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Ryan Preece, Chase Briscoe, Denny Hamlin, and Ross Chastain all led more laps on Sunday at Martinsville. Kyle Larson led the 30 that mattered most to score the NASCAR Cup Series victory.

Larson has won 21 times in 304 starts, including two of the last three races. The only shocker from his standpoint is that Yung Money was the last of the current Hendrick Motorsports quartet to win at The Paperclip. Chase Elliott finished there in the 2020 playoffs, Alex Bowman matched the feat in the 2021 playoffs, and William Byron triumphed last spring.

Kyle Larson continues a Hendrick Motorsports tradition

Kyle Larson celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Cup Series NOCO 400 at Martinsville Speedway on April 16, 2023. | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Kyle Larson celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Cup Series NOCO 400 at Martinsville Speedway on April 16, 2023. | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Death and taxes – hey, have you filed your 2022 return yet? – are iffy propositions compared to Hendrick Motorsports drivers winning on Martinsville’s 0.526-mile oval.

Hendrick drivers have won a Cup Series-record 295 times, and it all began at Martinsville in 1984 as Geoffrey Bodine literally saved the fledgling organization from folding.  Larson’s win on Sunday was the 28th for Hendrick, a record for one Cup Series team at any track. Nine winners from one team represents another single-track record. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson each won nine races there.

Until he finished second in the 2022 playoffs race, Larson’s record at Martinsville had been uncharacteristically abysmal: no victories and three top-10 finishes in 14 starts.

“I never would have thought that I would win here at Martinsville,” Larson admitted. “This place has been so tough on me. It just does not suit my driving style at all. I like to charge the center. I like to roll momentum, and that’s just not what this place is like. Thanks to (crew chief) Cliff Daniels and everybody for making me feel like I know what I’m doing sometimes around here. I just can’t believe it.”

More Martinsville winners

Stewart-Haas Racing – Aside from Kevin Harvick, it’s been a disappointing season. However, SHR showed speed all weekend, and Chase Briscoe (fifth) and Aric Almirola (sixth) cracked the top 10. Ryan Preece dominated the early going before settling for 15th, and Harvick led 21 laps but settled for 20th. Talladega’s a whole different beast, but we’ll see if SHR can build off this.

Joey Logano – Sent to the back for the start because of an equipment repair, Logano struggled through the opening stage to battle back to second place and his fifth top-10 finish of the season. Kyle Larson had the advantage of better tires when it mattered most, otherwise Logano could have led the final 55 laps on the way to one of his greatest efforts ever.

Chase Elliott – His return after six weeks away while recovering from a broken leg started from the 12th row and concluded in ninth place.

Martinsville losers

Ryan Preece – Preece, who had led from the start, Bubba Wallace, and Martin Truex Jr. were flagged for speeding on pit road following Harrison Burton’s spin on Lap 132. Truex and Wallace rode the cycle of subsequent cautions to finish third and ninth, respectively. Preece could only work his way back to a 15th-place finish and deserved a better outcome despite the self-inflicted setback.

Austin Cindric – The driver of the No. 2 Ford finished 23rd or worse just eight times last season. Thirty-third place on Sunday marks his fifth such finish already this season.

Got a question or observation about racing? Sportscasting’s John Moriello does a mailbag column each Friday. Write to him at [email protected].


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