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NASCAR Insider Highlights the Hendrick Motorsports Star’s Under-the-Radar Struggle at Martinsville

Published 10/31/2023, 9:37 PM EDT

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Hendrick Motorsports’ 24-year-old star William Byron had the most exhausting race on Sunday. After an entire season of drawing up his own fate, he let his brush slip hands to competitors at the Xfinity 500. Unable to handle his car, the driver dropped positions right from the first stage and underwent a hefty time trying to keep his Phoenix hopes alive.

Thankfully, the events that unfolded on the front end of the grid fell in place favorably for him and he was able to salvage a spot in the Championship 4. Though he is now safely in for the Phoenix race, veteran journalists Jeff Gluck and Jordan Bianchi throw light on one crucial outcome that Byron could’ve fallen prey to.

NASCAR veteran reveals the underlying cruciality of Hendrick Motorsports star William Byron’s overlooked numbers

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Going to Martinsville, it was always the 4th spot that was up for grabs from the eyes of the racing community. With Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell already securing the first two spots, the #24 driver for Hendrick Motorsports virtually owned the third. He was 30 points above the cut-line and all that was left for him to do at the short track was to avoid complete devastation. We all know what happened then.

Undergoing one of his worst races of the year Byron struggled physically and mentally. The incredibly hot weather added to his misery. Jumping out of his car red-faced, he said of his day, “It was hell in a bottle”. Taking up the mic, Gluck and Bianchi made sure to address how wrong Byron had almost made all our assumptions about his spot being secure.

Discussing how the driver’s cut-off points advantage nearly didn’t matter, Bianchi said, “Yes, there were the 30 points. But the caveat to all of that was if he had a day that went sideways… If Hamlin or Truex jumped up and got a bunch of stage points or even won the race, you kind of got to look at not the 30 number. You have to look at the 20 number. And that was the 20 points between him and Blaney today.”

Watch Story: The Unforeseen Pitfall: Truex Jr’s Title Dreams Dashed at Martinsville

During the course of the race, there were moments when Hamlin winning the race meant that Byron would be knocked out unless he got past Ryan Blaney. On the day that he was having, that was a task beyond achieving the impossible.

The inconsequential Sunday on the penultimate race of the 2023 season

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Continuing on their podcast, Bianchi noted how the top 4 on the standings essentially remained the same before and after the Martinsville race. He said, “What I find really interesting as well is before coming into this race or the in the championship four are the four leaving here. So really everything that happened over those 500 laps was inconsequential. We didn’t even be here today.”

Martinsville has always provided much drama to racing fans over the years. Of course, Ross Chastain’s incredible maneuver to get past Denny Hamlin last year is still afresh in our memories. Though we did not see any such larger-than-life happenings on Sunday, it still was a great race day. And as coincidence would have it, it was Denny Hamlin who missed making it to the Championship 4 by a thread once again. Without any impactful upset from those below the cutline, Larson, Bell, Blaney, and Byron made it through the hurdle.

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In the season finale at Phoenix, there will be only one winner. Who comes second will not matter. William Byron and his #24 team will be hoping to make some adjustments to their car that has loyally served them through the entire season. The 6 wins that the driver has bagged this year will not matter unless he puts a 7th one in. It was this same car that got him to the victory lane in spring. Let’s hope and wish him well that it does once more!

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Written by:

Gowtham Ramalingam

365Articles

One take at a time

Hello, there! Though my affinity for racing originally stemmed from the European circuits of Formula 1 as a teen, I unexpectedly found myself drawn to NASCAR's unparalleled excitement growing up. This sport took hold of me and never let go, leading me to a career as a NASCAR writer. Over the last few months, I’ve had the chance to share my insights and observations through a myriad of articles on EssentiallySports.
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Edited by:

Nischal Kandpal