Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson were able to maximize their finishes in the NASCAR Cup Series Southern 500 on a night, where their motors suffered from weird mechanical gremlins.
While the issues that Byron and Larson battled on Sunday sounded like they were related based on radio chatter during the event, Byron’s crew chief Rudy Fugle confirmed that they were indeed working through the same issues in an interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Wednesday.
“So, we did have the same type of challenge [as the No. 5 team],” Fugle explained. “Their experience kind of helped guide us in the fact that we stayed on track and fought through it. We had a weird stumble or change of tone in the engine for about 10-15 laps. We lost a little bit of lap time for a few laps, and obviously, William knew that Kyle had problems.”
Larson had lost three laps as his team sat on pit road in an effort to diagnose the issues, before ultimately sending him back on pit road and the problem magically correcting itself.
Byron, meanwhile, stayed on track and waited for the issue to correct itself, which it did as well.
Byron would finish in the eighth position, while Larson would utilize free passes and wave arounds to get back on the lead lap. Incredibly, Larson came home with a 12th-place finish.
After taking time to go through the engines following the race weekend, Fugle feels confident that Hendrick Motorsports has figured out what the ailment could have been on their cars in Sunday’s race and that it will not be a problem going forward in the Playoffs.
“We have kind of narrowed down on a couple of things that it could be,” Fugle explained. “We don’t have one perfect thing that it could be. But we have a few things that we’re all going to change and go back on and make sure that we address those things. I’m really 95% confident that we’ve nailed it and probably by the end of the week, we’ll be 100% confident. But we’re still learning more about it today and keeping going. It wasn’t anything that really just pops out and says something went really bad. It’s just something that seemed to be brief periods of time for a couple of our cars. So, we’ll just — like I said, we have a whole group of people working on it and currently changing things to get better.”
Hendrick Motorsports is the lone team in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs that was able to get four cars into the Playoff field. However, things didn’t get off to a smooth start for the organization that has nine wins so far this season.
In addition to the odd motor gremlins for Larson and Byron, Chase Elliott, the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series regular season champion, crashed on lap 113. The damage from the crash was too extensive for his team to make repairs within the allotted 10-minute damaged vehicle policy time limit.
As a result, Elliott finished last in the Cook Out Southern 500.
Heading into this weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway, the second of three races in the Playoffs Round of 16, all four HMS drivers are still inside the Round of 12 cutline. Byron sits second in the championship standings, while Larson is seventh, Elliott is ninth and Alex Bowman, the team’s fourth driver, is 10th.
If the team has truly worked out the mechanical issues under the hood, their drivers can simply focus on hitting their marks and not making mistakes in an effort to continue chasing a championship.