DARLINGTON, S.C. – William Byron was closing in on his third win of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season before a hard shove changed things.
Leading with two laps to go, Byron's No. 24 Axalta Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 got knocked in the bumper from Joey Logano in turn three. The result of the hit saw Byron drift up into the wall while Logano drove past for the eventual win. The 24-year-old would finish the race 13th.
The two had raced in close quarters just after the lap 268 restart and that racing saw Logano brush the wall off of turn two.
"We were really close off of (turn) two and I think it spooked him and got him tight; and he was right against the wall and I got the lead," Byron said of Logano. "He does this stuff all the time. I've seen it with other guys. He drove in there 10 mph too fast, and with these Next Gen cars, he slammed me so hard, it knocked the whole right side off the car and there was no way to make the corner."
Byron later added, "Obviously at the end, the right rear started to go away; and yeah, he didn't even make it a contest."
Up until those last laps, it looked like the Charlotte, North Carolina, native was going to be back in victory lane a day after a Super Late Model win at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. He had taken control of the point position on lap 268 for the first time in the race after a steady day that saw him run in the top five for the bulk of the 293-lap race.
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Chase Elliott followed up his win at Dover Motor Speedway with his third top-five finish of the season by coming home fifth. The driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 rallied for the finish after having to go to a backup car following a practice incident. He maintains a points lead of 65 markers over his teammate Byron and Ryan Blaney.
Alex Bowman finished 29th after hitting the wall late in the final stage. A mechanical failure ended Kyle Larson’s day early in stage two. He had just rejoined the top 10 after spinning from third in stage one. Coming into the race, he had finished second in his last three races at the South Carolina track but that would come to an end with his 36th-place finish on this day. The Elk Grove, California, native led 30 laps on the day.
The Hendrick Motorsports quartet will be back action next Sunday at Kansas Speedway for the 13th race of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season at 3 p.m. ET on FS1 with radio coverage on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Chase Elliott, No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 5th
Stage one: Elliott started 34th after an incident in practice sent him to a backup car. By the lap 2 caution, he was up to 28th despite contract with Brad Keselowski. Following the lap 30 competition caution, Elliott pitted from 21st for four tires and fuel but had to make a second stop for a loose left wheel. On the lap 36 restart, he lined up 31st. He pitted under the lap 56 caution for four tires and fuel before restarting 19th on lap 60. On lap 82, Elliott cracked the top 15 for the first time in the race before passing his teammate Alex Bowman for another spot on the next lap. The driver that saw his paint scheme win Best In Show earlier today finished 15th in the stage.
Stage two: Under the stage break, Elliott pitted for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to restart 17th on lap 97. On lap 110, the reigning Most Popular Driver winner was back in the top 15. Steadily over the first run of the stage, Elliott picked off spots and was 13th on lap 130. On lap 136, he was part of a wave of cars that came down for green-flag pit stops as the No. 9 took four tires and fuel. He cycled from that round of pit stops in 11th. Trouble for Tyler Reddick on lap 160 allowed Elliott to grab a spot in the top 10 for the first time on the afternoon. He pitted from eighth under caution on lap 170. On that stop, Elliott was able to pick up a spot to restart seventh after taking four new tires and fuel. He would finish the stage in eighth.
Final stage: In between stages, Elliott came down pit road for four tires and fuel before restarting the final stage in 10th. He picked up one spot to be ninth as a caution came out very quickly after the restart and the No. 9 team elected to stay out for the lap 200 restart. Just after the restart, the Dawsonville, Georgia, native grabbed another spot to be in eighth before passing Aric Almirola on lap 209 for seventh. Making a crossover move on lap 222, Elliott picked off two spots by passing Christopher Bell and Daniel Suarez to crack the top five for the first time on the afternoon. On lap 236, he made slight contact with the wall as he got a little too high. On lap 240, Elliott pitted from fourth under green for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. When the cycle of stops completed, Elliott cycled out to ninth. Under caution on lap 256, Elliott pitted from ninth and gained three spots to restart sixth on lap 261. He maintained that position when the caution came out after the restart despite some contact in the rear from Kurt Busch. Despite that, crew chief Alan Gustafson elected to keep the No. 9 out under caution and that set them up to restart sixth on lap 268. He was able to maintain that position during the run and grabbed a top-five finish when teammate William Byron lost spots on the final lap.
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William Byron, No. 24 Axalta Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 13th
Stage one: The two-time winner in 2022 started ninth and dropped just outside the top 10 on the opening restart as the inside lane was not the place to be early on. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native pitted following the competition caution for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to restart ninth on lap 36. The driver, who inked a three-year contract extension this week, maintained a spot in the top 10 as he held the eighth position over the next run. He pitted under the lap 56 caution for fresh tires, fuel and air pressure adjustment before restarting sixth on lap 60. Just after that restart, Byron cracked the top five. He maintained that spot for most of the remainder of the stage before dropping a spot late to Martin Truex Jr. to finish sixth in the stage.
Stage two: During the stage break, Byron pitted for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment to restart fifth on lap 97. Byron tried to make the inside lane work for a pass for fourth but ended up losing fifth to Erik Jones just after the restart. Midway through the first run of stage two, the No. 24 was one of the fastest on track. On lap 128, Byron grabbed fifth back from Jones. On lap 137, he pitted from second under green for four tires and fuel. When the pit stops cycled through on lap 140, Byron came out in eighth. He would pass Bubba Wallace for seventh on lap 155 and grab sixth when Tyler Reddick hit pit road a few laps later. Byron reported his was too tight while running sixth right before pit stops took place under caution on lap 170. Much like earlier stops, he pitted for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment before restarting fifth on lap 175. He would complete the stage in fifth as well.
Final stage: Byron would pit under the stage break for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment to come out fourth ahead of the lap 195 restart. He would grab one spot to be in third before a caution came out quickly after the stage restart and would stay out to remain in third on the lap 200 restart. The No. 24 was lurking in third in the final stage while pursuing Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin for the point position. On lap 236, Byron pitted from third for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment right after he radioed in that he was losing right-rear grip. When the cycle of stops completed (although some had short pitted), Byron cycled back out to third. Under caution, Byron pitted on lap 256 from third for four tires and fuel before restarting third on lap 261. Restarting on the inside line next to Logano, he kept pace with the No. 22 in second before a quick caution on lap 262. Crew chief Rudy Fugle elected to keep Byron out under caution so he would restart in second on lap 268. Byron again chose the inside lane for the restart and was able to clear Logano for the lead but the No. 22 was still in his rearview. By lap 285, Byron’s lead was over one second on Logano. Lap traffic and a loose race car allowed Logano to close up to within .25-seconds of Byron with four laps to go. With two laps to go, a hard shove into turn four from the bumper of Logano saw Byron go from the lead to into the wall. He would drop back to 13th in the closing lap.
Alex Bowman, No. 48 Ally Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 29th
Stage one: Bowman lined up 15th for the 293-lap event. Similar to Byron, he lost two spots on the initial start. Following the lap 30 competition caution, he pitted for four tires and fuel and restarted 15th on lap 36. He pitted under the lap 56 caution for fresh tires and fuel to restart 13th on lap 60. The No. 48 was not able to make gains in the opening stage and would lose a few spots late in the run to end stage one as he would finish the stage in 18th.
Stage two: In between stages, Bowman pitted but lost a few spots on pit road to restart 22nd on lap 97. The driver of the No. 48 found the early part of stage two to be tough sledding as he tried to work his way back into the top 20. The Tucson, Arizona, native radioed around the midpoint of the stage that he needed rear grip. On lap 135, Bowman came down pit road under green for service and cycled out in 22nd. He would pit from 19th under caution on lap 170 for big adjustments on the No. 48 before restarting 21st on lap 175. Bowman was able to pick off a few spots on the short run to finish the stage in 18th.
Final stage: Bowman hit pit road for service and would restart 17th on lap 195. He would still be scored in 17th when a caution came out just after the stage restart. Unfortunately, Bowman would not be able to make gains on the next run as he would lose four spots over the next 30 laps. On lap 232, the winner of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway race in March would be one of the first to hit pit road under green during this stage for four fresh tires and fuel. When the cycle of stops, Bowman cycled back out to 17th. Bowman got into the wall in turn two to bring out the caution on lap 256. He pitted again because of a fire on the right side of the No. 48 that ended his day.
Kyle Larson, No. 5 HendrickCars.com Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 36th
Stage one: Larson took the grid on the front row in second and wasted no time using the high line to take the lead on lap 1. By lap 25, Larson had checked out to a 3.27-second lead on polesitter Joey Logano with the competition caution approaching on lap 30. The reigning champion pitted for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment and came out second behind Logano. Larson had to fend off Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. to maintain second following the lap 36 restart. On lap 46, the No. 5 lost momentum as he was closing in on first, had to lift and lost second to Busch. This year’s Auto Club Speedway winner spun on lap 55 while batting for second and that brought out the caution while dropping him to 33rd. He pitted for new tires to restart 31st on lap 60, but felt good about the balance of the car before the incident. The driver of the No. 5 rejoined the top 20 on lap 73. A pass on the No. 48 allowed him to rejoin the top 15 on lap 84. Larson would finish the stage in 13th.
Stage two: At the stage break, Larson pitted and gained two spots on pit road to restart 11th on lap 97. On lap 102, Larson passed fellow California native Tyler Reddick to get back into the top 10. On lap 111, Larson radioed in that he thought the No. 5 was blowing up. He pitted immediately after and the team lifted the hood on his Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. While on pit road, the car would not refire. Crew chief Cliff Daniels called for the team to change the battery before taking the car to the garage for further assessment. Ultimately, the No. 5 did not return to the track.