Hendrick has forgettable weekend at Michigan with two cars now in serious jeopardy of missing Playoffs

BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN - AUGUST 07: The #48 Ally x Detroit Pistons Chevrolet, driven by Alex Bowman is towed after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 07, 2023 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Hendrick Motorsports had a weekend to forget in Michigan. And it all started Sunday in what turned out to be a two-day event thanks to rain.

On lap 34 Sunday while running ninth Elliott’s Chevy lost a right rear tire going into Turn 4. The car spun up the track and hard into the outside wall.

Chase Elliott on team radio: “I don’t know why (the tire went down). It’s not like I was hurting it or nothing.”

Elliott was scored 36th in the 37-car field. After missing six races for a broken leg, and one due to a suspension, his Playoff hopes turned in to a “must-win” case.

“I hate that it happened,” he said. “It was really early in the day to have a tire blow like that. It was really weird. It’s a bummer, but not surprised… Add it to the list.”

Then on lap 46 Willam Byron’s car smacked the wall and he was forced to the garage, and scored 35th

“I just got loose trying to get stage points there,” Byron said. “We were dicing it up. We didn’t have the best restart, so we were gaining spots back, but just tried too hard. We’ll just regroup and try to get a good couple of weeks before the playoffs. Just made a mistake – was just trying hard and got loose.”

A new day didn’t seem to improve the fortunes for the team. After leading a lap Sunday and finishing Stage 1 seventh Alex Bowman spun coming out of Turn 2 on a restart on lap 137 after being in contention and finishing Stage 2 in fifth.

His day, like that of his two teammates, was over. He also joins Elliott in a “must-win” scenario with three races left in the regular season. Elliott leaves Michigan 22nd in points 55 from the cutoff, while Bowman who missed 3 races with concussion symptoms, 44 points behind.

Byron has four wins on the season, while Kyle Larson has two. And it was Larson who was the only Hendrick car to finish the race Monday, he came home fifth. Larson said he felt at one point he could have contended for the win.

“I felt like we were a little bit better,” he said “And then after that wreck off of (turn) two, the No. 14 (Chase Briscoe) and I hit pretty decently, and I just felt like we were a little slower after that. I think the handling was still similar, but just a little bit slower overall.

Greg Engle