Hendrick Motorsports and Martinsville Speedway are synonymous with success. Hendrick drivers have won 17 poles and 24 races on the Virginia paperclip. Both are the most among any Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team – ever.
Martinsville is the place where Hendrick scored their first ever Cup victory in 1984. It’s the spot where Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon have won nine times a piece. In fact, among those 24 wins at Martinsville are five different drivers.
The 24 grandfather clock trophies are the most of any trophies at any track for the organization. The next closest are at Charlotte and Dover with 19 wins there each.
On Sunday, it looked like a sixth different Hendrick driver was going to win a record extending 25th Martinsville win in the First Data 500. Chase Elliott has never won a Cup race before, and when the checkered flag flew in Sunday’s race, he still hasn’t. But, he was three laps away from accomplishing that feat.
Elliott, led 123 of the 505 laps on Sunday and was among the top three drivers to beat all afternoon long. He passed Brad Keselowski for the lead with four laps-to-go in regulation. The win was in his sights.
Unfortunately, another disappointing ending occurred.
Denny Hamlin intentionally crashed Elliott in Turn 3 on Lap 497, as instead of winning, Elliott would settle for a 27th place finish instead. Instead of automatically advancing to Homestead by virtue of his first career Cup victory, he’s now 26 points behind the cutoff spot.
He wasn’t the only Hendrick driver frustrated on Sunday.
Johnson made it to the second round of Coors Light Pole Award qualifying earlier in the day, but in that round, he spun his No. 48 Chevrolet. He’d start 40th instead. Johnson, would move up through the field, even gaining stage points in the opening stage of the race, finishing fourth in Stage 1. He would come away with a 10th place finish in Stage 2. But, his car wasn’t good enough and he’d finish 12th as a result. He’s also behind the cutoff and three points back.
Kasey Kahne had a good run early and also scored stage points in the first stage. But, he’d fade and come home 16th in his No. 5 Chevrolet.
The top driver among the team was Dale Earnhardt Jr. who brought his special “Gray Ghost” No. 88 Chevrolet home with a 11th place result. It was Earnhardt’s fifth straight top 12 finish, the best stretch of the season.
But, HMS leaves Martinsville frustrated as it was looking like both of their playoff eligible drivers would be in the top four of the standings leaving the short track. Instead, they’re both out and are in heartbreaking fashion.