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      William Byron, Rudy Fugle looking for balance at Martinsville Speedway

      © 2021 Nigel Kinrade / NKP

      Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500
      Martinsville Speedway
      Saturday, April 10 | 7:30 p.m. ET

      MR. CONSISTENCY: So far in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, William Byron and the No. 24 team have been a model of consistency. After seven races, Byron is currently on a career-best streak of five consecutive top-10 finishes – the longest active streak in the Cup Series. His five top-10 finishes are the second-most by a driver this year behind only points leader Denny Hamlin with six. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native has spent 1,304 laps running inside the top 10 – the second-highest amount in the field behind Hamlin (1,443). Of those 1,304 laps, 594 were inside the top five, which ranks seventh-best. Currently, Byron has led 129 laps across three races – the fifth-most in the Cup Series. In fact, Byron has the fifth-best average running position so far in the 2021 season of 9.49.

      MARTINSVILLE MINUTES: Despite his young age, Byron’s time at Martinsville Speedway goes back to when he attended his first Cup Series race as a fan at the paperclip-shaped track in 2006. Since then, the 23-year-old driver has moved through the NASCAR ranks and is now poised to make his ninth overall start at the half-mile venue and his seventh in the Cup Series. Of his six Cup Series starts there, Byron has a best finish of second from the fall of 2019. He also has two other Martinsville starts, both coming in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2016, when he qualified seventh for both events and raced to one top-five finish and another top 10.

      FUGLE’S FONDNESS OF MARTINSVILLE: While this Saturday’s race will be Rudy Fugle’s first at the Cup Series level at Martinsville Speedway, the Livonia, New York, native has 14 starts at the paperclip-shaped track under his belt, all in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. In those 14 events, Fugle has one win (May 2019), six top-five finishes and 12 top 10s. Two of his previous starts were with Byron, both in 2016, when the duo started seventh in both races and raced to a third-place result in the spring and an eighth-place finish in the fall.

      BYRON ON CHALLENGES OF RACING AT MARTINSVILLE: “Martinsville Speedway is always difficult no matter how many times you’ve raced there. You have to balance the entry of the corner to how you turn in the middle, all while not allowing the guy behind you to get underneath you on the exit of the corner. You want to be aggressive enough to make up ground but also not overly aggressive that you lose track position early on. It’s a track that requires patience and the knowledge of when to push it and when to save. It’s a challenge for sure but I enjoy it. It makes it tough on the drivers to get around there.”

      FUGLE ON MARTINSVILLE PREP: “Martinsville Speedway is a tough track for anyone, even those who are statistically good there. When you look at William’s stats there, he either runs really well or he has an issue happen. That’s the two-fold thing we have to deal with this weekend. How do we make the car durable and make it last through a grueling 500-lap race while making it drive the way he wants and not taking all the speed out of the car? We’re trying to use some of the previous notes since William has ran well there in the Cup Series and the No. 9 team won there last. We have a lot of good notes to use; we’re just trying to balance car durability and survival versus speed and keeping track position.”

      © 2020 Danny Hansen / NKP


      VICTORY-VILLE: In 74 appearances, Hendrick Motorsports has posted 25 points-paying victories at Martinsville Speedway, which is the all-time record for total team wins at any active or inactive NASCAR Cup Series racetrack. Junior Johnson and Associates posted 21 wins at Bristol Motor Speedway, followed by Hendrick Motorsports with 20 at both Charlotte Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway.

      PAPERCLIP PERSPECTIVE: Hendrick Motorsports has posted 265 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series victories, just three from tying the team record of 268 held by the legendary Petty Enterprises. The organization’s 25 Martinsville wins alone would rank Hendrick Motorsports 21st on the all-time list. Rex White Racing is 20th with 26 Cup Series wins between 1958 and 1964, two ahead of Dale Earnhardt Inc., which raced from 1996 until 2008 and posted 24 total victories.

      CLOCKING WINS: Six drivers have posted at least one Martinsville victory for car owner Rick Hendrick, who grew up two hours from the track in Palmer Springs, Virginia. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson each logged nine wins there during their legendary careers. Darrell Waltrip won four times at Martinsville for Hendrick Motorsports, with Chase Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Geoff Bodine each posting a victory.

      FIRST THING’S FIRST: On April 29, 1984, Hendrick Motorsports posted its first of 265 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series wins in the team’s first appearance at Martinsville Speedway. The organization also led its first-ever laps (55) that day when Bodine drove the No. 5 Chevrolet to victory lane.

      THE BIG SHORT: No active NASCAR Cup Series team has more short-track victories than Hendrick Motorsports. Going into Saturday night’s race at the half-mile Martinsville Speedway, the organization has 51 short-track wins – 10 more than next-best Joe Gibbs Racing.

      Via Hendrick Motorsports