CONCORD, N.C. -- Martinsville Speedway is far from an easy track, and the Hendrick Motorsports teammates all had to pause and reset after Saturday night's race was delayed to Sunday due to rain.
Chase Elliott, William Byron and Kyle Larson all placed inside the top five at “The Paperclip” on Sunday. Elliott shifted up to second place late in the third stage and was making a run for the lead when the race ended, securing his second runner-up finish of the year.
Elliott said his No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE became easier to handle as the day went on and allowed him to weave into the top five before he settled in second and earned his second top-five result in the last four races.
“The run was kind of that right distance for me there at the end to maximize it,” Elliott said. “I felt like if it was any longer than that, I was probably going to fade again kind of like I had been all day.
“I really appreciate the effort. We worked really hard to get back to second. I felt like every strategy call and circumstance just kind of went the other direction for us. We had a couple of good restarts there at the end; had a good pit stop and made a good last adjustment just for a short run.”
Byron had a similar day to Elliott’s where he bobbed in and out of the top five after starting third. He slipped further out of the top five as the first stage went on but rallied and placed fourth by the end of the race.
“It was a hard-fought day for us,” Byron said. “We had handling issues early on and then once we got back further in the pack - it was just crazy. We had fresh tires and the speed but had to manage traffic. Once we got track position back, we were making up ground but got held up a couple times which hurt us. Overall, we had a fast Liberty University Chevy. It was a good day and we learned a lot.”
Like Byron, Larson felt he was fighting back after slipping down the leaderboard during the race. Larson worked his way to fifth after starting 19th and rounded out the three Hendrick Motorsports drivers who finished with a top-five position.
“The restarts were crazy, “Larson said. “I didn’t have the best balance on the restarts and that made it even a little crazier for me because I was kind of on defense, I felt like, most of the time. Even when I was on offense, I was kind of on edge. But after we would get 15 to 20 laps in, I actually felt really good. I felt like we were probably a fourth-place car on the long runs, so I was happy about that. To get a top-five here at probably, by far, my worst racetrack feels like a win.”
Alex Bowman had a stellar run through the first two stages and was pleased with his fast Chevrolet. The 27-year-old was running in second place when he pitted under green due to a vibration in his Ally machine. Once he returned to the track, he was involved in an accident that ended his day early and left him with a 34th-place finish.
“It’s very frustrating. I hate it for everybody at Hendrick Motorsports; everybody at Ally and Chevrolet that gives us so much support,” Bowman said. “Everybody works so hard to give us what we need and we had such a good race car today; such a fast Ally Camaro. …
“I feel like we had a car capable of winning, which says a lot because I drive this place completely wrong. ... (Crew chief) Greg (Ives), everybody on this No. 48 team have their work cut out for them to make a car work for me and they did that this week. It was phenomenal; (I) couldn’t ask anything more of it.”
The Hendrick Motorsports teammates will have another chance to tackle another short track this weekend when the NASCAR Cup Series field heads to Richmond Raceway. The race will begin Sunday, April 18 at 3 p.m. ET on FOX.