A look at the next winners and losers Saturday Night Race at Martinsville Speedway …
William Byron: Sure, the pass was tough during the 403-lap race, but don’t confuse that as an undeserved win for Byron. The 24-year-old is now in his fifth season in the Cup and has adapted quickly to the next generation car – and better than most. Byron ranks third in running average in the series with eight races (10.425) just behind Ryan Blaney And Chase Elliot He has now racked up two victories this year, the first time he has won so many races in one season. Despite his young age, he quickly challenges Byron as the leader in Hendrick Motorsports’ already stacked lineup.
Joey Logano: Lugano finished second in Martinsville and is still chasing his first points-paying win of the season, but there may have been a benefit from his success at Clash at the Coliseum in February. On a quarter-mile track built inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Lugano sprinted to victory in the exhibition race. The shape and size of the track differs from Martinsville’s, but the shorter tracks offer learning opportunities nonetheless, and the #22 Ford scored the third best running position of the night and fifth fastest lap, according to NASCAR loop data.
Austin Dillon: Dillon has already made a few great races this season and added another Saturday night, finishing third in Martinsville. The No. 3 Chevrolet was second and reeling in Byron as the race progressed longer, but Dillon rolled his tires in the restart overtime after choosing to restart behind Byron. Saturday marks Dillon’s second place in this year’s top five and third in a row for the top 10.
Ross Chastain: Chastain was out of the picture for most of the race in Martinsville, averaging 14.5 runs all night. But the No. 1 Chevrolet was in the mix when it mattered most, finishing fifth and finishing fifth in the last six races. Chastain and his crew took a step back in Richmond as they finished 19th, but Saturday night shows that was likely a long way off.
Chase Elliot: Elliott was flawless throughout the opening two stages, leading each of the first 185 laps and recording all stage wins, but the 2020 series champion couldn’t overcome just one position loss on a pit road. With the passing difficult, Elliott never recovered from losing the lead to Byron during the stage 2 break and finished 10th. With his own stage points and remarkable consistency, Elliot leaves Martinsville a points lead and fifth in the top 10. The only team’s ninth place outside the top 15 is 26, which was the result of the Auto Club’s late friction with a teammate Kyle Larson.
Denny Hamlin: It’s rare to see any Joe Gibbs Racing car struggle as hard as Toyota’s #11 in Hamlin all weekend. Hamlin, a five-time winner in the clamp oval, never showed any solid speed in practice before qualifying for 25th. The race couldn’t have been better, entering early and never recovering on his way to 28th, three laps. Richmond seemed a positive sign. Hamlin also went to the victory lane for the first time in his first 10 places this year. But the struggles returned in an ugly way on Saturday night.
Martin Truex Jr.: Truex has won three of the five previous Martinsville events. But the #19 car was parked all night, averaging 18.64 running positions before finishing 22nd, twice down. Truex, along with Daniel Suareza four-point drop, dropping Truex to seventh after an impressive race in Richmond one week ago, which saw him lead 80 laps and win a stage.
Cole Custer: Custer qualified for third and proved early on that it wasn’t a fluke as #41 Ford ran inside the top five for the entirety of the first two stages. But one pit road penalty derailed the Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s day. After a pit stop at the conclusion of Stage 2, Custer was penalized for a tire violation, sending him to the back of the field for a restart. Custer was unable to recover and finished 21st, one lap down.
Kyle Larson: Larson never excels in Martinsville, but Saturday proved to be another tough ride for the series champion. Larson’s running center averaged 13.03 but eventually finished 19th, and the result was certainly affected by the speed penalty on a lap 303 pit road under green flag conditions. Larson finished 19th or worse in five of the season’s eight opening races. His other three results were all from his top five, including his win at the Automobile Club.
Christopher Bell: Bale showed solid speed throughout Saturday’s race and fought inside the top five for most of the night. But a team 20 pass penalty was issued to his crew members who jumped over the wall too early on the pit path. Despite an average running position of 9.57, Bell finished in 20th place, the first one car down.
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