CONCORD, N.C. – Memorial Day weekend delivered a thrilling show for fans at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Sunday’s race also produced exciting results for Hendrick Motorsports, which racked up four top-10 finishes for the first time ever in the 600-mile event.
In the final laps, Chase Elliott and the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PART team were running in the top-five after leading 43 laps. The driver attempted to close the gap but was unable to take back the top position. He ultimately finished the race fourth, marking his fourth consecutive top-five and fifth overall in 2019.
“We had a really solid car,” said Elliott, who ranks third in the standings. “It was a solid race all-around. We just needed a little bit more there at the end and needed to not give up control to get to Martin (Truex Jr.) in those last 40 to 50 laps. We just needed to finish a little stronger. I think I have some work to do on my end to make sure I’m keeping up with the track, giving the right information and not getting behind.”
The marathon race saw Alex Bowman claim his second top-10 finish at Charlotte. With 68 laps remaining, he was forced to make a green-flag pit stop to fix tire issues, causing the driver to go a lap down. After taking the wave-around when a caution flag waved, the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was back on the lead lap. Bowman restarted 15th and succeeded in gaining positions in the closing laps. The impressive seventh-place finish marked the driver’s best career showing at Charlotte.
“It was just really tight to start,” Bowman said. “The guys did a really good job of getting our car better. We got up toward the front and then late there I decided to get up in the fence and tear the right side off of it. I’m really glad we were able to fix it, overcome a flat right-rear (tire), and still end up seventh. I just need to not make that mistake and we definitely had a top-five car.”
Along with his teammates, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson had a great run throughout the 600-mile race. In the waning laps, Johnson dropped a spot after making contact with the wall. Restarting eighth with just five to go, he held the position to finish out the longest event of the season with what he called a “strong performance” by his No. 48 Ally team.
“I’ve always taken a lot of pride in being competitive in this race, physically and mentally,” Johnson said. “We did that tonight and had a strong performance. I had some handling issues. We got ourselves through most of that and got into a good position and I hit the wall with about 10 (laps) to go and took us out of like a fourth- or fifth-place spot back to eighth. But, all in all, it was a solid performance. We had respectable speed and I was in the mix most of the night.”
Hometown favorite William Byron started Sunday’s race from the top spot, marking the 21-year-old driver’s second career pole position and the organization’s 18th Charlotte pole.
Throughout the race, Byron held his own inside the top 10 for a majority of the first stage. By Stage 2, the Charlotte native found himself battling in the top five, ultimately regaining the lead. In the final segment after multiple cautions, the No. 24 Liberty University driver found a top-10 position, finishing the race in ninth.
“We were pretty good during the day,” Byron said. “I had pretty good speed. Top-five. And I knew we were pretty tight off (the corner) but then it just kept escalating as the runs got longer. When nighttime fell, we were just too tight. So, it is what it is. But ultimately it was a good solid two weeks in a row. And a ninth-place finish is not bad.”
“All four of us in the top 10 is pretty good, and we’ll just work from there.”