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Elliott fades late after long run at front
Chase Elliott leads the pack during the race at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday, April 9. He led the opening 185 laps before falling behind late. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Chase Elliott won his first pole of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season at Martinsville Speedway on Friday, April 8, and backed that up for the opening half of Saturday’s Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400.

For the opening 185 laps, Elliott led the pack in a race that had fewer caution flags and lead changes compared to previous races this season.

Through his early lead, Elliott won the first two stages of the race and continued to rack up points in the Cup Standings that he led coming into Saturday’s race.

The first lead change of the night came from Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron, who had been running in second place for the bulk of the time Elliott was in the lead.

While the first pit stop of the night following the conclusion of stage one did not affect Elliott’s lead, the second stage pit stop is where he first fell behind.

He came out of that pit stop running second behind Byron and looked to be in fine shape, with the car running as fast as it had been all night.

Although Elliott would occasionally close the gap on Byron between laps 200 and 300, he could not retake the lead. 

After remaining in second position for a sustained period, Eliott began to slip behind as the race approached lap 300.

He would fall to fifth position due to some damage sustained to his right rear and soon went in for a green-flag pit stop on lap 298.

Shortly after coming out of that pit stop, the race faced its first caution flag other than for the end of stages one and two.

While Elliott went into that lap 313 caution flag in fourth position, he would come out in twelfth position after a crew decision to make a second pit stop in less than 20 laps.

That decision would prove costly for the remainder of Elliott’s race, as he could not move up fast enough to return near where he had been for the majority of the night.

After Elliott found himself inside the top 10 with less than 20 laps left, a late caution gave one last opportunity to finish the night strong.

Despite coming out of the caution in eighth position, he would finish the night in tenth as Byron sustained his lead for his second Cup Series win of the year.

While Elliott is still searching for his first victory of the season, he remains the leader of the Cup Standings with 288 points, three ahead of Ryan Blaney and 12 ahead of Byron.