NASCAR Cup Series Recap: Martinsville
Saturday night saw a Martinsville race much different than the norm for the half-mile paperclip in Virginia.
However, in the end, there was still an iconic grandfather clock trophy to be given out. That trophy went to Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, who held off Joey Logano and Austin Dillon on an overtime restart to score his first Cup Series win at the historic short track.
The victory was Byron’s fourth of his Cup career, and it marks the first time that he has scored multiple wins in the same season. Byron became the first repeat winner of the 2022 campaign through the first eight races.
Byron had plenty of momentum entering Saturday night’s Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 after winning Thursday night’s Camping World Truck Series event at the speedway. However, it didn’t always look as if he would have a clear path to make it two wins on the weekend.
Byron’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott won the pole during Friday’s qualifying session and would lead the entirety of the first 80-lap stage, being largely unchallenged throughout.
The biggest story of the opening stage was the struggles of last week’s winner and five-time Martinsville winner Denny Hamlin, who struggled with handling all night long and went a lap down just before the stage ended.
Hamlin would try a bump-and-run on Michael McDowell for the free pass position coming to the stage end, but couldn’t execute the move and would miss out on getting his lap back. Hamlin wouldn’t get back on the lead lap for the rest of the evening.
Stage two saw another dominant performance from Elliott, although this time with pressure from Byron. Still, Elliott won the stage and led the first 185 laps of the race before a crucial turning point in the event.
Byron beat Elliott off of pit road as pit stops took place at the end of the stage, and that put him in position to control much of the remainder of the race.
On an atypical Martinsville evening, when cautions were almost non-existent and dirty air – a concept rarely talked about during short track races – was an issue, Byron would continue to dominate through a sequence of green-flag pit stops, yet another rarity for Martinsville.
However, the race’s first caution for cause would wave with under 90 laps to go for Hamlin’s stalled vehicle. This would provide Dillon with a chance to fight Byron for the lead on the restart, but Byron would prevail.
The race seemed to be in hand for the fifth-year Cup Series driver, but a caution for Todd Gilliland’s wall contact with seven laps to go would set up an overtime finish.
Dillon chose to start behind Byron, giving Logano a chance to restart on the outside of the front row. Logano would slot in behind Byron on the restart and tried to get close enough to use the bumper in the final corner, but came just shy of making contact in an attempt to bump his way past.
The win not only gave Byron his second victory of the season, but also moved him within 12 points of the regular-season points lead. Despite fading to finish 10th, Elliott would reclaim the points lead by three markers over Ryan Blaney.
NASCAR’s Cup Series will get down and dirty on Sunday night, with the second running of the Food City Dirt Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway.
Kasey Kreider is a first-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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