BRISTOL, Tenn. – Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson earned top-five finishes and Chase Elliott picked up a top-10 result for Hendrick Motorsports in Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Early in the race, Elliott also led the 80,000 lap in the Cup ranks for the organization in its 40th anniversary.

Tire management was the name of the game in the 500-lap race at the 0.533-mile track. The track was not taking rubber as expected and there were lots of marbles in the upper corners of the concrete layout. The closing green-flag run of 121 laps made tire conservation even more critical. This race was the first spring event at Bristol on the traditional concrete surface since 2020. 

Bowman was the highest finisher for Hendrick Motorsports with a fourth-place finish. He came from the back of the field as he started in the 29th position in the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Early on, Bowman battled a tight exit race car but maneuvered into the top 10 on lap 65. Late in the opening stage, he slipped out of the top 10 as his tires had fallen off and he finished the segment in 19th. In between stages, the 30-year-old driver asked for the No. 48 Chevy to be loosened up a little. Stage two saw Bowman finish 16th. 

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In the final stage, he restarted 17th and managed his tires well as the cautions picked up. Under the race's final caution on lap 369, Bowman asked to be "a little more free." After restarting from 17th on lap 380, he entered the top 10 on lap 420. As others suffered severe falloff, the Tucson, Arizona, native kept picking off spots late in the run and even took the lead for three laps on lap 450. Bowman cycled out in 10th, and thanks to having fresher rubber than others, he once again surged late in the run as he grabbed six spots in the final 20 laps. A pass on teammate Larson earned him his final position of fourth for his second top-five finish of the 2024 season. This is also Bowman's best result at Bristol.

"With the situation we had, our Ally No. 48 team did a great job at maximizing everything, making the right calls, adjustments throughout the day and knowing how to manage tires," Bowman said. 

"That was something I was really good at when I first went stock car racing. In the (ARCA Menards) East Series and ARCA (Menards Series), you don't have a lot of sets of tires. That was something I excelled at and I feel like I was able to apply that today.  

"In the (NASCAR) Cup Series, we run hard every single lap all race these days. Kind of fun to go back to that. Glad we ended up on the right end of it."

Larson lined up 10th for the start of the race in the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. He spent the latter half of the stage in the top 10 and was able to come on strong late in the run to the end of the 125-lap segment to finish second. During the stage break, the pit crew had a great stop to give their driver the lead. Larson and crew chief Cliff Daniels had discussed over the radio how to manage the tires early in the run so that he wouldn't fade as others had. In stage two, Larson led four times for 19 laps but lost some spots late in the segment. A caution with 21 laps to go in the stage allowed for a strategy call of two right-side tires to gain him five spots on pit road. The 31-year-old driver finished the stage in eighth. His 12 stage points were tied with two others for the third-most in the field. 

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The first half of the final stage saw the 2021 Cup Series champion consistently running in the top six. However, a pit road penalty for equipment interference – a tire got into the No. 15's neighboring pit stall as the car pulled into its box – sent Larson to the rear of the field (28th) for the final restart on lap 380. After getting up to 16th, he started to fade a little, so Daniels brought his driver to pit road for fresh tires with 66 laps to go. That call paid big dividends, as Larson would cycle out to fifth place and keep a top-five spot the rest of the way. With a pass by teammate Bowman in the closing laps, the driver of the No. 5 finished in fifth. This is Larson's second top-five finish of the year and his fourth straight top-five result at the concrete layout "The Last Great Colosseum."

"It was tough to get a rhythm," Larson said. "I was doing a good job of managing my stuff, but we just never got a long run. The one time we got a long run is when we had the penalty, had to go to the back and I abused my tire to get back to the top five.  

"It all just kind of weirdly worked out. I still don’t really know how we ended fifth, but we will take it and move on."

Elliott had an up-and-down day, coming from the back of the field in the final stage to earn his first top-10 finish of the season. Starting fifth in the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, he steadily worked his way forward and took the lead on lap 61. When Elliott led on lap 62, he had paced the 80,000th Cup Series lap led for Hendrick Motorsports. He led twice for five laps on the day. Late in the opening stage, the handling went away from the No. 9 Chevy and Elliott finished the stage in 15th. During the stage break, the team discussed a voltage issue that was coming and going. After restarting the stage in 13th, the 2020 Cup Series champion fell back to 23rd and said he was trying to protect the right rear more than the right front. Trouble on a pit stop under yellow on lap 235 saw Elliott restart the stage in 29th with 11 laps to go before finishing 22nd. 

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In the final stage, the 28-year-old driver restarted 18th, but as he fell to 30th, he said he was too tight in that run and hurt the right rear trying to make it turn. Crew chief Alan Gustafson advised Elliott to stick to the bottom, and the team adjusted to free the No. 9 machine up. Ahead of the final restart with 121 laps to go, Elliott restarted 24th and used the lengthy run to manage his stuff and make gains on the field. He entered the top 10 on lap 432 and was in the top five on lap 436. The team ran long and came to pit road on lap 447. The six-time National Motorsports Most Popular Driver Award winner cycled out in 11th but again used the fresher tires to gain spots late in the run on his competitors. He climbed up to eighth for his third straight top-10 result at Bristol. 

"Normally, you could just bury the car into the corner so far and you don’t ever really get beat by guys with tires that bad," Elliott said of what made this race so challenging. "You could just fall off a cliff there with the way that was. It was like racing at a really old, worn-out short track. It was a lot of fun. I think there was probably a little better balance somewhere up there, but I had a good time."

William Byron had a tough day in the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Starting eighth for the race, he was stuck on the outside lane in the early going and couldn't get to the bottom until settling in at 14th. On lap 21, Christopher Bell made contact with Joey Logano, and that contact sent Logano into Byron's No. 24 Chevy in turn three and he went into the wall off of turn four. The team had to pit to replace the toe link, leaving the driver six laps down. Unfortunately, the 26-year-old driver did not gain all those laps back, but the team grinded it out, hoping to make some gains in its finishing position. The track time was also valuable in helping the group learn some things before coming to the Tennessee track in the fall for the Round of 16 elimination race in the NASCAR Playoffs. Byron finished the race in 35th.

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Denny Hamlin won the race to mark the fifth different winner to open the season. Byron and Larson are among those who have already posted a victory with wins in the DAYTONA 500 and at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, respectively. 

Leaving Bristol, Larson is tied for the points standings lead with Martin Truex Jr. Elliott moved up to sixth in the standings, Byron is 10th and Bowman is up to 12th. 

Next up for Hendrick Motorsports is the first road course race of the season at Circuit of The Americas on Sunday, March 24, at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN Radio, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90). The organization has one of its 27 road course wins at the 20-turn, 3.41-mile facility thanks to Elliott's win in the inaugural event there. In each of the three races at COTA, Hendrick Motorsports has placed two drivers in the top five.