Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud at Martinsville: Hendrick Motorsports Had the Win From the Start

What Happened?

A Hendrick homecoming held true when William Byron held off his teammates to take the checkered flag in a special race at a special track for Hendrick Motorsports. While Byron earned the win, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott secured the Hendrick 1-2-3, the first time an organization has ever swept the podium in Martinsville Speedway’s 76-year history.

Byron already has three triumphs this season, with two victories in the past three races. The second win at Martinsville for Byron, his victory donuts culminated a major celebration of Team Hendrick’s illustrious 40 years of racing.

See also
William Byron Victorious in Overtime, Wins in Martinsville

What Really Happened?

To all the Hendrick haters, I’m sorry. There was no chance that anyone other than a Hendrick Motorsports driver would wind up in victory lane today. 

Everyone knows the significance of Martinsville in the Hendrick history. The site of first triumph, unbearable loss, victorious sendoffs and so much more. Hendrick chose this track to run its four ruby red paint schemes for a reason.

When Rick Hendrick has eyes on a milestone, you might as well hand the trophy over when the green flag drops.

Denny Hamlin, Bubba Wallace and Joey Logano all tried their best at points to break up the quartet, but a Hendrick trio seemed destined for history as the three led the parade in the waning laps.

The nerves of the late caution confirmed a win. Surely Mr. H thought back to the spring of 2012, when Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were destined to duel for win No. 200 at The Paperclip. A late caution destroyed that hope when a third-place Bowyer dive bomb took out the duo.

The message this overtime? Don’t mess this up.

Controlling the top three spots, pitting likely never even crossed the mind of the crew chiefs. A three-car buffer would surely cushion any chaos and deliver a victory to one of the three.

Even Elliott suppressed his desperation to snap his winless streak in a major way, racing his teammate with restraint, seeing ruby instead of red and taking care of Byron on the final lap.

For whatever reason, this driver lineup never fails to deliver milestone victories.

Elliott clutched late in 2020 to win the championship. Alex Bowman triumphed in Hendrick’s top four Dover Motor Speedway sweep in 2021. Larson delivered record-breaking win No. 265 at Charlotte Motor Speedway a few weeks later. 

Now, Byron has become Mr. Milestone, winning No. 300 at Texas Motor Speedway, taking the Daytona 500 to kick off the 40th season and driving the ruby red car into victory lane today.

When a milestone moment hangs in the balance, Hendrick Motorsports never fails to live up to the moment, and defeat was never in the picture today.

See also
Hendrick Motorsports Celebrates 40th Anniversary With Historic 1-2-3 Finish

Who Stood Out?

Enough about Hendrick Motorsports. The top of the running order shows drivers known for their Martinsville skill. The two drivers that stood out the most needed their top-10 runs in the worst way.

A ninth-place finish gives Ryan Preece a glimmer of hope after a miserable start to the season. Last year’s polesitter entered the race 31st in points. Today, he finally shook off the bad luck plaguing him this year, and quietly snuck into the single digits in overtime after pitting for fresh tires. Just behind Preece, Chase Briscoe started inside the top 10 and ran there for the entire day, an overall solid showing.

Todd Gilliland deserves a nod after finishing 13th. He actually ran 10th when the final caution came out, sliding behind cars with newer tires in overtime.

Who Fell Flat?

Short track ace Josh Berry fell flat today after showing serious speed at Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond Raceway. The No. 4 team finished 25th instead, and never really contended inside the top 15.

Until this weekend, Joe Gibbs Racing looked unstoppable at the short tracks. Outside of Hamlin, the other three Toyotas felt flat, especially Christopher Bell. Two of the three cautions for cause flew at Bell’s expense (though one was technically for debris), while Martin Truex Jr. and Ty Gibbs finished 18th and 19th.

Better Than Last Time?

The Martinsville race last spring had to have been one of the worst races at The Paperclip in recent, heck, even in distant memory. This race certainly outperformed the race last spring. However, the short tracks continue to pose a problem.

The Martinsville tire certainly improved from year one of the Next Gen. We saw it lay rubber last fall, and this year it produced decent falloff. Guys finally had to move around, and for the first time in a while, you could see drivers fighting their cars when they went to the throttle.

Still, the tire didn’t wear as much as it could have, and I don’t think it would completely solve the issue. We saw more bumper tag than in past years, but guys looked like they couldn’t finish the pass once they moved their competitor up. Blame the shifting or blame horsepower, but the car still needs a lot of work. 

To say more would be too repetitive. We are seeing improvements, though.

See also
Only Yesterday: Martinsville Speedway & Ricky Craven's Other Cup Win

Paint Scheme of the Race

The ruby red glistened beautifully under the Virginia sun, but Larson’s special scheme wins best of the bunch. It looks like a more natural inverse of his primary car, something I appreciated about his scheme specifically. 

Elliott’s helmet had a nice design as well.

Outside of the Hendrick stable, Berry’s gold scheme celebrating the Mobil 1 50th anniversary was plain but beautiful.

What’s Next?

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Texas, this time for oval racing at Texas Motor Speedway. The AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400 begins Sunday, April 14 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FS1.

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11 Comments
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Bill B

The racing still isn’t what it should be at Martinsville. Yes it was better than last year, but not by much.

Steve

How can you tell? The television product they presented showed everything but the race.

Watching the leader circle the track for 35 laps while we hear about the history of Hendrick (complete with a full screen graphic and half screen interview of Hendrick employees) all during green flag racing, and another history lesson about the grandfather clock (complete with a half screen graphic) during green flag racing, doesn’t really give a good indication as to how good the racing was.

My guess is there were some good battles going on but Fox’s narrative was pretty clear if you were paying attention at all, race be damned.

Its embarrassing how epically bad the tv product is now. Xfinity is even worse. I could add another full comment on how epically bad that was this weekend.

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve
janice

i turned it off…..it was difficult to watch. of course i remember how the racing use to be. i grew tired of the hendrick lovefest (as i always do, especially at martinsville from the plane crash rememberances). i did find it interesting since johnson has jumped ship and joined toyota that he wasn’t in the 40th anniversary stuff. and where was jr? oh yeah that’s right he worked for nbc. he’s off doing whatever now. they often fail to mention tim richmond.

Bill W.

After 50 laps it was clear a Hendrick car was going to win,but just which one.

Joe M.

of course, it was clear… yesterday was the Hendricks Motorsports benefit gala

janice

I’m really surprised team orders did get called and elliott ended up winning.

janice

I’m really surprised team orders didn’t go out to let elliott win to snap his winless streak.

Kevin in SoCal

I’m still saying only 400 laps is a travesty. Martinsville (and Bristol) should always be 500 laps.
And if the short-track at Fontana ever happens, that should be 500 laps too.

DoninAjax

I’m sure NA$CAR reduced the price of the tickets along with the distance. I thought the short track at Fontana was dead?

Kevin in SoCal

Keeps going back and forth, hence why I said “if” :)

wildcatsfan2016

Martinsville was always one of our favorite tracks. We went to both the spring & fall races for many years. The racing is VERY different from what it was before Brian’s big ideas and the ugly car came into fruition. I don’t enjoy watching the races via TV. Honestly the track is small enough that TV could show the entire track but they don’t.

I was happy to see HMS get the win yesterday. We were at the track the day the plane crashed and it was a pretty awful moment when we heard about it at the end of the race. Yes I’d prefer that tv didn’t dwell on it but they just love this stuff. I smile realizing that Johnson isn’t part of this. Hey I get it, he moved on. Good for him, but I don’t miss him being there either.

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