CONCORD, N.C. -- The track "Too Tough to Tame" lived up to it's moniker Sunday night after a wild finish to the first playoff race of the season.
William Byron led the charge for Hendrick Motorsports by finishing in fifth and teammate Alex Bowman was right behind him with a sixth-place result.
Byron started off in third but slipped down to the middle of the pack halfway through the race. He was able to rally to secure his third top-five finish in a row.
"The middle part of the race was tough. We were fighting changing track conditions and didn’t really make the right adjustments," Byron explained. "Luckily, we got it back at the end and got some rear grip back in the car. We were able to capitalize on some good pit calls, too."
Bowman also said some strategy, combined with the speed of his No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, allowed him to secure his top-10 result and remain above the Round of 12 cutoff.
“Sixth place isn’t terrible, but man we had a fast Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE (Sunday) in Darlington," he said. "We had some issues on pit road that hurt us and we had to recover from that. I really feel like we were a car capable of winning. We just got buried there, but thankfully recovered from it."
Jimmie Johnson was regulated to an 18th-place finish after he ran in the top 10 for a huge chunk of the night. Johnson lost momentum toward the end of the race as yellow flags continued to drop and he made contact with another car.
"That was not the result we wanted, we had a fast Ally Chevy until that last stage and it just kept getting tighter, but my guys just keep fighting," he said.
Chase Elliott was in a position to win the race and was riding in the No. 1 spot in the final laps. However, as he tried to keep the lead, he was tapped and hit the wall, causing him to tumble down the leaderboard and finish in 20th.
One thing the teammates could agree on was that their Chevrolets were fast and were all capable of winning. The four drivers hope to bring that speed to Richmond Raceway this Saturday for the second race of the playoffs.
"This car looked amazing and hopefully we can go to Richmond next weekend and do the same thing," Bowman said. "It is a good feeling to have a good start to the playoffs.”