Chevrolet driver William Byron became the NASCAR Cup Series’ first repeat winner of 2022 by capturing the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Saturday.
After seven different drivers notched wins in the first seven races, Byron took the lead from polesitter Chase Elliott after the end of Stage 2 following service on pit road.
Byron, in the No. 24 Chevy, won a green-white-checker restart over Joey Logano and drove away from the No. 22 Ford for his first Martinsville win and fourth career NASCAR Cup Series victory.
“When that last caution came out, I thought everyone behind us would pit,” Byron said. “Luckily, we stayed out and were aggressive. We felt like we could re-fire on the tires and be OK. You’ve got one of the most aggressive guys behind you in Logano.
“I chattered the tires in (Turns) 3 and 4 and left the bottom open but was able to block my exits and get a good drive off.”
Byron, 24, led three times for 212 laps. Elliott led once for 185 laps. Byron’s margin of victory was 0.303 seconds. He also took the checkered flag at Atlanta on March 20.
Logano’s Ford shoved Byron in Turn 1 after the white flag, but Logano couldn’t get close on the final corner and finished second.
Austin Dillon came home third, followed by Ryan Blaney and Ross Chastain.
After last week’s opening short-track event in Richmond, the series returned to Virginia again for a 400-lapper on the flat, paper-clip-shaped speedway, celebrating its 75th anniversary of racing.
Winless through the first seven races but second in points, Elliott led all 80 circuits around the .526-mile speedway in a caution-free Stage 1, then the Hendrick Motorsports driver headed the 36-car field on the next 100 to claim Stage 2 — also without a yellow.
However, after Byron took the lead and Logano passed Elliott, too, Elliott slipped back to fifth with 115 laps to go and was losing distance to Byron. By the time green-flag pit stops had cycled around with 92 laps left, Byron had regained the lead with Logano and Dillon each more than 3.5 seconds in arrears.
The first non-stage-ending caution flew with inside 90 laps remaining. Byron then cruised through traffic around the tiny track after the restart and led second-place Dillon.
However, the fourth caution flag waved when Todd Gilliland’s No. 38 Ford struck the wall inside of 10 laps to go.
Kyle Busch, in ninth at the time, was the first to use the strategy of pitting for fresh tires, but Byron and the other leaders stayed out for track position to set up the overtime conclusion.
Logano said after his best finish of 2022, “Really hard to pass. That final restart there, it’s a front row, it’s what you could ask for. … I hate being that close to winning and not making it happen.
“It just stinks. Second just sucks sometimes, that’s all.”
-Field Level Media