TALLADEGA, Ala. – William Byron led the way for Hendrick Motorsports at Talladega Superspeedway with a second-place finish in the second race of the Round of 12. Late in the race, the organization had control of the inside line and occupied four spots in the top six, but things changed quickly as they often do in drafting-style races.
Byron’s runner-up finish is his 12th top-five of the season. He was initially scored in third at the disqualification of Kevin Harvick moved him up a spot in the final order. Starting from the eighth position in the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, he quickly moved into the top five and spent the bulk of the opening stage in the top five. The 25-year-old driver finished second in both stages to earn 18 stage points, which was the most among the field. In the final stage, Byron was in line with his Hendrick Motorsports teammates on what ended up being the final restart with 13 laps to go. During the closing run, he navigated lanes to try and grab the lead. The driver of the No. 24 ended up behind eventual race winner Ryan Blaney in the closing lap. With his win last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, which was also the organization's 300th NASCAR Cup Series win, Byron is locked into the next round.
RELATED: Texas win allows Byron, Fugle to begin preparing for Round of 8
"It was really intense there at the end," Byron said. "I just couldn’t quite get pushes as square as those guys. I felt like where they could get connected and just create runs, they just got us there. On the backstretch, the No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) actually got in front of me and that allowed I think the No. 12 (Ryan Blaney) to get in front of me.
"Our Axalta Chevrolet was really good all day. Just needed a little bit more to get those runs generated to keep the bottom going like it was. Good effort. Proud of the team and we will go onto the Charlotte (Motor Speedway) ROVAL."
Chase Elliott scored a seventh-place finish for his 14th top-10 result of the season. After taking the green flag from the 23rd position in the No. 9 LLumar Chevy, the two-time Talladega winner was up into the top 10 by lap 50. He finished stage one in fourth and was grabbed fifth in stage two. Those 13 stage points were the second-most among the field. In the final stage, the 27-year-old driver spent much of the closing laps in the top five and last held the lead with five laps to go. Coming to the tri-oval for the finish, the No. 9 Chevy received contact in the door, but Elliott had enough momentum to grab a top 10.
"We got some decent stage points," Elliott said of his day. "Hopefully that's good enough to help us in the owner's championship points."
The No. 9 team now sits fourth in the owner standings and is plus-20 to the elimination line ahead of the Round of 12 finale.
Kyle Larson qualified the best of the Hendrick Motorsports quartet in fourth and spent a lot of the race in the top five. The 31-year-old driver earned 12 valuable stage points to help his playoff position with a third-place stage one finish and seventh in stage two. Larson was loyal to the inside line for the entire race and was able to use the shortest way around the track to gain positions. Coming to the finish, he was poised to earn his best result ever on a drafting track in the Cup Series. However, the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was caught up in a last-lap incident and crossed the start/finish line sideways. Larson was scored in 15th and is plus-15 on the cutline with one race left in the Round of 12.
RELATED: Key numbers to know among the 300 wins for Hendrick Motorsports
Alex Bowman’s 28th-place finish in the No. 48 Ally Chevy does not accurately reflect the car’s strength on this day. In the opening stage, the 30-year-old driver drove from 20th to fifth to score six stage points. He just missed out on stage points in the second segment. Taking the lead with 20 laps to go, Bowman was in and out of the lead over the next 11 laps – holding the point position for eight of those. Trying to block the top lane, he got caught between lanes and was left in the middle with no one pushing him. That saw Bowman drop out of the top 10. He worked to try and get a third lane going in the closing laps but was unable to get enough momentum back to the front.
On the day, Hendrick Motorsports scored 49 stage points, highlighted by a second-third-fourth-fifth finish in the opening 60-lag segment. All four drivers led at least one lap today: Bowman-13, Byron-12, Elliott-8 and Larson-1. Byron's runner-up finish marked the ninth straight race in 2023 that the organization has had a driver finish in the top five.
RELATED: Hendrick sees Elliott, Bowman both 'coming on now'
Next up is the final race of the Round of 12 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL on Sunday, Oct. 8. That race gets underway at 2 p.m. ET with coverage on NBC, NBC Sports App, PRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90). Hendrick Motorsports has won three times at the 2.32-mile road course, with Elliott earning the victory twice and Larson also scoring a win.