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William Byron knew he was in for a tough challenge with a two-lap overtime sprint about to begin and the very aggressive Joey Logano right behind him.
He also felt like he had a pretty remarkable co-pilot in his corner.
“This one’s for my mom,” Byron said. “That same weekend last year she had some sort of mini-stroke and was diagnosed with brain cancer. It means a lot to have her here and it’s been a crazy year. But she’s going very good. I felt like she was rolling in there with me.”
Byron took the lead on pit road after the Stage 2 pit stops and held it pretty much the rest of the way at Martinsville Speedway – he led 212 laps – to become the first repeat winner this season in the NASCAR’s Cup Series Saturday night.
Byron had to fend off a challenge – and a nudge – from Logano on a two-lap overtime sprint to finish it, but won for the fourth time in his career and gave Hendrick Motorsports four wins from eight races this season .
When the final warning, and only the second for an on-track issue of the night, came with five laps to go, Byron and the seven drivers behind him opted to stay out for the final dash.
“I thought everyone behind us would object, and luckily we stayed out,” he said. “We were aggressive, we felt like we could pull the tires and be OK, and you have one of the most aggressive guys behind you in Logano.”
Byron had both a fast car that allowed him to pull away on restarts and a solid car on long runs, critical as there was no warning for anything other than the end of a stage until at 311th of 400 laps on the 0.526 mile oval. .
That changed when Todd Gilliland had a puncture and hit the wall with five laps to go. Byron and the top eight cars on the track elected not to stop, with Byron choosing the inside lane and second-placed Austin Dillon on the outside.
This gave Logano a great opportunity to brush off the leader, especially when Dillon spun his tires on the restart. Logano shoved Byron into Turn 2 on the final lap, but Byron held on for his second win of the weekend. He won the Truck Series on Thursday night, earning him a unique pair of circuit grandfather clock trophies for three days of solid racing.
“Willy kind of screwed up 4 and let me join him, and he did a really good job of checking the brakes in third right, which is a good job,” Logano said. “He did what he was supposed to do and kind of got me stuck behind him and I couldn’t accelerate through the corner and get as close as I needed to.”
Logano finished second, followed by Dillon, Ryan Blaney and Ross Chastain.
Dillon looked like he had a car that could challenge on a long green-flag race and beat Logano for second place on a restart with 80 laps to go, but after Byron pulled away traffic and consistency got him. helped build a nearly three-second lead. .
The start of the race was delayed over an hour when rain and sleet fell on an already freezing night. It started with radar suggesting more precipitation was coming, possibly even snow, but none materialized.
Everything conspired to provide a clean runway and single-file virtual parade.
Pole sitter Chase Elliott led the opening 185 laps, winning Stages 1 and 2 for the fifth time in his career, but lost the lead in the cautionary stops following Stage 2 and struggled along the way. the night. He finished 10th.
The 185 laps led by Elliott to start the race matches what Darrell Waltrip did at the start of the 1980 race at Martinsville. Waltrip, however, won.
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After a win at Richmond Raceway and another short track where he leads all active drivers with five wins, any hope Denny Hamlin brought to Martinsville has been slowly snuffed out. He qualified 25th, was passed by Elliott at the end of Stage 1 and made laps at the back of the field and finished 28th.
The rest of the Joe Gibbs Racing squad didn’t fare much better, although Kyle Busch pulled himself together for seventh place. Martin Truex Jr., who had won three of the last five races here, was 22nd and Christopher Bell 20th.
The top series moves on to its third straight short track, this time on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway next Sunday.