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William Byron Wins at Martinsville, Hendrick Sweeps Podium

William Byron

William Byron drove from 18th to victory in Sunday’s Cook Out 400 at Martinsville. (Photo: Wayne Riegle | The Podium Finish)

RIDGEWAY, Va. — William Byron and his No. 24 team continue to add to an incredible start to their 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season efforts.

Despite starting 18th in Sunday’s Cook Out 400 at Martinsville Speedway, there was an air of quiet but genuine confidence from the 26-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina, native. After Byron and the Hendrick Motorsports organization struggled in the first race of the new short track and road course package introduced at Phoenix Raceway last month, the 14-time Cup championship winning team went to work.

“We just race with what we have and try to do the best job with it,” Byron said before the first on-track sessions at Martinsville. “I feel that the short track package to start out this year was an adjustment for us. It was a lot different at Phoenix. And so we we just had to adjust our setup and accommodate for that.

“But I feel like last weekend, we started getting back solid, good speed from everyone at Hendrick Motorsports. So I feel like we’re back in the realm we need to be. So we just got to keep building.”

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson led the opening laps of Sunday’s Cook Out 400 at Martinsville and won Stage 1. (Photo: Wayne Riegle | The Podium Finish)

All across the board, the Hendrick quartet of Byron, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman had fast Chevrolet Camaro ZL1s for the seventh race of the year. Once Larson led the way in Stage 1, he remained in the lead, winning the Playoff point but just barely ahead of Bubba Wallace, Elliott, Chase Briscoe and Martin Truex Jr.

Meanwhile, lurking in the distance was Byron, placing eighth and netting three stage points. On a day when passing was difficult and track position came at a premium, Byron truly had a rocketship at the 0.526-mile short track.

While Byron remained in eighth position in Stage 2, the Toyotas flexed their muscles with Denny Hamlin, the Bristol and Richmond race winner, claiming the valuable Playoff point ahead of Wallace and Larson.

Although Byron placed eighth, it became clear to his No. 24 Axalta Ruby Red Chevrolet team, led by crew chief Rudy Fugle, that they had a good, adjustable car. When it came down to the real, hard work in Stage 3, Byron, Fugle and the No. 24 team were absolutely focused.

With Byron working his way up the leaderboard, Elliott and Hamlin waged in their own wars for the lead between Laps 253 to 298 just as pit stop cycles ensued. Timing was everything for the final stops of the day as Byron opted to pit on Lap 297, taking advantage of fresh tires ahead of those pitting later into the final stage.

The fresh tires proved optimal for Byron, Elliott and Larson as they drove past Hamlin and anchored into the podium spots for the final 86 laps. Not even a Lap 398 caution for John Hunter Nemechek’s Turn 3 accident would derail such a prospect for Hendrick Motorsports, even with Jeff Gordon in disbelief from Larson’s pit box.

Even with Elliott briefly taking the lead on Lap 413, Byron had the winning mount for this Sunday tussle, muscling his teammate for the lead and victory. Byron bested Larson, who passed Elliott on the final lap, by 0.55 seconds.

Last October, Byron gave it all he had to fight for a Championship 4 spot with a 13th place finish. On Sunday afternoon, the fruits of his hard work in the gym and mental preparation paid off alongside his No. 24 team’s efficient work.

Wiliam Byron

There was no stopping William Byron and his No. 24 Axalta Ruby Red Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in Sunday’s Cook Out 400 at Martinsville. (Photo: Wayne Riegle | The Podium Finish)

“Yeah, it’s awesome and it’s way bigger than me,” Byron said. “There are so many men and women that this is a tribute to with all the hard work in the shop. It’s just a really good environment to work in. They have built something so special over the years, and I am thankful to be a part of it and drive the No. 24. It’s pretty special.”

Considering the battle scars adorning Byron’s No. 24 ride, the 2024 DAYTONA 500 champion considered the hard work to even get in a position to win for a third time this season.

“It wasn’t pretty. The first stage, we were pretty good, coming from the back and getting up to eighth or ninth,” he recalled. “And then we stalled out. We had a couple of pit stops not go our way and then we got too tight.

“We just had to keep working on that and we eventually got this No. 24 Axalta Chevy where it needed to be; get it turning and doing what it needed to do. Just really proud of the team.”

As for Larson, who scored a runner-up result, the defending Cook Out 400 winner, he acknowledged how Byron’s No. 24 team were methodical in timing their final pit stop of the afternoon, the difference maker of the race.

“Yeah, it pretty alright I guess,” Larson said. “We had great track position from qualifying, so I was able to maintain that all race and get that Stage 1 win, which was great. We kind of just lost a few spots there in Stage 2 and was never really able to overcome that small track position loss.

“But William, he did a really good job. He was able to pass cars and they pitted a lap before we did during the green-flag cycle. I really thought that helped him carve his way to the lead because his tires were just ready before ours were. He did a good job; kind of schooled us all and deserved to win. So that was really cool to see him win.”

Although Elliott’s winless streak continues to 42 races, the Dawsonville, Georgia, native had a strong performance with pure pace and grit prevalent with the 2020 Cup champion.

“Obviously number one, congrats to William and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports,” Elliott said. “Rick and Linda, Jeff (Gordon), Jeff (Andrews), Chad (Knaus) and all the people that put this together for us. They have an unbelievable program and I think we are all proud to call home.

“It was awesome hosting over 1,000 people from Hendrick today; employees and their families. Glad one of us could get it done. Obviously wish we could have got it done, selfishly, like anybody would.”

William Byron

For the second time in William Byron’s Cup career, he is a Martinsville winner, capturing the Cook Out 400 victory on Sunday. (Photo: Wayne Riegle | The Podium Finish)

On a day that the Hendrick organization and family will remember for the next 40 years, Byron gave the most successful stock car team something to smile about even with the brief, tense battle for the win on the Overtime restart.

“I knew the shot was going to come from behind and that is just the way it is here,” Byron said. “I used a little bit more of the racetrack in (Turns) 1 and 2 to make sure I could get clear off of 2 and he gave me a shot over there. We raced pretty clean. He gave me a chance to make the corner and that is all you can ask for.”

Stage 1 Top 10 Results
  1. Kyle Larson
  2. Bubba Wallace
  3. Chase Elliott
  4. Chase Briscoe
  5. Martin Truex Jr.
  6. Joey Logano
  7. Denny HamlinW
  8. illiam Byron
  9. Josh Berry (R)
  10. Kyle Busch
Stage 2 Top 10 Results
  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Bubba Wallace
  3. Kyle Larson
  4. Chase Elliott
  5. Joey Logano
  6. Alex Bowman
  7. Chase Briscoe
  8. William Byron
  9. Ross Chastain
  10. Josh Berry (R)
Cook Out 400 at Martinsville Speedway Race Results
Finish Start Car No. Driver Sponsor/Make Status
1 18 24 William Byron Axalta Ruby Chevrolet Running
2 1 5 Kyle Larson Ruby Chevrolet Running
3 3 9 Chase Elliott UniFirst Ruby Chevrolet Running
4 2 23 Bubba Wallace McDonald’s Toyota Running
5 9 12 Ryan Blaney Advance Auto Parts Ford Running
6 6 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford Running
7 19 45 Tyler Reddick MoneyLion Toyota Running
8 10 48 Alex Bowman Ally Ruby Chevrolet Running
9 22 41 Ryan Preece Ford Running
10 5 14 Chase Briscoe Mahindra Tractors Ford Running
11 8 11 Denny Hamlin Sport Clip Haircuts Toyota Running
12 17 43 Erik Jones Family Dollar Toyota Running
13 16 38 Todd Gilliland Carson-Newman University Ford Running
14 12 1 Ross Chastain Worldwide Express Chevrolet Running
15 30 17 Chris Buescher Ford Running
16 11 8 Kyle Busch Lucas Oil Chevrolet Running
17 25 77 Carson Hocevar (R) Delaware Life Chevrolet Running
18 4 19 Martin Truex Jr. Bass Pro Shops Toyota Running
19 15 54 Ty Gibbs Monster Energy Toyota Running
20 26 10 Noah Gragson Ford Running
21 35 34 Michael McDowell Long John Silver’s Ford Running
22 21 99 Daniel Suárez Freeway Insurance Chevrolet Running
23 14 2 Austin Cindric Menards/Libman Ford Running
24 13 6 Brad Keselowski Body Guard Ford Running
25 7 4 Josh Berry Mobil 1 50th Anniversary Ford Running
26 31 15 Kaz Grala (R) N29 Capital Partners Ford Running
27 33 16 Josh Williams (i) Alloy Employer Services Chevrolet Running
28 36 31 Daniel Hemric Cirkul Chevrolet Running
29 23 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. SUNNYD Chevrolet Running
30 27 51 Justin Haley Ohanafy Ford Running
31 24 71 Zane Smith (R) Focused Health Chevrolet Running
32 32 7 Corey LaJoie Gainbridge Chevrolet Running
33 34 21 Harrison Burton Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Running
34 28 3 Austin Dillon Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Running
35 20 20 Christopher Bell Yahoo! Toyota Running
36 29 42 John Hunter Nemechek Skip Barber Racing School Toyota Accident
37 37 66 David Starr (i) Amptricity Ford Steering

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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