Sunday July 14th, 2024 9:29PM

Byron leads Hendrick Motorsports to 1-2-3 finish at Martinsville

By By Hank Kurz Jr. AP Sports Writer

William Byron took the lead with 73 laps to go and held onto it during a two-lap overtime finish Sunday to enhance Hendrick Motorsports' celebration of its 40-year anniversary of its first victory in racing with a victory in the NASCAR Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway.

Byron, the first of the contenders to pit under a green flag with 104 laps to go, moved to the front 31 laps later and was never threatened after getting the jump at the start of overtime. It was his third win this season, and his second on the 0.526-mile, paper-clip shaped oval.

He stayed on the track when John Hunter Nemechek crashed in turn three with three laps to go and then held off teammates Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson after the final green flag. It marked the first 1-2-3 finish for any team in Martinsville's long history hosting stock car races.

Larson rallied to finish second, Elliott third, Bubba Wallace fourth and Ryan Blaney fifth.

The race featured long green flag runs, with two of the five cautions pre-planned at the end of stages one and two. There were 13 lead changes among eight drivers.

The victory was the 305th for Hendrick teams and its 29th at NASCAR's smallest, oldest track, a record for an organization at any venue.

Geoff Bodine had the first one win at Martinsville on April 29, 1984. It convinced team owner Rick Hendrick not to fold his fledgling. struggling team.

All four Hendrick cars featured ruby red paint schemes, marking the anniversary.

The Hendrick organization hosted more than 1,000 current and former employees for the race, but the owner was not able to attend, having recently undergone knee replacement surgery.

Larson, the defending race winner and pole-sitter, led all 80 laps in the first stage. Joey Logano gambled by taking right side tires only during pit stops after the stage and led the first 83 laps of green-flag racing in the second stage before Denny Hamlin passed him to win the stage.

Christopher Bell, who began the race sixth in points and already with a victory, went three laps down early, gained one back after stage two stops, then spun out early in the final stage, bringing out the fourth caution. He finished 35th out of 37 drivers, four laps down.

The series move across the country to Texas Motor Speedway, where the drivers hope the repaved track will have cured some to allow for more passing since the repave.

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