The first round of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying looked like old times for Hendrick Motorsports.
Led by Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender William Byron, Hendrick drivers posted the second through fifth fastest laps in the opening round. Alex Bowman topped the speed chart in the second round before claiming the fourth starting spot in the final session.
Byron, Bowman and Chase Elliott all advanced to the final 12, with Byron and Elliott qualifying tenth and 1tth, respectively for Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500.
“The biggest thing I have seen this weekend is just an increase in speed, and I feel like it’s really good to have that,” Byron said after the time trials. “We kind of went both sides of the balance throughout qualifying, but I feel like ultimately, towards the end, we kind of figured out what we needed the most, which was good.
“I feel like, as we keep going towards (the race), just understanding the balance each run and trying to manage the lap time the best is going to be really important. It’s good to start in the top 10 and I’m excited for it.”
It wasn’t all rosy news for Hendrick. After recording the fifth fastest lap in the first round, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson scraped the wall on his second-round lap and could do no better than 20th. Subsequent unapproved adjustments to the no. 48 Chevrolet relegated Johnson to a back-of-the field start on Sunday.