RIDGEWAY, Va. – It took overtime to decide a wild race Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, and ultimately Dale Earnhardt Jr. led his Hendrick Motorsports teammates to the checkered flag with an 11th-place finish.
Chase Elliott led 120 laps in the race and had retaken the lead on a restart with less than five laps to go, but contact by a competitor from behind sent the No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS spinning toward the wall. He ultimately finished 27th.
Between Earnhardt and Elliott, Jimmie Johnson earned a 12th-place result after starting from the rear of the field due to a spin during qualifying. Kasey Kahne took the checkered flag in 16th.
Kyle Busch won the race and became the first driver to clinch one of the four playoff spots at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Below is a closer look at how the Hendrick Motorsports drivers fared at Martinsville Speedway.
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 UNIFIRST CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Kahne began Sunday’s race in 12th, and by end of Stage 1 he jumped four spots to claim the green-checkered flag in eighth. Kahne found himself caught up in race traffic after restarting ninth and ended up finishing Stage 2 in 14th. When the green flag waved for the third and final stage of the race, Kahne took to the track still in 14th, having fallen a lap down. He received the free pass after an incident at Lap 302 and was able to get back on the lead lap. The No. 5 UniFirst team restarted 14th after pitting for fresh tires and fuel. After complaints of a loose car at Lap 353, Kahne pitted during a caution to undo some adjustments. He restarted 19th and jumped up to 17th with 100 laps to go. He slipped down to 18th by Lap 451 and elected to stay out during the race’s ninth caution. A late-race caution with nine laps to go resulted in Kahne heading to pit road. He ultimately finished the race 16th in overtime.
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Elliott rolled off the grid in third, finishing Stage 1 in sixth and earning five bonus points. He restarted Stage 2 in fifth and took the green-checkered flag right where he started, earning six more bonus points. The driver of the No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS went to work in the final stage of the race, restarting fifth. Elliott and the No. 24 team pitted during the sixth caution of the race for fresh tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. The quick pit stop helped Elliott stay inside the top five for the restart. Another caution flag waved soon after hitting the track and the driver had already worked his way up to third. Elliott took the lead at Lap 325 and maintained his position out front until a caution with 140 laps to go. He elected to pit for four tires and fuel but lost two spots on pit road, causing him to restart in third once again. It didn’t take long for Elliott to reclaim the lead. He took first position with 115 laps to go and held onto it even after pitting during a caution with 40 laps to go. A quick pit stop helped Elliott win the race off of pit road to restart the race up front. Another caution flag waved with nine laps to go in the race and Elliott stayed out on the track in second place. He took over the lead on the ensuing restart but spun toward the wall when a competitor made contact with him from behind. After a trip to pit road, he returned to the track for the overtime restart and ultimately finished 27th.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Johnson qualified in 24th but took the green flag from the rear of the field due to spinning during the second round of Sunday’s qualifying session, causing the team to change tires. He wasted no time in Stage 1, jumping 20 spots to finish in fourth and earn seven bonus points. He earned another point by finishing 10th at the end of Stage 2. Johnson restarted the final stage in 10th. Like his teammates, he decided to pit during the race’s sixth caution for four tires and fuel. He took back to the track in ninth for the restart. By the eighth caution of the race with 140 laps to go, Johnson pitted again for another set of fresh tires, fuel and adjustments. He restarted in 13th and was down to 18th as track temperatures changed with 100 laps to go. Johnson jumped one spot to move up to 17th position but was lapped by teammate Elliott just before the ninth caution of the race. Fortunately, he was given the free pass to put him back on the lead lap. A late-race caution sent the event to overtime, giving Johnson the chance to drive back toward the top 10. He ultimately finished the race in 12th.
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONWIDE CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Starting Sunday’s race in 21st, Earnhardt maintained track position enough to finish Stage 1 exactly where he started. He jumped three more spots to finish Stage 2 in 18th, one lap down. It didn’t take long for Earnhardt and the throwback “Gray Ghost” No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS scheme to get back on the lead lap. The driver raced his way into the top 15 by Lap 349. Earnhardt was running in 14th, just behind teammate Johnson when the race’s eighth caution flag waved. With 100 laps to go Earnhardt maintained track position inside the top 15 in 13th before slipping to 14th. Earnhardt stayed steady inside of the top 15 and was running 14th before a late-race caution. He kept battling to take the checkered flag in overtime in 11th.