By HANK KURZ Jr.
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) — William Byron took the pit lane lead after stage two stops and pretty much held it the rest of the way Saturday night at Martinsville Speedway to become the first repeat winner this season in the NASCAR Cup Series .
Byron had to fend off a challenge – and a nudge – from Joey Logano in a two-lap sprint in overtime to finish it, but won for a fourth career win and handed Hendrick Motorsports four wins in eight races that season.
Byron and the seven riders behind him elected to stay out for the final shot.
“I thought everyone behind us would pit and luckily we stayed out,” he said. “We were aggressive; We felt like we could fire at the tires and it would be okay 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 strong one on long runs, which was crucial as there was no booking for anything but that until the 311th of 400 laps of the 0.526 mile oval end of a stage.
That changed when Todd Gilliland had a flat tire and hit the wall with five laps to go. Byron and the top eight cars on track chose not to pit, with Byron choosing the inside lane and Austin Dillon finishing second on the outside.
Logano, third and behind Byron, had a better jump than Dillon at the restart and bumped into Byron on the final lap at Turn 2, but Byron held on to his second win of the weekend. He won Thursday night’s Truck Series.
“Willy messed up something from 4 and let me come to him and he did a really good job braking to third, right, which is a good job,” said Logano. “He did what he was supposed to do and kind of crammed me in behind him and I couldn’t accelerate out of the corner and get as close as I needed to be.”
Logano was second followed by Dillon, Ryan Blaney and Ross Chastain.
Dillon appeared to have a car that was likely to challenge on a long green flag run, beating Logano for second place on a restart with 80 laps to go, but after Byron pulled away, lapped traffic and consistency helped him post one build up a lead of almost 3 seconds.
The start of the race was delayed by more than an hour as rain and some sleet fell on an already cold night. It was launched with radar suggesting more precipitation was coming, maybe even some snow, but nothing materialized.
Everything worked together to provide a clean track and a virtual save.
Pole sitter Chase Elliott led the first 185 laps and won stages one and two for the fifth time in his career but lost the lead at the warning stops after stage two and struggled throughout the night. He turned 10.
Elliott’s 185 laps leading early in the race matched what Darrell Waltrip did at the start of the 1980 race in Martinsville. However, Waltrip continued to win.
After a win at Richmond Raceway and another short stretch where he leads all active drivers with five wins, any hope Denny Hamlin brought to Martinsville was taken bit by bit. He qualified 25th, was lapped by Elliott at the end of stage one, completed laps in the back of the pack and finished 28th.
The rest of the Joe Gibbs Racing stable didn’t fare much better, although Kyle Busch recovered for seventh place. Martin Truex Jr., who had won three of the last five races here, was 22nd and Christopher Bell was 20th.
The top series moves to its third consecutive short stretch, this time on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway next Sunday.
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https://www.mercurynews.com/2022/04/09/martinsville-byron-races-to-nascar-cup-leading-2nd-victory/ Byron races to second NASCAR Cup victory – The Mercury News