All four HMS drivers finish top 10 at Martinsville for the first time in 11 years
Wednesday night’s Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 marked the first time since March 2009 that all four Hendrick Motorsports cars finished inside the top 10 during a NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville.
No. 9 Chase Elliott led the way for HMS with a fifth-place finish and one lap led. Elliott was one of two HMS drivers to lead laps in Wednesday night’s race and was one of three from HMS to post top 10 finishes in the first two stages.
Elliott finished sixth in stage 1 and eighth in stage 2 before battling for the lead in the final stage, at around lap 365 before falling back to fourth and eventually fifth in the final green-flag run of the race.
Elliott’s fifth-place run was his fifth top 5 finish in 11 races this season, the most top 5s he’s scored at this point in a season during his career.
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson was the other HMS driver to lead Wednesday, with 70 laps led, the most laps that Johnson has led in a single Cup race since the April 2017 Bristol race. Johnson also won stage 2 for his first stage win since the June 2017 Sonoma race.
After stage 2, Johnson restarted in the lead on lap 271 but fell back to third, where he would remain until a lap 333 restart knocked him back to seventh. In the final 97-lap green-flag run, Johnson fell back to tenth, which is where he would finish after a spirited battle with no. 43 Bubba Wallace.
Johnson’s top 10 finish was his first Martinsville top 10 since he won the October 2016 race and his first time leading laps at Martinsville since the October 2017 race. Johnson’s sixth top 10 in 11 races so far this season equals the number of top 10s he had after 11 races in his championship-winning 2016 season.
No. 88 Alex Bowman and no. 24 William Byron each faced struggles of their own en route to their top 10 finishes Wednesday night.
Bowman was a lap down for much for stage 1 before rallying to a fourth-place finish in stage 2 and a sixth-place finish in the race.
Meanwhile, Byron finished seventh in stage 1 and tenth in stage 2 but had a penalty for an uncontrolled tire under the stage 2 caution.
Byron came back in the final stage to finish eighth to solidify all four HMS cars finished in the top 10 at Martinsville for the first time in 11 years.
The last time all four HMS cars finished in the top 10 at a Martinsville Cup race, in March 2009, Jimmie Johnson won, while Jeff Gordon finished fourth, Mark Martin finished seventh and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished eighth.
After Martinsville, Elliott is third in Cup Series points (-47 behind no. 4 Kevin Harvick), with Bowman in seventh (-100 behind Harvick), Johnson in 11th (+53 ahead of 17th place no. 3 Austin Dillon) and Byron in 16th (+6 ahead of Dillon).
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