Hendrick trio seeks to overcome poor finish

DARLINGTON, S.C. — With 3 of 4 Hendrick Motorsports motorists either near or listed below the cutoff line and the next playoff race at Richmond Raceway, the job of advancing might show challenging for the trio.

Ruling champ Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and William Byron each completed 26th or even worse after striking the wall in Sunday’s Southern 500. Those troubles dropped all 3 towards the bottom of the playoff standings.

The leading 12 advance to the next round. Elliott is 10th — 4 points above the cutline. Bowman is outside a transfer area based upon a tiebreaker. Byron is 9 mention of the transfer area.

2 races stay in the opening round: Saturday’s occasion at Richmond and the Sept. 18 race at Bristol.

Richmond has actually not been a fantastic track for Hendrick Motorsports, although that might be altering.

Till Bowman won there in the spring, Hendrick Motorsports had actually not thrived at Richmond because 2008. Joe Gibbs Racing had actually won 13 times there throughout that stretch.

In the last 7 Richmond races, Hendrick motorists have actually integrated to lead 2.1% of the 2,806 laps run. Hendrick motorists have actually integrated for 5 top-10 surfaces in the last 4 races there.

Bowman’s win at Richmond didn’t matter much to him after Sunday’s race at Darlington Raceway.

“I don’t think we have any comfort going forward the next two weeks,” he stated. “We are going to places that we think we can be strong at, but this is a place where we felt like we should have been pretty strong at and our night was over five laps into the race.”

Kyle Larson, who completed second Sunday, confesses his lead to the Southern 500 makes him feel much better entering into Richmond. He put 18th there in the spring.

Richmond was really the only bad race we’ve had from start to finish this year,” Larson stated. “I know we’ll be better this time around just because we learned a lot off of what Alex was doing. Without even looking at his notes, we probably already knew what was wrong with our car. I know we’ll be better, but after a rough race like that it’s hard to be super confident.”

Jeff Andrews, executive vice president and basic supervisor at Hendrick Motorsports, stated the company feels much better about going back to Richmond after the spring race.

“As a company, we went there in the spring with quite a few different options in different cars and hit on some things with (Bowman’s car),” he informed NBC Sports. “Certainly a late-race restart there enabled him to get to the win but (Bowman had) one of the better cars on long-run speed. We were really encouraged by that.

“There were some things when we got back, we started talking about some things and looking at some other items that had given us success at road courses and different things. We feel like we’ve got a pretty decent direction. We’re actually kind of excited to go back.”

Andrews pointed out the front geometry of the chassis and the cars and truck’s suspension as products that can move from roadway courses to Richmond.

Roadway courses assisting Hendrick at Richmond would be substantial. Elliott won roadway course races at Circuit of the Americas and Roadway America this season. Larson won the roadway course races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen this year. Hendrick motorists have actually led 51.8 of the 463 laps run this season on a roadway course.

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The Southern 500 significant just the 5th time in the last 16 races that Denny Hamlin completed ahead of Kyle Larson in a race.

Honestly, that overall might have been even worse. Larson remained in position to win the very first Pocono race when he blew a tire on the last lap and completed ninth (Hamlin was 4th). Larson likely was headed for a minimum of a top-five surface at Roadway America prior to being spun by colleague Alex Bowman and putting 16th (Hamlin completed fifth). That race saw a perky fight in between Hamlin and Larson for position prior to Larson’s occurrence.

Even with those outcomes, Larson’s strong surface to the routine season moved him past Hamlin to be the No. 1 seed for the playoffs.

So to beat Larson Sunday at Darlington Raceway was substantial to Hamlin.

“It means a lot,” Hamlin stated. “I mean, certainly you don’t like just being the next best every single week. You know, you got to give credit to them. They performed the last 12 races of the regular season like we did the first 12, only they got the wins.”

Larson made it intriguing Sunday night with his last-lap relocation that saw his cars and truck bounce off the wall and struck the back of Hamlin’s bumper however it wasn’t enough to manage.

“I was kind of stuck at that gap behind him for the last 15 laps or so,” Larson stated. “I wasn’t going to be able to run the bottom and get to his inside and race him that way. Decided I would try to wall ride and see what would happen.

“He started to running a little safer line the last few laps.”

Hamlin discussed what he was doing: “I figured there was something coming. I thought that he was actually going to dive down low because I had started backing up on entry to Turn 3 to make sure I kept it off the wall.

“As I kind of was maintaining that gap to him, I just kept creeping down a little bit to make sure I gave myself a little bit more room. With that, you’re giving up lap time. So I thought that the bold move was going to come from the bottom.”

With Hamlin safeguarding the bottom, Larson needed to make another relocation.

“I thought if I rode the wall, I could squeeze to his outside,” Larson stated. “Who knows what would have happened after that down the frontstretch? I actually got to his bumper too early and he kind of protected the wall and diid a good job. It was wild. I hope the fans enjoyed the desperation.”

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Kevin Harvick’s fifth-place surface significant his very first top-five outcome because late June.

While Harvick stays winless this year, Darlington continued to be great to him. His outcome was his 12th successive leading 10 at the track, connecting Expense Elliott for the longest such streak at the track.

More crucial was how the No. 4 cars and truck ran. While it wasn’t in position to challenge for the win, running the leading 5 was an advance.

“The biggest thing is proof we can unload off the truck with the balance right,” team chief Rodney Childers informed NBC Sports. “That’s one thing we struggled with the most this year. The first run of the race, we had the best car. The second run of the race, we had the best car.

“Got off there for a little bit and was able to kind of go back the other direction on things and get it going better. We probably didn’t have the best car, but we had a car that could have run fourth or maybe third if I had put tires on at the end.

“Overall, it’s kind of one his type of nights. A lot of people make mistakes and he just seems to not do those those kind of type of things.”

Harvick’s trick?

“I’ve been to Darlington a whole bunch of times,” he stated. “You race the racetrack and it’s just what you do. Just because it’s the first race of the playoffs, you can’t force the issue here.”

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Martin Truex Jr.’s speeding charge Sunday marked the 4th time this season he’s been captured going too quick on pit roadway.

3 of those speeding charges have actually cost him an opportunity of ending up in a minimum of the leading 2, if not winning.

He completed second in both phases at Richmond in the spring and was 2nd when he was captured speeding on Lap 294 of the 400-lap race. The charge dropped him to 12th. He completed fifth.

At Roadway America, pit technique was going to put him ahead of the field when he beat colleague Kyle Busch off pit roadway at the end of the 2nd phase. Rather, a speeding charge dropped Truex to 32nd. He went on to complete ninth.

Sunday, he was captured speeding on pit roadway on Lap 319 of the 367-lap race. Truex had actually left pit roadway initially however the charge dropped him to 15th. He went on to complete 4th.

“I know my lights,” Truex stated, describing the lights on his control panel that reveal him if he’s going beyond the speed limitation. “I know what I need to run.

“I was conservative all night long. I don’t know where the .03 miles over came from. I think I short cut that corner just a little bit more because I was kind of by myself. That’s probably where it screwed me.

“Honestly I was trying to be conservative all night because you never want to get a speeding penalty … in a race-winning situation. It sucks. If just go slow, you’re going to lose spots. That’s no good, either. Just a fine line to balance, and we were .03 over tonight.”

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After his 3rd profession top-five surface, Ross Chastain wasn’t commemorating his third-place outcome however regreting what may have been.

Chastain began on the within the 2nd row for the last reboot, following race leader Denny Hamlin to that lane. Kyle Larson began on the exterior of the very first row.

The within lane had actually frequently fared much better on restarts. Chastain fired off well however was not far enough ahead to relocate front of Larson. That enabled Larson to motor by on the outdoors lane through Turn 1 to take 2nd location. Chastain later on challenged however couldn’t manage Larson.

“I just can’t quite race with them, and it starts with my restarts,” Chastain stated. “I’ve got some work to do there, so I gave up the outside to take the bottom to be safe and then Kyle rolls around me.

“Was able to make one last charge there at him at the end, but yeah, I just need to clean up a few things.”

Learn More about NASCAR

Darlington winners and losers Long: Errors, misery strike Cup playoff motorists at Darlington What motorists stated after Southern 500

Darlington takeaways: Hendrick trio looks for to conquer bad surface initially appeared on NBCSports.com

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.