None of the four Hendrick Motorsports cars would wind up in victory lane Sunday night at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but the South Point 400 sure felt like a win for them. See, I didn’t expect two of the three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff eligible drivers from HMS to even make it out of the first round.
After how this weekend went, I may be questioning my initial thoughts.
Chase Elliott had a quick car all weekend and would bring his No. 9 Chevrolet home fourth on Sunday night. The Georgia native was in the top 10 in both single lap and 10 lap averages in both practice sessions on Friday. He even qualified in the top 10 too.
“It was a solid top five,” Elliott said after scoring his second career top five on the Vegas race track. “I feel like we finally got our car going pretty good the last two or three runs, which was good, and a good time to do it. We just got some damage on the restart and he had to come down to pit road and fix it. We just couldn’t take a chance on cutting a tire. I felt like we were closer today than we have been the past few weeks, so that was nice. Hopefully, we can have cars like that for the next nine weeks. … We finally got it going pretty good there at the end, I felt like.”
Elliott, now has five top 10 finishes in his last six starts on the season. He’s sixth in the standings +30 right now too heading to a track in Richmond where he’s had three top 10’s in his last four starts including a fourth place run in last year’s playoff race.
I’m actually more impressed with Alex Bowman and William Byron though. Bowman, finished sixth in his No. 88 Chevrolet for his best finish on the season since his win at the Chicagoland Speedway on June 30. Over the last 10 races now, Sunday’s race and the race last month in Michigan are the only two times he’s finished better than 14th. I figured he was down and out and likely a candidate to get eliminated this round.
“We just didn’t fire off very good,” Bowman said. “As the race ran, we got our car much better. I think kind of the in between from day to night was the best we were. When it grouped up there at the end, it helped out some of the other cars. But, proud of my guys. I wish we would have gotten some more stage points, but we’ll take sixth. I think we ran about where we should have run. Avoiding some of the mess was definitely a good thing. I’m just proud of our guys and we didn’t have any issues.”
Despite a solid run, Bowman was frustrated to leave so many stage points on the table.
“Just not getting stage points, really,” Bowman continued. “That’s frustrating. The racing is tough. You just get blocked, guys changing lanes. It’s just super frustrating, but everybody has to do it. That’s just part of it. Overall, it wasn’t too bad of a day.”
For Byron, he overcame a midrace incident to still finish seventh in his No. 24 Chevrolet. For Byron, it was his third top eight finish in his last five starts on the year.
“Getting back to seventh was great (after spinning earlier),” Byron said. “It’s really good. We got a chance to get up front, restarted fourth and had a good restart. Felt we had a lot of good starts and restarts. … Overall, not bad and we’ll move on to Richmond and move on from there.”