CONCORD, N.C. -- Kyle Larson was close to taking the checkered flag at Darlington Raceway for the first NASCAR Cup Series playoff race of the season, finishing second after a tight race.
Larson led for 156 of 367 laps before a couple of late-race cautions had him drop back to second place in the final 39 laps. He made a hard drive in the last circuit to overtake first, but it wasn't enough for Larson to snag the top spot.
Alex Bowman took a 26th-place finish after he had issues toward the beginning of the race that pushed him down the leaderboard. The Ally driver suffered a flat tire and had to make several pit stops to repair damage, despite a strong top-10 run in the beginning of the event.
Chase Elliott was involved in the final caution of the race after he was pushed into the wall, ending his night early and relegating him to a 31st-place finish. William Byron placed 34th after he suffered a flat front tire and hit the wall hard, forcing him to go to the garage early, as well.
Denny Hamlin won the race.
Take a look below to see how all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers fared for the first 2021 playoff race at the track "Too Tough to Tame."
KYLE LARSON, NO. 5 HENDRICKCARS.COM CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1 1LE
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Larson rolled off the grid sixth and dropped to seventh within the first lap. He was ninth by the competition caution and restarted sixth. He edged to fifth by lap 39 and took fourth seven laps later.
- Larson was sixth for the fourth restarted of the race and quickly jumped to fourth in less than two laps. He pitted with the leaders on lap 82 and was second once the field shuffled through. He finished stage one in that spot.
- The Elk Grove, California, native restarted stage two in second place and quickly took the lead in the first lap. He restarted in the top spot after the sixth caution and maintained it until he pitted under green on lap 159. He returned to the track in second when the seventh caution dropped, which allowed him to retake the lead on the restart.
- Larson stayed up front until he pitted on lap 197. As the field cycled through, he worked his way up to the front. He maintained the top position and finished stage two in first.
- Larson took to stage three in first place and led all cars until lap 271, when he made a scheduled green-flag pit stop. He took the lead 10 laps later and stayed out front until a caution dropped on lap 319. He was second and stayed out when another caution fell just eight laps later.
- The 29-year-old tailed the lead driver in the final laps from the second position. He was close to taking first in the final lap but couldn’t push into the lead spot, finishing second.
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 NAPA/CHOA CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1 1LE
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Elliott posted a fifth-place start and edged past teammate Alex Bowman to fourth on lap seven. He was up to third six laps later but dropped to seventh by the competition caution. He tapped another driver’s tire on pit road and had to return for repairs, putting him in 33rd for the restart.
- Elliott stayed out after the third caution of the race and was 28th for the restart. He was 25th by lap 39, 21st by lap 45 and restarted in 16th on lap 54 after a caution. Elliott was 12th before lap 75 and pitted with the field seven laps later, coming back out in 10th once the field cycled through. Elliott dropped a spot and finished stage one in 11th.
- The reigning Cup Series champion was 10th for the start of stage two. He moved into ninth place by lap 135 and remained around that spot until he pitted under green on lap 159. He was 14th when the sixth caution flag waved and restarted in 13th, quickly moving back into the top 10. He pitted with most of the field under green and was 12th when he returned to the track on lap 199.
- Elliott weaved in and out of the top five and was sixth with 123 laps to go. He also took the scheduled green-flag pit stop and was fifth again once the field cycled through. Under the yellow flag for the caution on lap 319, Elliott missed pit road and had to come back around to pit. Just eight laps later, Elliott was pushed into the wall, which ended his night early. He finished 31st.
WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1 1LE
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Byron started in 14th place and edged to 12th within three laps. He was 11th seven laps later but teammate Alex Bowman tapped him when he hit the wall less than 20 laps into the race. Byron pitted for fresh tires and to assess the damage before coming back out in 32nd place.
- The 23-year-old driver was 27th by lap 39 and 25th when the fourth caution dropped on lap 48. He restarted two spots up, was 21st by lap 59 and 20th by lap 61. He pitted on lap 82 for fresh tires and was 21st when he returned to the track. Byron was 18th when stage one ended.
- He restarted stage two in 23rd and moved all the way to 15th within 20 laps of the segment, was in 12th by lap 140 and moved to eighth by lap 160 after the leaders pitted. Byron was up one spot when the field restarted from the seventh caution.
- Byron stayed in seventh until he pitted on lap 197 under a round of green-flag stop. He was back on the track when he suffered a flat front tire and hit the wall hard, ending his night early. Byron finished the race 34th.
ALEX BOWMAN, NO. 48 ALLY CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1 1LE
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Bowman took to the track in fourth place and fell to sixth on lap 12. He clipped the wall after he got a flat tire and was forced to go down pit road to fix some damage, returning to the track 36th. He edged to 30th by the competition caution.
- Bowman pitted for the third time during the third caution of the race and started to slowly work his way up the field after the green flag waved. He was 29th by lap 42 and pitted under the fourth caution, but a small fire from his car forced him to remain on pit road. He was 35th when racing resumed on lap 54 and was up to 30th four laps later.
- The Arizona native pitted under green with the majority of the field on lap 82 and was 32nd seven laps later. Bowman was up to 29th by lap 100 and remained in that position through the rest of stage one. Bowman was 30th for the start of stage two and edged to 27th by lap 132. He was 26th halfway through the stage and edged up one position to finish stage two in 25th.
- The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE had another tire go down on lap 295, forcing him to make an unscheduled stop. He was 27th with 50 laps to go and edged to 26th 20 laps later, which is where he remained for the rest of the race.