MADISON, Ill. – Kyle Larson’s fourth-place finish led the way for Hendrick Motorsports in the NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday afternoon at WWT Raceway. The result was the sixth top-five finish for the No. 5 HendrickCars.com team of the 2023 season.
The day began with a concerning start for Larson’s team. Early in the first stage, the team struggled with a loose race car, resulting in a 28th-place finish in stage one. To resolve the issue, crew chief Cliff Daniels brought his driver into the pits for significant adjustments. While the changes did not show immediate benefits in stage two, the 30-year-old driver made steady gains on the field. He eventually passed Martin Truex Jr. late in the segment to finish 10th and earn a stage point.
A two-tire strategy call under yellow in the final stage gave Larson the lead leaving the pits on lap 179. While he was passed for the top spot, a flurry of cautions put several heat cycles on all the tires throughout the field. With the equalization of rubber, Larson was able to stay in second up until the final restart where he fell back to the fourth position. The 2021 Cup Series champion was hopeful this result will give his team momentum.
"Proud of the effort today," Larson said after the race. "It’s been a couple tough races. We’ve been so good all year long. The last few have been pretty bad and we’ve had to work on it quite a bit. The team got us in a place where we could contend for the win, so you can’t ask for much more than that."
William Byron’s eighth-place result was not without adversity. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native held a spot inside the top 10 for most of the day and earned stage points in both segments. On lap 149, Byron took the lead thanks to quick work from his pit crew to set their driver up to restart on the front row. After pitting for four tires on lap 200, Byron fell back on the ensuing restart and reported a severely loose race car to his crew. With another pit stop a few laps later, the driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevy was able to work his way up inside the top 10 once again by the time the checkered flag came out. The result marks the sixth-consecutive top-10 result for Byron and the team. He also moved up to second in the point standings.
Corey LaJoie crossed the line in the 21st position in his substitute role for Chase Elliott in the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Early in the race, the group struggled with the handling of the car, resulting in a 30th-place finish for the first segment. Stage two saw a similar result as the team crossed the line in 25th. During the final stage, crew chief Alan Gustafson was able to utilize an alternative tire strategy to give his driver fresher tires against the field. The call produced several exciting maneuvers through traffic as LaJoie kept the nose of his car clean.
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While a 26th-place finish is on the scoreboard, it does not nearly tell the story of Alex Bowman’s day. The team struggled with the handling of the race car early on in a similar way to his teammates. Crew chief Blake Harris was able to find speed in the No. 48 Ally Racing Chevrolet, netting a seven-spot improvement from stage one to stage two. The group broke inside the top 10 as cautions began to fly late in the race. During the final overtime restart, Bowman suffered an apparent transmission issue, causing an immediate drop to the back of the field.
Next week, the Cup Series heads to California for the second road course race of the 2023 season at Sonoma Raceway. Catch all of the action at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN Radio and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).