DARLINGTON, S.C. – William Byron and Alex Bowman led Hendrick Motorsports at Darlington Raceway with a pair of top-10 finishes in Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race. 

Byron started from the fifth position in the No. 24 Axalta Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The 26-year-old driver reported the car was tight in turns one and two but ok in turns three and four. An aggressive pit call by crew chief Rudy Fugle to come earlier than most saw Byron get up to second place at the end of the cycle. However, he reported late in the run that the "right rear feels like it's pumped up too much" and felt he had no right-rear tire as the stage was coming to a close. Byron lost several spots in the closing laps to finish the opening stage in ninth.

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In stage two, Byron restarted seventh and liked Fugle's adjustments to the car but wanted to be a little looser. On the lap 129 restart, the Charlotte, North Carolina, went three wide for position and reached the fourth spot before the yellow came out on the next lap. From there, he maintained a place in the top five before being passed by teammate Kyle Larson with 10 laps to go in the stage, leading to a sixth-place stage two result. 

Strong work in the pits by the No. 24 crew gained Byron three spots for the final stage restart. Fugle had his driver run a little longer, with the No. 24 leading two laps before pitting from the lead on lap 240. Byron cycled out in ninth and quickly gained three spots on fresher tires. His pass of Larson on lap 251 put him in fifth and the three-time winner in 2024 was charging. Unfortunately, the caution came out four laps later. Restarting fifth with 34 laps to go, he lost momentum on the ensuing lap and fell back to eighth on lap 264. With contact from the leaders (at the time) of Chris Buescher and Tyler Reddick sending them to pit road with nine laps to go, Byron moved up to sixth. That result is his fourth straight top-10 finish at the track "Too Tough to Tame."

"We were OK. Just pretty tight," Byron said of how his car handled throughout the day. "We couldn’t really get it to turn much better than what we did or we would really sacrifice the rear grip. Just kind of struggled, balance-wise for us."

Bowman started the 400-mile race from 18th in the No. 48 Ally Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Early on, he reported the car being a little tight but having good drive. The 31-year-old driver maintained a top-15 position for much of the opening stage, but a bad vibration and tight car saw him finish the stage in 16th. Stage two saw Bowman again spend much of his time in the top 15 while battling a tight race car. The short 16-lap run to end the stage did not agree with the driver of the No. 48 as he lost several positions to finish in 19th. 

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In the final stage, Bowman made contact with the No. 51 of Justin Haley early in the segment and reported that he was now building loose. Crew chief Blake Harris had his driver run a little longer than most of the leaders and the team pitted from the top 10 on lap 238. The five-person pit crew had three stops under 9.70 seconds, including a green-flag stop of 8.98 seconds on lap 238. Taking the last restart of the race from 12th with 34 laps to go, Bowman hunted a spot in the top 10, passing Ross Chastain for the position on lap 282. Two laps later, he moved up to eighth after the leaders made significant contact with each other. This was Bowman's fourth top-10 result at Darlington. 

"We really struggled all day being super tight. We were freeing it up and it just kept getting tighter. I don’t know if the track was tightening up or if we had an issue, but we were just really, really tight all day," Bowman said after the race. "We didn’t make any big mistakes and had a really good day on pit road. We never got the race car where we wanted it, but we were still able to come out with a top-10 finish. It was really attrition and other people’s mistakes. We never give up, but it certainly wasn’t pretty."

Chase Elliott started the race near the back in the No. 9 UniFirst Throwback Chevrolet Camaro from the 31st position on the grid. The opening stage saw him hurting the right rear as the runs went deeper before finishing the first 90 laps in 26th. During the first run of stage two, Elliott told crew chief Alan Gustafson that the car was "too tight now" and he "didn't trust it up the hill." The No. 9 group continued to fight for positions and make gains throughout the day. The 16-lap run to close out stage two saw Elliott go from 20th to 16th, with the 2020 Cup Series champion telling the team that the car was "way better."

During the pit stops after stage two, trouble on the right rear led to a long stop, putting Elliott in 29th for the restart. The 28-year-old driver reported having trouble with the car in traffic. Gustafson brought his driver to pit road early on lap 226 as it appeared the team would go with splitting the final stage in thirds. The play worked as Elliott cycled to 12th before dropping a few spots before a yellow coming out with 38 laps to go. Taking the final restart from 14th, the Dawsonville, Georgia, native made a few late gains for position to finish in 12th. 

Kyle Larson started sixth in the No. 5 Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. He immediately entered the top five after one lap. Following green-flag stops, the 2021 Cup Series champion ran third and passed his teammate Byron for second on lap 58. With 12 laps to go in the stage, Larson passed Ty Gibbs for the point position and earned his series-best seventh stage win of the year. In stage two, Larson restarted from the fourth position and maintained a top-six position for much of the segment. He narrowly avoided a big incident off of the lap 129 restart and went on to finish the stage in fifth. 

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A strong restart to kick off the final stage jumped Larson from fifth to third. On lap 236, the driver of the No. 5 got a little too high and into the fence, taking on some right-side damage. There was no caution and with the team in its pit window, crew chief Cliff Daniels brought the two-time winner in 2024 down for service. Larson cycled out to fifth when the set of stops was completed before being passed by Byron for fifth with 43 laps to go. A left-rear tire going down led to Larson spinning and hitting the wall in turn three on lap 254. The damage from the incident was too much to continue and Larson ended the day scored in 34th.

"I got really loose at the end of that long run and William (Byron) caught me," Larson said. "I was just letting him by in (turns) one and two, and I just kind of hung out there. I stayed wide for too long, got hung in the marbles and hit the wall. We had bent the toe link or something, pitted and were struggling pretty bad. A tire shredded and I spun into turn three. Hate that my mistake, cost us a race. Just a little bit frustrated with myself right now. 

"All-in-all, we had a good No. 5 Chevy today. I felt like we were running a really good race up to that point and then just one mistake took us out of it."

Leaving Darlington, Larson leads the points standings by 30 markers over Martin Truex Jr. Elliott is in fourth, Byron gains two positions to sit in fifth and Bowman is ninth. Larson remains the series leader in laps led with 649. Byron and Bowman are tied for the lead in top-10 finishes with eight.

Next up is All-Star Race weekend at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Larson, Elliott and Byron are already locked into the All-Star Race on Sunday, May 19 (8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio—Channel 90). Bowman must race his way in through the All-Star Open on Sunday, May 19 (at 5:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio—Channel 90) and finish in the top-two positions. Larson is the defending winner of that event and Hendrick Motorsports has won the All-Star Race a series-best 11 times. 

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