Chase Elliott Is Awesome In Darlington

Chase Elliott celebrates after winning Friday's NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. (HHP/Tami Kelly Pope Photo)
Chase Elliott celebrates after winning Friday's NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. (HHP/Tami Kelly Pope Photo)
Chase Elliott celebrates after winning Friday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. (HHP/Tami Kelly Pope Photo)

DARLINGTON, S.C. – If Bill Elliott was Awesome, does that make Chase Elliott Awesome 2.0?

The 18-year-old NASCAR Nationwide Series rookie drove around Elliott Sadler on the last lap of Friday’s VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway to score his second-straight series victory.

Elliott, fresh off his first career victory a week ago at Texas Motor Speedway, had run at or near the front all day. Earlier in the race Elliott had driven to the front of the field, bypassing Kyle Busch to take the lead.

He led 51 laps during that time period, but he gave the top spot back to Busch during pit stops during a caution period on lap 89. Busch was able to drive away from the field once he got back out front, leaving Elliott to battle for second with Kyle Larson.

Busch looked like he was on his way to an easy victory until the caution flag waved with seven laps left when Tanner Berryhill spun off the bumper of Larson in turn four.

All the lead-lap cars came down pit road for fresh tires during the caution period, with Sadler taking the lead off of pit road thanks to a two-tire stop. Larson followed in second, also with two tires, while Busch restarted third and Elliott sixth.

Sadler got a good jump during the restart with two laps left. That allowed Matt Kenseth, who restarted fourth, to drive around Larson and Busch to take second. But behind Kenseth the No. 9 Chevrolet driven by Elliott was on the move, blasting around the high side to take second as the field took the white flag.

Elliott looked for a way to pass Sadler in turns one and two, but coming out of turn two Sadler’s Toyota got loose and nearly spun out. That opened the high side for Elliott, who was able to complete the pass entering turn three. He beat Sadler to the finish line by .284 of a second.

“Holy cow, I don’t know man, that was crazy,” said Elliott when asked how he managed to win Friday’s race. “That had to have been fun to watch. I know it was fun to be a part of. Man, that last restart was crazy. I didn’t really know what to expect starting sixth.

“I knew those guys on two tires were going to be a little slower than the guys on four. It happened to work out and our lane went. Elliott got a little loose off two and I was able to get to the outside. That was where I wanted to be anyway. So just unbelievable.”

Elliott now joins his father, who won five times at Darlington including his legendary Winston Million victory in 1985, on the winners list at Darlington Raceway.

“This is unbelievable. I couldn’t believe last week, much less here at Darlington,” Elliott said. “This truly is a dream come true. This is a place that I have always loved watching races. This is probably my favorite place to watch a race as a fan as a long, long time. Just to come and be a part of this race is unbelievable but to come and win this thing, it is a feeling I’ll never forget.”

Sadler finished second for the second-straight year at Darlington.

“We had to take a chance to get track position. The pit crew on this Sport Clips Toyota was good all night and made the right call. I don’t know if he (Chase Elliott) got me loose or got in the back of me, but man I got really loose off of two over there and just tried to hold onto it,” Sadler said. “He had a lot of momentum on the outside. I have a lot of second-place finishes here in Nationwide and in Cup and I just can’t seem to pull it off. This is a great place and I used to come here as a kid and watch these races. I definitely want to win one here.”

Kenseth finished third, followed by Busch in fourth and Joey Logano in fifth. Larson, Kevin Harvick, Regan Smith, Trevor Bayne and Ty Dillon completed the top 10.