Elliott Finally Seals The Deal With Charlotte Victory

0
1708
Elliott Finally Seals
Chase Elliott poses on the frontstretch after winning Thursday night's Alsco Uniforms 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images photo)

CONCORD, N.C. – Chase Elliott finally broke out of Heartbreak City with a late-race drive to victory in Thursday night’s Alsco 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Elliott, who was crashed out of a shot to win last Wednesday at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and endured a heartbreaking third-place finish during Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 after a late pit call didn’t work in his favor, sealed the deal in primetime with a convincing pass of Kevin Harvick late in the going.

Having a boatload of long run speed in his No. 9 Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, Elliott ran down Harvick from nearly two seconds back and made the winning move to Harvick’s inside going down the backstretch with 28 to go.

With the slower car of Daniel Suarez as a pick, Elliott cleared Harvick’s Ford Mustang in turns three and four and took off into the North Carolina night, opening up a comfortable margin from there.

The second-generation Dawsonville, Ga., native was never threatened down the stretch and took the checkered flag 2.208 seconds clear of runner-up Denny Hamlin.

It marked Elliott’s seventh career win in his 157th Cup Series start, and it was arguably one of his most valued triumphs after his team weathered so many tough losses and close calls over an eight-day span.

Thursday was also Elliott’s second win in three days, after he collected a $100,000 bounty for defeating Kyle Busch in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at Charlotte.

“Man, this feels awesome,” noted Elliott in victory lane. “It was a tough week, for sure. We’ve had some tough losses, but that deal on Sunday night was a heartbreaker. This win isn’t the Coca-Cola 600, but any win in the Cup Series is really hard to get, and I really appreciate everybody at Hendrick Motorsports across the street, Chevrolet, and everybody at the shop for working really hard to give us fast cars.

“I appreciate them and I appreciate my team,” he added. “Alan (Gustafson) made a great call there at the end to get this thing tuned up and, luckily, the run went long and I think that fell in our favor.”

In a 500-kilometer race that most expected to consist of short bursts and sprint runs, the final caution waved with 65 to go for an incident involving Timmy Hill.

At that point, the field came down pit road for its last round of service, leaving right on the edge of the fuel window with Harvick heading Hamlin, Ryan Blaney and Kurt Busch.

Elliott restarted on the inside of the third row, but wasted no time in quickly challenging for the third position when the green flag waved with 59 laps left. He dispatched Hamlin for that position quickly, and five laps later tracked down Blaney to move into the runner-up position.

Chase Elliott crosses the finish line to win Thursday night’s Alsco Uniforms 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images photo)

From there, it was a matter of Elliott’s car starting to come in over the long haul, while Harvick’s short-run speed started to wear off through the middle stages of the green-flag run.

Finally, the advantage began to slim down within a quarter second, until Elliott got the run off turn two he needed at lap 181 to get to Harvick’s door and then clear the 2014 Cup Series champion for good.

As Elliott rocketed away, Harvick faded more and more, ultimately dropping to 10th in the final rundown after leading three times for a race-high 63 laps.

It was a case of simply “not having what we needed” in the car, according to Harvick after the race.

“It just fell off 30 laps into a run,” he noted. “We knew that’s what we had with our Busch Light Ford, and it went straight (through) for 60 laps or so to the finish. The crew did a really good job turning the car around; it was the total opposite of what we raced on Sunday (in the Coca-Cola 600).

“Tonight was a good test session for us; we just didn’t need a long run at the end.”

Hamlin – who passed Ryan Blaney for second off the final corner – grabbed his second top-two finish in an eight-day period, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. trailed that duo in fourth and posted his best run of the year.

Kurt Busch filled out the top five, followed by Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon, Martin Truex Jr. and Harvick.

Polesitter William Byron, who started from the top spot after an inversion of the top-20 finishers from the Coca-Cola 600, was never a factor in the lead battle all night and finished 12th.

Thursday’s race was rescheduled from its planned Wednesday night time slot due to rain from Tropical Storm Bertha, and then paused after 30 laps due to lightning in the are and a brief shower that dampened the track. Racing resumed from that stoppage at 9:15 p.m.

To view complete results, advance to the next page.