William Byron Leads Unprecedented HMS Sweep

Martinsville was totally Unprecedented.  On the 40th Anniversary of Hendrick MotorSports first win, William Byron, with teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott in tow led HMS to a 1-2-3 podium finish.  It was the first time in the track’s 76-year history any team had such a finish. Add to it that HMS’ Larson won the pole and Elliott won the outside pole to lead the field to the green was just icing on the cake.  Larson took the lead on Lap 1 and led every lap in Stage 1. Throw in HMS’ first winner, Geoff Bodine and HMS’ winningest driver, Jeff Gordon giving the command to start the engines, and you just had an HMS ruby-anniversary celebration… Martinsville style.

Add in HMS’ Kyle Larson now sits atop the Regular Season Points Standings and throw in 1500 or so HMS employees into the crowd to help celebrate the unprecedented milestone(s) and you had one for the record books.

 All four HMS car at Martinsville Speedway on April 07, 2024 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

It was a storybook Sunday.  I wished I had a dollar for every time I heard “it couldn’t have been scripted any better”.  It could have been, but Alex Bowman finished 8th instead of 4th.  Maybe he drew the short straw for this race to not totally stink up the show.

Fans came into the race with high hopes.  It was the fourth race with the new Short Track package.  It hadn’t shown much so far.  Maybe Sunday would be different.  Goodyear brought back a tire with more rubber on it with hopes of fall off and rubbering the track in. 

What they did get was the most Green Flag Passes in the GEN 7 era here.  The bulk of the passing was at the back though so fans at home saw little of that.  At the front, the only way any passing took place up there was on restarts, when the leaders relinquished the lead during Green Flag Pit Stops or when differing pit strategies played out.

The tire Goodyear brought did rubber up the track some but also allowed teams bold enough to use two-tire strategies to go to the front and not only stay there but to advance.  Joey Logano two-tired the Stage 1 pit stop to get the lead and held it until 11 laps from the end of Stage 2.  Teammate, Ryan Blaney used it late in the race to gain track position and climb up from his average running position of 12th to finish 5th.

Byron set up his win by pitting early in the final green flag run.  The combination of the timing of his pit stop, a great pit stop and the time made up on fresh tires coupled with Denny Hamlin’s engine mapping issues was enough to secure his place on the point when the remainder of the field pitted or ran out of tires.

Pit miscues and bad strategy calls took a lot of cars out of contention including Hamlin’s Hail Mary stop to try and get four fresh tires for the G-W-C while bringing this behind him into the pits.  No one but on Hamlin’s ploy who saw his P-4 going in result in a P-11 finish.  Oops.

23XI had P4 and P7 finishes with Bubba Wallaceand Tyler Reddick respectively.  Penske’s Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano finished P5 and P6 in Penske’s overshadowed 6000th start.  HMS’ Alex Bowman slid in at P8, while SHR’s Ryan Preece and Chase Briscoe rounded out the Top 10.   

William Byron’s 13th career win makes him the first three-win winner of the season.  This is the second straight season with three or more wins.  This win places him tied for 59th on All-Time Cup wins with Tim Richmond and Dick Rathman.  Martinsville was his 11th GEN 7 win, increasing his lead as the winningest GEN 7 driver.   If there was a downer to Byron’s unprecedented day it was that he was outpointed in the race by Larson, Elliott and Bubba Wallace, who came away with the most points for the race.

I guess all in all, it was congratulations to William Byron for his third win of the season and HMS for their historic accomplishment on this 40thanniversary.  That’s for the better.  We can talk about that all this week.  I think the “jumping the restart’ hide has about been beaten off the dead horse known as Richmond… at least for now.  Denny Hamlin and Marcus Smith seemed to have at least called a truce in their latest snarky “X” dust up.  Maybe the positive dialogue will provide some welcome relief.

Race Breakdown

Here is a statistical breakdown of the passing and lead changes we saw at Martinsville:

Total Lead Changes-13 among 8 Leaders.  William Byron lead 2 times for a race high 88 Laps.

Green Flag Lead Changes (P1) 11

– Leader Pit – 7

– Start/Restart – 2

– Racing Lead Changes – 2 

Denny Hamlin – 1

William Byron – 1

Quality Passes less P1 (P2-P15) – 523

Non-QP Passes (P16-P37) – 1595

Overall Passes – 25% of the 2129 Green Flag Passes took place in the front 41% of the field, so passing was concentrated in the back of the field (P16+) 

Total Green Flag Passes – 2129 for 5.8/Green Flag Lap. This is the most Green Flag Passes in the GEN 7 era and the most since 2015, which had 2688.

Margin of Victory – Byron’s 0.554 second win over Kyle Larson 

Winning Pass- Byron’s winning pass came on Lap 414 when he retook the lead from Chase Elliott on the final Green-White Checker restart.

Winning Run-Byron led the final 2 laps (Green-White-Checkers) of the race.   

Most Green Flag Passes – 80 Ty Gibbs 

Most Quality Passes– 40 Denny Hamlin

Biggest Gainer – 17 William Byron (18/1)

Biggest Loser – -18 Josh Berry (7/25)

Racing Lead Changes (after eight races)

Denny Hamlin and William Byron made the only Racing Lead Changes for the race.  Both passes were not direct overtakes, but a result of the leader being on a different tire strategy creating the passing opportunity.  On Lap 170, Hamlin was finally able to get around leader Joey Logano who was out front after a two-tire stop 83 laps earlier.  Logano’s tires were finally giving out which allowed Hamlin to pass.  On Lap 327 Byron finally got by Daniel Suarez who did not stop and take tires during green flag pit stops.  Suarez was hoping to flip position by staying out, waiting for a caution that never came.  Once he made that decision, he was stuck and Byron was able to overtake him and his worn tires.  This meant that for the 417 laps there was only two passes for the lead unless the leader pitted or the field was bunched on a restart and without the tire strategy no one passed anyone for the lead.  But in the stats book and for this exercise, Martinsville will go down in the books with 2 RLCs.  

With his pass, Hamlin now moves to the top of the RLC Leader Board with an even dozen RLCs.  Byron now finds himself tied with Austin Cindric with 3 RLC.  There were no new drivers to enter the RLC Race

Here is the overall breakdown up to this point:

12 – Denny Hamlin (+1)

11 – Kyle Busch,

10 – Kyle Larson

 9 – Ryan Blaney 

 7 – Martin Truex, Jr. 

 6 – Joey Logano, Ty Gibbs 

 4 – Michael McDowell, Todd Gilliland

 3 – Austin Cindric, William Byron (+1)

 2 – Tyler Reddick, Daniel Suarez, Chase Elliott

 1 – Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain, Brad Keselowski, Corey LaJoie, Chris Buescher, AJ Allmendinger, Bubba Wallace 

21 different drivers have made a total of 88 Racing Lead Changes in the first eight races of the season.

Martinsville 2 RCLs over the 349 Racing Laps (Total Laps – Caution Flag Laps – Start/Restart Laps), is tied with COTA for the second fewest RLC’s for a race this season.  The highest is still Atlanta with 30.

Final Thoughts

Again, congratulations to William Byron and the entire HMS organization.  It was quite and exclamation point on the legacy of a team that forty years ago had to win to keep its doors open to become the sport juggernaut that it has today.

Sadly, the Short Track package has shown few observable positives and stats are making it hard to back up any claims of improvements.  HMS’ unprecedented accomplishments coupled with a non-Short Track Texas next up will probably avert discussion away from it and the tires.  That should keep NASCAR happy and distract fans for a while.  But the most RLCs produced by this package in the four races so far is 3.  The total for the four races is 8.  That is hardly the improvement in competition that the sport needs at this point. 

I’m still puzzled over Race Control.  They took 15 laps for Stage Cautions that required no cleanups vet only need six laps for cautions for incidents that did involve cleanups.  Probably had something to do with a deeper dive or collaboration with the broadcast partners or something such as that.  Seems pretty wasteful though.

Another race means another week of FOX catching grief on their broadcast.  That discussion has been pretty interesting and the eeek is still young

The rough start for Ford continues as they have still have not found Victory Lane in any of the Top Three series.  It was good to see Logano on the point for as many laps as he was able to run.  Ryan Blaney cobbled together a Top 5 finish, but both resorted on tire strategy to get these results.  SHR had half their team claw into the Top 10, but RFK and Front Row Motorsports just didn’t make their desired mark at the historic half-mile. The Dark Horse needs to find some light and find it soon.  Maybe Texas.

RCR struggles continue.  There is something wrong seeing Kyle Busch again being a non-factor and flirting at the Points Cut-Off line and the only time Austin Dillon was on screen was fighting to keep from going other lap down.  That team has been in a constant state of change of late but finds improvement elusive.  It’s only eight races into the season and not a time to panic.  One win changes a teams trajectory, but with each passing, stumbling, bumbling week a win seems less likely.  Maybe Texas.

SHR was half and half this week.  Two cars, Ryan Preece and Chase Briscoe finished in the Top 10 while Josh Berry and Noah Gragson struggled.  Josh did have a really nice gold paint scheme this week for Mobil 1’s 50th Anniversary celebration.  It looked pretty neat but unfortunately didn’t get the coverage the 40th Anniversary HMS cars received. 

More photos on TobyChristie.Com

JGR has been dominant on short tracks this season but except for Denny Hamlin they left their magic wand back at the shop.  Denny was the main threat as he led laps, won Stage 2, made the most Quality Passes and was the closest to messing up the HMS party until swinging for the fence at the end of the race.  Ty Gibbs made the most Green Flag Passes but you’d never know it.  Christopher Bell’s main air time was spinning, dealing with tire/wheel issues or some other malady.  Martin Truex, Jr. looked like he was back at Richmond looking for the Restart Line. Considering their past success here. to say it wasn’t their day is an understatement,  Toyota fans need to hope they have things sorted out before the fall return or making the finale might be a challenge.

Trackhouse is showing positives throughout their brand but lagging in their Cup program.  Ross Chastain needed a late race Lucky Dog and a two tire stop to finish on the lead lap. Daniel Suarez used contrarian pit strategy to stay out, lead some laps and try to flip his position, only to see it backfire and finish in the 20’s. Daniel has the Atlanta win but is 17th in points.  Last season Ross was atop of the points by now and racking up Stage Points, race after race. 2024 bears little resemblance to 2023 at this point.  Maybe Texas is the turnaround.

Kevin Harvick leads the field at Texas Motor Speedway. Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk / Getty Images

GEN 7’s have raced better on the intermediates and after a series of struggles on the Short Tracks, Texas couldn’t have come at a better time.

Hopefully, it won’t disappoint.

Thunder On… and Stay Safe!

David Nance

Photo Credit (cover):  Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images


  1. Since leaving modern fandom in 2016, I’ll occasionally read something about the current product (and yes it is a product now) to check on the few names that are still recognizeable. Seeing yet another “Hendrick Cup With Special Guests Chopped Liver” feature brought more relief to be a former fan. I’m sure they didn’t miss a chance to reference the plane crash too.

  2. Welcome back Tim.

    FOX pretty much covered all the significant parts of HMS history.

    Who was your driver in 2016?

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