BRISTOL, Tenn. – Hendrick Motorsports earned three top-five finishes in the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway and all four drivers advanced on to the Round of 12 following the race.
Chase Elliott earned a team-best second-place result for his 11th top-five finish of the season. The driver of the No. 9 Hooters Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was making his 250th NASCAR Cup Series start. The result was his best from the first round of the playoffs and his best result in a points-paying race at the .533-mile track.
"I thought our Hooters Chevrolet was driving really good, and honestly, I don't think I could realistically ask for anything more balance wise," Elliott said. "I just needed to be able to do a better job getting in some different lanes. Being second there, the top had gotten so dominant there at the end. The bottom was pretty good there early in the night and you could run down there for a long time. As the night went on, the top got better and better and better and that momentum was hard to beat.
"Unfortunately for me, we never got to any lap traffic to make him (race winner Chris Buescher) move, but we were starting to there in those last three or four laps."
William Byron earned a third-place finish, which was also his best result of the Round of 16. The driver of the No. 24 Acronis Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was one of three drivers – along with Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell – to earn top-10 finishes in all three races in the opening round.
"I’m really proud of this team," Byron said. "This whole round, we’ve been getting better each race. Just really proud of the effort. After a rough summer, this is really good to see how we brought ourselves to the playoffs."
Kyle Larson led 34 laps on the evening and finished fifth – a day removed from the announced contract extensions with the organization and the No. 5 team primary sponsor HendrickCars.com. His top-five finish matches Elliott for a series-best 11th top-five result this season.
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Alex Bowman earned 10 stage points in the race and that helped him have a spot in the Round of 12 locked up before getting caught up in an incident on lap 278. He finished 32nd in the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
Chris Buescher won the 500-lap race to become the 19th winner of the 2022 season.
Entering the Round of 12 at Texas Motor Speedway, Elliott regains the points lead and is +31 on the cutoff line. Larson is +10 on the cutoff line and defending race winner at the 1.5-mile track. Byron enters the event +6 to the cutoff line, while Bowman is -6 to elimination line at the start of the round.
Tune in for next weekend’s race at Texas on Sunday, Sept. 25 at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network, PRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).
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Chase Elliott, No. 9 Hooters Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: Second
Stage one: Elliott took the grid from the 23rd position and saw his car gain ground over the long run. At the time of the lap 43 caution, he was scored in 23rd and liked his balance. The regular-season champion came to pit road for four tires and fuel before restarting 24th on lap 50. When the caution came out on lap 93, he was scored in 20th. Elliott radioed in that he still liked the car’s balance but he was a little more free in that run. Crew chief Alan Gustafson kept his driver out under yellow to restart 12th on lap 100. Elliott would finish stage one in that position.
Stage two: Elliott pitted during the stage break for four tires and fuel before restarting 22nd on lap 134. He gained two spots to get to the 20th position when the caution came out on lap 140. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native would stay out to restart in that position on lap 146 and methodically pick spots off on the next 50-lap run, getting up to the 12th position at the time of the fifth caution on lap 197. As the top nine stayed out, Elliott came down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. He restarted 13th on lap 206 – the third car on new tires. By lap 220, Elliott was just outside the top 10 in 11th and running laps comparable to the leaders. At the time of the lap 235 caution, the four-time winner in 2022 was scored in ninth. Gustafson kept Elliott out under caution and that saw him restart fifth on lap 241. The strategy play worked out as Elliott finished stage two in fourth and gained seven stage points.
Final stage: Elliott stayed out to restart on the front row next to Christopher Bell on lap 260. He lost spots to teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson just after the restart to fall to fourth. At the time of the eighth caution on lap 271, the 26-year-old was scored fifth and stayed out to restart from there on lap 277. He was still scored fifth when another caution came out a lap later and he restarted from there on lap 287. Elliott maintained a position in the top six and made a strong move up the middle on Byron and Kevin Harvick to grab fourth on lap 332. At the lap 353 caution, he was in fourth and pitted for four tires and fuel. Elliott lost time on pit road having to backup a bit to get around Justin Haley on pit road. He restarted ninth on lap 361 and quickly worked the high side around AJ Allmendinger for eighth. Elliott moved past Byron for sixth as Joey Logano came to pit road from seventh place for a tire issue. He moved back into the top five after Brad Keselowski had to pit on lap 416. Pitting under yellow on lap 438 from fifth place, Elliott received four fresh tires and fuel and gained three spots on pit road with the No. 9 crew’s best stop of the night at 10.67 seconds. He restarted on the front row in second on lap 444 alongside Chris Buescher, who got the lead with a two-tire call on pit road. Elliott worked the low line throughout the run but he was unable to gain enough ground to take over the lead. His second-place finish was his 11th top-five finish of the season – matching teammate Larson for the series-best mark.
William Byron, No. 24 Acronis Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: Third
Stage one: Byron started the event from the 16th spot in the field and gained four spots in the opening six laps. He moved to the higher groove to see if he could make some time that way. At the lap 43 caution, the 24-year-old was still scored in 12th. Byron pitted for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment and his team turned out a 10.41-second stop. Different strategies with six drivers staying out saw him restart 15th on lap 50. When the caution came out on lap 93, Byron was scored in 12th. Crew chief Rudy Fugle kept his driver out under caution to restart eighth on lap 100. The two-time winner in 2022 finished the stage in ninth. Byron told Fugle that the car “cycled tighter that run.”
Stage two: Byron pitted during the stage break for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment before restarting 19th on lap 134. He was scored in the 18th position when the fourth caution of the race fell on lap 140. The driver let his team know under yellow that he liked the last set of changes. He stayed out to restart from that spot on lap 146 and rejoined the top 15 on lap 177. On the fifth caution at lap 197, Byron was scored in 16th. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native pitted for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to help with his long-run handling. He restarted 18th on lap 206 and was gaining ground as he reached 13th on lap 220. When the sixth caution came out, Byron was scored in 12th. Fugle kept his driver out to maintain track position and he restarted seventh on lap 241. Byron would finish the stage in seventh.
Final stage: Byron stayed out during the stage break to keep his track position. That put him third in the running order for the lap 260 restart. Fugle told Byron of the decision that “there’s a few with fresher tires behind us, but even if they get us, we will still net out better than being buried deep in traffic.” He moved to second on the restart but lost the spot to teammate Kyle Larson a few laps later. When the caution came out on lap 271 for Kyle Busch, Byron was running third. He stayed out to restart third on lap 277 and was still scored there a lap later when another caution came out. Byron restarted from third on lap 287 and maintained a spot in the top-four over the first part of the final stage. Fresher tires from behind him would see him lose a few spots to fall to seventh on lap 337. At the lap 353 caution, Byron was scored in eighth and pitted for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment to restart seventh on lap 361. The driver of the No. 24 maintained that position during the initial part of this run – moving to sixth briefly when Joey Logano had to pit before teammate Chase Elliott passed him for the spot on lap 401. Byron moved back to sixth on lap 416 when a car in front of him had to pit with a flat tire. Fugle brought his driver to pit road under yellow on lap 438 from seventh place for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. He gained four spots on pit road with a 10.54-second stop that set him up to restart third on lap 444. Byron kept the position over the course of the final run for his fifth top-five finish of the season.
Kyle Larson, No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: Fifth
Stage one: The defending race winner lined up fifth for Saturday’s race. Twenty laps into the run – scored in seventh – Larson was putting up some of the fastest lap times in the field. At the time of the lap 43 caution, he was scored eighth. Crew chief Cliff Daniels brought his driver down for four tires and fuel and the team had a 10.41-second stop. With six drivers staying out, Larson restarted 12th on lap 50. At the time of the lap 93 caution, he was back in the top 10 in ninth. The Elk Grove, California, native stayed out under yellow to restart fifth on lap 100. He maintained that positioned over the final 26 laps of the stage to finish fifth in stage one.
Stage two: The reigning Cup Series champion pitted for four tires during the stage break and was able to gain three spots on pit road. However, 10 cars stayed out under yellow and that meant Larson restarted 12th on lap 134. When the caution came on lap 140, he was scored in 13th and stayed out to start from that spot on lap 146. The two-time winner in 2022 slid back a bit on the restart but was able to move back forward after about 10 laps. He was engaged in a battle for position with Kyle Busch and navigated his way around several playoff cars to work himself back into the top 10 on lap 177. When the caution came on lap 197, Larson was running eighth and elected to stay out to keep track position. He told the team over the radio, “I’m fine” before the lap 206 restart. The 30-year-old marched forward on the ensuing run passing Chase Briscoe and others to get to sixth on lap 215. He reached fifth on lap 225 and was running the fastest laps in the field. When Denny Hamlin brought out the sixth caution on lap 235, he was up to fourth. Daniels had Larson pit as they could then make it on only one more stop the rest of the way and the driver of the No. 5 would line up 12th for the lap 241 restart following his four-tire, 10.34-second stop. He got back into the top 10 to finish ninth in stage two.
Final stage: Having pitted under the late caution in stage two, Larson remained on track and restarted fourth on lap 260. Larson used the outside lane to work around teammate Chase Elliott for third and worked around another teammate, William Byron, for second on lap 265. He was scored in second at the time of the eighth caution of the night on lap 271 and restarted from the front row – next to Christopher Bell – on lap 277. Larson remained in second when a caution came out on the next lap and restarted at that spot on lap 287. On the restart, he set his sights on grabbing the lead from Bell and kept pursuit in second – slowly chipping away at the gap over the next 30 laps. Lap traffic caused him to lose a little momentum in his pursuit of the lead but by lap 350, he had the deficit chipped to under .3 seconds. When the caution came on lap 353, Larson was scored in second and pitted for four tires and fuel. He won the race off pit road to control the lap 361 restart against Bell. Larson chose the outside lane and pulled out to a lead on Bell and Brad Keselowski. The driver of the No. 5 built over a one-second lead by lap 368 but lap traffic saw Keselowski chip away at the gap and he had it cut to .2 seconds by lap 382. On lap 388, Keselowski passed Larson by using the middle lane on the track to pass him but the new leader was not getting away from the Hendrick Motorsports driver. Larson moved to the bottom to see if he could make up some lap time on the bottom as the run went on. Bell worked around him for second and the two nearly made contact on lap 408. Larson moved back to second when Keselowski had to pit for a tire issue on lap 416 but prior to that had radioed that he was too tight. As the laps wound down, Larson kept gaining a little bit at a time on Bell’s lead. He regained the lead when Bell had a right-rear tire going down from the point position on lap 436. The HendrickCars.com-sponsored driver pitted for four tires and fuel but lost the lead on pit road and restarted fourth on lap 444. Larson and Bell battled for fourth with some close-quarters racing with Larson brushing the wall on lap 463. He ended the night in fifth for his series-best 11 top-five finish of the season.
Alex Bowman, No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 32nd
Stage one: Bowman matched his qualifying effort at Kansas Speedway and lined up third. He radioed in to the team that he felt the car had “definitely less rear security than we did yesterday.” With that, though, he was running sixth when the lap 43 caution came out. Crew chief Greg Ives brought his driver down to pit road for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustment before restarting 13th on lap 50. After slipping back a bit on the restart, Bowman gained ground and was scored in 11th when the lap 93 caution came out. He reported to the team that he was too tight. The driver of the No. 48 stayed out under yellow to restart seventh on lap 100. Bowman gained a spot over the end of the stage to finish sixth in stage one.
Stage two: During the stage break, Bowman pitted for service and with 10 cars staying out, he restarted 15th on lap 134. At the time of the fourth caution on lap 140, he was scored in 14th and stayed out to restart from that position on lap 146. Bowman worked the inside lane to get around Joey Logano to get back into the top 10. The 29-year-old continued to work his way forward and was up to eighth on lap 180. Ives told his driver that the “lap times are good enough for seventh.” With the fifth caution out on lap 197, Bowman was scored in ninth and stayed out to keep track position for the lap 206 restart. NBC Sports reported that the driver had some issues with his power steering under caution - an issue Bowman later confirmed during his interview from infield care center later in the race. He slipped outside the top 10 as the run began but was scored in 11th on lap 235, when the sixth caution fell. Ives kept Bowman out to maintain track position for the short run and he restarted sixth on lap 241. The driver of the No. 48 finished stage two in sixth.
Final stage: During the stage break, Bowman pitted for four tires and fuel to restart 22nd on lap 260. He was scored there under the eighth caution of the night and restarted in that position on lap 277. Coming to the restart on lap 277, Bowman was collected in a multi-car incident with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick and others. The incident would end his evening, but Bowman was already locked into the next round thanks to his solid performance in the first two stages.