May 25, 2024

Bryon Wins NASCAR Race at Martinsville, Brings Back Memories

  • Sunday, just like 40 years ago when the team won it’s first Cup race, team owner Rick Hendrick didn’t attend the race.
  • This time it was due to knee replacement surgery.
  • However, the result was the same, only magnified.

Forty years ago, Hendrick Motorsports teetered on the brink of closure.

A young Rick Hendrick, the owner of City Chevrolet in Charlotte, N.C., was out of money seven races into the 1984 NASCAR Cup season. However, veteran crew chief Harry Hyde convinced Hendrick they should go to the season’s eighth race at Martinsville Speedway. Even though driver Geoff Bodine was winless in NASCAR’s Cup Series, he’d been quite successful in the Modifieds, especially at the paper-clip shaped Martinsville half-mile.

Bodine and Hyde didn’t disappoint Hendrick. They won and Hendrick Motorsports, initially known as All Star Racing, survived. Hendrick and wife Linda didn’t attend the race due to another obligation. However, they celebrated by toilet papering Bodine’s house in Julian, N.C., while he celebrated with his crew at Clarence’s Steak & Seafood House in Ridgeway, Va., a favorite in the motorsports community located a short distance from the track.

Sunday, just like 40 years ago, Hendrick didn’t attend the race but this time it was due to knee replacement surgery. However, the result was the same, only magnified.

Hendrick Motorsports commandeered the top three positions, the first time in Martinsville Speedway’s 76-year history one organization had accomplished the feat. William Byron collected his 13th career victory, while pole winner Kyle Larson finished second and Chase Elliott third. Those three drivers led 238 laps of the 415-lap race. Byron led twice for 88 laps, Larson once for 86 and Elliott three times for 64 laps. Hendrick Motorsports has now won 29 races at Martinsville with nine different drivers, the most of any organization.

After capturing the victory, Byron saluted the 1,500 Hendrick employees and their families cheering in turn two with a burnout. Hendrick Vice Chairman Jeff Gordon said the group gathered for a photo after the race. They had traveled to Martinsville on buses, and many had purchased extra tickets so more family members could attend.

nascar cup series cook out 400

Jared C. Tilton//Getty Images

William Byron’s win on Sunday was his 13th in NASCAR Cup competition.

“You can’t script it any better,” Gordon said immediately after the race.

Throughout the day, Gordon sent Hendrick texts and video of the Hendrick grandstand.

“When we do things like we did today, he (Hendrick) is so humble and appreciative and I love that about the guy,” Gordon said. “I can’t wait to tell him (Hendrick) that William never remembers what he says.”

Victory celebrations aren’t the only way in which Hendrick Motorsports is intertwined with NASCAR’s oldest track.

Twenty years after Bodine’s victory breathed new life into the struggling team by attracting a much-needed sponsor, the organization was burdened by the most devastating day in its history. It was a chilly October day and extremely foggy. In fact, the fog was so bad that team owner Roger Penske’s plane diverted to the Danville, Va., airport. The pilots flying Hendrick Motorsports Beechcraft Super King Air 200 chose not to divert.

It was a fatal decision. In the fog, the plane missed its approach to Blue Ridge Airport in Martinsville and crashed into Bull Mountain near Stuart, Va. Ten people died in that horrible crash. Hendrick’s brother, his twin nieces, his only son, the organization’s head engine builder and its general manager were killed that day. In addition to the two Hendrick pilots, others dying in the crash were an executive for Jeff Gordon’s sponsor DuPont and Tony Stewart’s pilot.

Joy and sorrow have joined Hendrick Motorsports and Martinsville Speedway for eternity. Therefore, it was only fitting that the organization celebrate its 40th anniversary with a victory at the tough half-mile track.


NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out 400

Martinsville Speedway

Martinsville, Virginia

       1. (18) William Byron, Chevrolet, 415.

       2. (1) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 415.

       3. (3) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 415.

       4. (2) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 415.

       5. (9) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 415.

       6. (6) Joey Logano, Ford, 415.

       7. (19) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 415.

       8. (10) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 415.

       9. (22) Ryan Preece, Ford, 415.

       10. (5) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 415.

       11. (8) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 415.

       12. (17) Erik Jones, Toyota, 415.

       13. (16) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 415.

       14. (12) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 415.

       15. (30) Chris Buescher, Ford, 414.

       16. (11) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 414.

       17. (25) Carson Hocevar #, Chevrolet, 414.

       18. (4) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 414.

       19. (15) Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 414.

       20. (26) Noah Gragson, Ford, 414.

       21. (35) Michael McDowell, Ford, 414.

       22. (21) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 414.

       23. (14) Austin Cindric, Ford, 414.

       24. (13) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 414.

       25. (7) Josh Berry #, Ford, 413.

       26. (31) Kaz Grala #, Ford, 413.

       27. (33) Josh Williams(i), Chevrolet, 413.

       28. (36) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 413.

       29. (23) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 413.

       30. (27) Justin Haley, Ford, 413.

       31. (24) Zane Smith #, Chevrolet, 412.

       32. (32) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 412.

       33. (34) Harrison Burton, Ford, 412.

       34. (28) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 412.

       35. (20) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 411.

       36. (29) John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, Accident, 396.

       37. (37) David Starr(i), Ford, Steering, 311.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 76.096 mph.

Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 52 Mins, 7 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.550 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 5 for 51 laps.

Lead Changes: 13 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders: K. Larson 1-86;J. Logano 87-169;D. Hamlin 170-193;C. Elliott 194-252;D. Hamlin 253;C. Elliott 254-257;D. Hamlin 258-298;J. Logano 299;C. Briscoe 300-307;A. Cindric 308-313;D. Suarez 314-326;W. Byron 327-412;C. Elliott 413;W. Byron 414-415.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): William Byron 2 times for 88 laps; Kyle Larson 1 time for 86 laps; Joey Logano 2 times for 84 laps; Denny Hamlin 3 times for 66 laps; Chase Elliott 3 times for 64 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 13 laps; Chase Briscoe 1 time for 8 laps; Austin Cindric 1 time for 6 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 5,23,9,14,19,22,11,24,4,8

Stage #2 Top Ten: 11,23,5,9,22,48,14,24,1,4


A North Carolina native, Deb Williams is an award-winning motorsports journalist who is in her fourth decade covering auto racing. In addition to covering the sport for United Press International, she has written motorsports articles for several newspapers, magazines and websites including, USA Today, and The Charlotte Observer. Her awards include the American Motorsports Media Award of Excellence, two-time National Motorsports Press Association writer of the year, and two-time recipient of the Russ Catlin award. She also has won an award in the North Carolina Press Association’s sports feature category.  During her career, Deb has been managing editor of GT Motorsports magazine and was with Winston Cup Scene and NASCAR Winston Cup Scene for 18 years, serving as the publication’s editor for 10 years. In 2024 she was inducted into the NMPA Hall of Fame.