the newYou can now listen to Fox News articles!
William Byron knew he was up for a huge challenge as he was about to start a two-time overtime race, the very aggressive Joey Lugano right behind him.
He also felt he had a very cool co-pilot in his corner.
“This is for my mom,” Byron said. “The same weekend last year, she had some kind of mini-stroke and was diagnosed with brain cancer. It means being here a lot and it’s been a crazy year. But it’s working great. It kind of felt like she was riding there with me.”
Byron took the lead on the pit road after the Stage 2 pit stop and held it pretty much the rest of the way at Martinsville Speedway—he drove 212 laps—to become the first repeat winner of the season in the NASCAR Cup Series on Saturday night.
Byron needed a challenge – and a poke – from Lugano in an extra two-lap race to finish, but he won for the fourth time in his career and has given Hendrik Motorsports four wins in eight races this season.
When the final alert came, second only for a nightly problem on the track, with five laps remaining, Byron and the seven drivers behind him chose to stay out of the finish dash.
“I thought everyone behind us was going to dig, and luckily we stayed outside,” he said. “We were aggressive; we felt we could judge the tires and be fine, and you have one of the most aggressive players behind you at Lugano.”
Byron had a fast car that allowed him to pull off on restart and a strong car for the long run, which is crucial because there was no warning for anything but the end of the stage until 311 of 400 laps on the 0.526 mile oval.
That changed when Todd Gilliland had a flat tire and hit a wall five laps. Byron and the top eight cars on the track chose not to bore, with Byron choosing the inside lane and Austin Dillon, second, on the outside.
That gave Lugano a prime opportunity to get the leader off the road, especially when Dillon tweaked his tires in the restart. Lugano hit Byron in Turn Two on the last lap, but Byron held onto his second win of the weekend. He won the Truck Series Thursday night, winning a pair of unique Grandfather Clock Cups at the racetrack for three days of hard racing.
“Willy kind of messes around from 4 and let me get to him, and he did a really good job checking the brakes to third, right, which is good work,” said Lugano. “He did what he was supposed to do, and he kind of got me crammed behind him and I couldn’t accelerate out of the corner and be as close as I wanted to.”
Lugano came second, followed by Dillon, Ryan Blaney and Ross Chastain.
Dillon seemed to have a car likely to challenge in a long green-flag race, beating Lugano for a second time in the restart 80 laps ago, but after Byron pulled out, traffic congestion and consistency helped him take the lead in nearly three seconds.
The start of the race was delayed for more than an hour when rain and sleet fell on an already cold night. It got to work with the radar indicating that more rain was coming, maybe even some snow, but nothing came of it.
It all conspired to provide a clean path and default path for a single file.
Seated Chase Elliott led the first 185 laps, winning stages one and two for the fifth time in his career, but lost the lead in the cautionary stops that followed stage two and got into trouble as the night went on. He finished tenth place.
Elliott’s 185 laps started the race on par with what Daryl Waltrip did at the start of the 1980 race in Martinsville. However, Waltrip went on to win.
CLICK HERE FOR FOX NEWS APPLICATION
JGR . struggle
Having rolled off the track at Richmond Raceway and onto another short track where he leads all active drivers with five wins, any hope that Denny Hamlin had brought to Martinsville was robbed little by little. He qualified for 25th, and Elliott entered him at the end of Stage 1 and made the rounds at the back of the field and finished 28th.
The rest of the Joe Gibbs Racing team fared no better, despite Kyle Busch finishing seventh. Martin Truex Jr, who has won three of the last five races here, finished 22nd and Christopher Bell was 20th.
The first series moves on to its third short track in a row, this time on dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway next Sunday.