CONCORD, N.C. – This weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series will visit Martinsville Speedway for the second time in 2022. From the Hendrick Motorsports quartet, both William Byron and Chase Elliott enter with their championship hopes alive and well as the pair each sit above the cutline. While not in the hunt for the driver's championship, Kyle Larson and the No. 5 team are locked into the owner's Championship 4 via their win at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
For Hendrick Motorsports as a whole, Martinsville has been a successful track in recent memory. The organization has won three of the last four events held on the famous half-mile circuit. Take a look back at these recent triumphs and the significance that each win meant to the team.
Nov. 1, 2020: Elliott’s victory sends No. 9 team to Phoenix
Entering the day 25 points below the cutline, Elliott and the No. 9 team were nearly in a must-win situation to advance into the Championship 4. Martinsville served as their final chance to keep their title hopes intact.
After rolling of the grid in the eighth position, Elliott maneuvered the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 up to the fourth position by the end of stage one. As the day faded into the evening and track temperatures continued to drop, Elliott’s car began to move up through the field. The conclusion of stage two saw Elliott in the leading position. Entering stage three, both driver and crew needed to maintain their focus and capitalize on a solid performance in order to visit victory lane.
During the final segment of the event, crew chief Alan Gustafson called Elliott into the pits for a scheduled pit stop under the green flag. As the driver of the No. 9 pulled into his box, he nearly ran into the jackman, T.J. Semke, who had jumped over the wall too soon. Under normal circumstances, this move would have resulted in a penalty. However, Semke made a quick decision to jump back onto the wall prior to servicing the car. Because of this decisive move, the team avoided penalty. By the end of the 500-lap race, it was Elliott who made the trip to victory lane, punching his ticket to the 2020 Championship 4.
The win earned Elliott his first chance at winning a title, which he capitalized on by taking home the biggest prize in stock car racing at Phoenix Raceway - the NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Oct. 31, 2021: Alex Bowman earns fourth victory of 2021 campaign
While Bowman and the No. 48 Ally Racing Team entered 2021’s penultimate race out of the playoffs, the team was determined to add another mark in the win column for the year. Already that season, the Tucson, Arizona, native had scored a victory at Richmond Raceway, Dover Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway.
After starting in the 13th position, Bowman began to work his way into the top 10, ending stage one in the eighth spot. By stage two, adjustments to match the cooling conditions of the track saw the No. 48 entry end the second segment in the runner-up position. Despite a flurry of yellow flags during the final segment, Bowman continued to close in on the top spot as he inched closer to the back bumper of the leader. As the race drew to a close with 28 laps to go, Bowman and the No. 48 Ally Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 held the third position when the caution flag returned to the speedway.
On the ensuing restart, Bowman took the bottom lane, restarting behind race leader Denny Hamlin. Following the drop of the green flag, the No. 48 entry eventually settled into to second place. With seven laps to go, the competitors made contact in turn four, resulting in another yellow flag. The incident forced overtime with Bowman as the control car for the restart. Under pressure from his competition, Bowman executed a near perfect restart and earned his fourth victory of the season.
While the end of the year did not result in a championship, it was a career year for the driver of the No. 48.
April 9, 2022: Byron takes first career short-track win
April’s edition of short-track racing in southern Virginia was the first event at Martinsville with 2022’s Next Gen car. This time serving as a night race, Byron qualified in the fifth position as teammate Elliott took the green flag from pole position.
Stage one saw the No. 24 entry move up the field into the runner-up spot, occupying the mirror of race leader Elliott by the time the opening segment came to a close. Stage two told a similar story, with Elliott and Byron running first and second respectively when the second green-checkered flag came out to end the second stage.
As the field took the green flag for the final segment of the race, Elliott struggled to get up to speed, allowing for Byron to pass the race leader by the end of turn one. The No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 then extended its advantage over the field, only giving up the lead briefly during green flag pit stops.
With seven laps to go in the race, caution returned to the speedway for an incident in turn four. With the field stacked double-wide for an overtime restart, Byron held off his competition to take his first career short-track victory. The dominating performance saw the 24-year-old driver lead 212 of the 400 laps as he cruised to his second win of the 2022 season.
At the time, the achievement vaulted Byron to the top of the playoff standings. These points have turned out to be crucial, as Byron enters Martinsville in a provisional transfer spot to race for a championship at Phoenix.
Tune in to see the Hendrick Motorsports quartet aim to earn a third consecutive victory at Martinsville. Catch the action at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN Radio, and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).