MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WGHP) — The night race at Martinsville Speedway was shortened to a 400-lap race, with expectations of ramping up the action by giving drivers less time to make their way to the front. For drivers like Ross Chastain, it took every bit of that mileage.
“It took us all 400 laps, just to get up to the top 10 So yeah, just I get all of these cards are better with clean air and they were really hard to drive tonight,” Chastain, who finished 5th, said.
Chase Elliott was the pole sitter and dominated the first half of the race, winning stages 1 and 2. But after the round of pit stops following stage 2 it was his teammate in the 24 car, William Byron, out front. Byron’s pit crew had a blazing fast pit stop and beat Elliott back to the track.
“It was a big pitstop. You know, we definitely saw how important track position was throughout the race and for us to be able to get that lead on pit road was huge,” Byron said.
Byron led the most laps, navigating through lap traffic as the race ran under the green flag through a cycle of green-flag stops and was only slowed two more times for cautions by Denny Hamlin running out of gas and Martin Truex Jr. having a flat tire.
“It was definitely hard to maneuver but we were able to do it and kind of get our car better as the race went on and get it to where I could, you know, be more aggressive with lap traffic and not have to worry so much about being in a bad spots,” said Byron.
Byron only had to worry about what would happen on the overtime restart with Joey Logano and Austin Dillon on his tail.
“Yeah, I feel like Logano is probably one of the most aggressive guys so just try and try to manage him and you know trying to keep them off by bumper was key.”
The racing was tough through the pack, but it was all clean with no on-track incidents. Drivers say chalk that up to all the factors that go into figuring out this new car, a car they say is hard to drive.
“I really think they’re so hard to drive that you really can’t race like when guys get underneath them. They just let me go so then when I when one person passed me I just let them in there it really hard to drive,” said Chastain.
Ryan Blaney was disappointed to finish 4th and says it’s crazy that aerodynamics hinder the racing at a short track.
“I thought our car was pretty good, especially in the long run. But you run someone down by a straightaway and get stuck and you drive by normal run so it’s pretty unfortunate. It was the same thing last week, Richmond it was really really bad. It’s pretty bad when you’re going 60 miles an hour middle corner and your aero tight. So hopefully we’ll figure something out on that,” said Blaney.
3rd place finisher Austin Dillon says he thinks the cold temperatures played a big part in the lack of action and ability to pass.
“It’s freezing cold out here. Tire grip is super high. You come back when it’s hot and slick. It’ll be a totally different race,” Dillon said.