RICHMOND, Va. – William Byron led the way for Hendrick Motorsports at Richmond Raceway and was five laps away from nabbing his second NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season.
However, the hard-charging Denny Hamlin was on a different strategy with fresher tires and they were too much to contain in the closing laps as he was able to get by for the lead and win.
Byron scored one of two top fives on the day for Hendrick Motorsports as his No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 finished third, while Kyle Larson piloted the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to a fifth-place finish. Byron's 122 laps led are his most ever in a Cup Series race.
"It's nice to have a run like we had today," Byron said following his personal-best third-place finish at Richmond.
Alex Bowman grabbed an eighth-place result in his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for his third straight top 10 on the season. All in all, this was the first time since September of 2015 that Hendrick Motorsports placed three cars in the top 10 at Richmond. The Richmond results leave Hendrick Motorsports three away from 2,000 top 10s in the history of the organization.
Recap the day below for all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers at the .75-mile track in the seventh race of the 2022 season.
William Byron, No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 3rd
Stage one: Byron started second but lost the spot to Kyle Busch on lap 20 before taking it back on lap 24. From there, he maintained second to Ryan Blaney in the opening 70-lap stage at Richmond and grabbed nine stage points.
Stage two: Trouble removing the right rear wheel led Byron to lose six spots on the pit stop following stage one and that dropped him to eighth for the lap 81 restart. Byron pitted from ninth on lap 126 as part of the first group of cars to come to pit road under green in the stage and came back down on lap 179 as the No. 24 team elected to go with two stops during the stage. Byron would finish the stage in 13th.
Final stage: Byron restarted 13th on lap 241 and was scored in 15th when the lap 246 caution came. He was the lone Hendrick Motorsports driver to pit under that yellow flag. He restarted 16th on lap 253 and another quick caution right after that led crew chief Rudy Fugle to call for Byron stay out and he assumed the lead on lap 260. This marked his first laps led at Richmond in his Cup Series career. The Atlanta Motor Speedway winner held the lead until pitting under green on lap 311. He cycled back to the lead on lap 325 in front of Hamlin. Byron held it until lap 396 when Hamlin came by on fresher tires to take the lead away with five laps to go. Byron would finish third for his third top-five finish of the season.
What he said: "Thought we probably did the best job we could. It didn't quite work out. I thought there at the end they told me I was just racing the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.). I’m like ok I got him, but then the 4 (Kevin Harvick) and the 11 (Hamlin) were on a totally different planet. That’s just part of it."
Kyle Larson, No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 5th
Stage one: Larson started 21st and came down pit road for an early stop following a lap nine caution for Kurt Busch and restarted 32nd on lap 16. He used fresh rubber to get into the top 15 on lap 48 and 15th was where he would finish the stage.
Stage two: Larson was 13th on the lap 81 restart. The reigning champion’s team elected to utilize the two-stop strategy in the 160-lap stage as he came down pit road on lap 130 and lap 178 for four tires and fuel. He had cracked the top 10 on lap 156 and got back there on lap 197 following his second stop of the stage. Larson finished ninth in the stage to collect two stage points.
Final stage: Larson restarted ninth on lap 241 and had slipped to 10th when the caution came on lap 246. Following a second caution within the first 30 laps on the stage, Larson pitted from 12th and restarted there on lap 264. He got back into the top 10 on lap 275. Larson pitted from fourth on lap 322 and rejoined the top 10 on lap 338. Larson got into the top five at lap 353. The fresher tires of Hamlin and Harvick passed Larson in the closing laps but he was able to grab a top-five finish – his third of the season.
What he said: "Glad we got a top five after three bad finishes in a row. We will move on to Martinsville and try to get a good run there."
Alex Bowman, No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 8th
Stage one: Bowman started 28th and cracked the top 15 on lap 41. The No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 showed long run speed in the opening stage and ultimately finished the stage 14th, right in front of his teammate Larson.
Stage two: Bowman was penalized for pitting outside the box during the round of pit stops after stage one and that saw him sent to the rear where he restarted 28th. He methodically worked into the top 20 on lap 125 before pitting under green on lap 130. He then cracked the top 15 on lap 160 before completing his end of the two-stop strategy on lap 179. Bowman finished the stage in 11th – a nice rebound from his beginning of stage pit-road penalty.
Final stage: Bowman restarted 11th on lap 241 and was running 12th at the time of lap 246 caution. A strong restart on lap 253 got the defending race winner into the top 10. He pitted from 10th following a second caution coming within the first 30 laps of the stage. Bowman restarted 14th on lap 264. The 48 team elected to run long and were the last of the lead lap cars to pit when they hit pit road from third on lap 327. He cracked the top 10 on lap 358 and was able to grab an eighth-place finish on the day for his third straight top 10 of the season.
Chase Elliott, No. 9 A SHOC Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 14th
Stage one: Elliott started 15th and was into the top 10 on lap 37. The No. 9 A SHOC Chevrolet Camaro’s long run speed paid dividends as he surged up to sixth by the end of the stage. That netted him five stage points. He did have a close call with some slight contact with Chase Briscoe midway through the stage.
Stage two: Elliott gained three spots on pit road during the stop after stage one and that put him in third for the lap 81 restart. After some trouble on that restart, he maintained a spot in the top five. He then pitted from second on lap 132 for four tires and fuel as part of a two-stop strategy in the stage. He worked back into the top five at lap 158. Elliott passed Kyle Busch for fourth on lap 171 before pitting on lap 176. After that round of pit stops, Elliott settled into sixth for the stage to collect another five stage points.
Final stage: Elliott restarted seventh on lap 241 and was scored there on the lap 246 caution. Following a second caution within the first 30 laps on the stage, he pitted from eighth and would restart ninth on lap 264. That restart saw the Georgia native slip to 18th by lap 272 as the handling changed at the outset of the final stage. He pitted from 18th under green on lap 308. That pit stop helped Elliott got back into the top 10 on lap 328. The No. 9 team went with another pit stop on lap 353 as they pitted from 10th. The driver of the No. 9 A SHOC Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 would finish the race in 14th. He is now tied with Blaney for the points lead in the Cup Series.
Hendrick Motorsports will be back in action next weekend at Martinsville Speedway for the eighth race of the NASCAR Cup Series season. Practice and qualifying will be on Friday (starting at 4:30 p.m. ET, FS1) with the 400-lap race being held on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1) at the .526-mile track.