-flag pit stop, he found 12th place once again and moved into 11th on Lap 137. With seven laps to go in the segment, he advanced to 10th, holding on to finish Stage 2 in 10th, picking up an extra point.
- The No. 88 team’s quick work on pit road helped Bowman gain five spots, and the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 lined up fifth to start the final segment of the race. He maintained his fifth-place running position until a caution on Lap 182, when he had just fallen to sixth. Finding fifth once again before another caution, Bowman maintained that position with 50 laps remaining in the race. He headed to pit road for a green-flag stop early in the cycle.
- Bowman returned to the track inside the top 10 as the field began to cycle through stops but fell to 11th with fewer than 15 laps remaining. With eight laps to go, he climbed back up to the sixth position and held it through the finish line to open the playoffs with a sixth-place result.