JOLIET, Ill. – Everything went Chase Elliott’s way on Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway.
Elliott had the fastest car in the EnjoyIllinois.com 300, his team had the best strategy and he drove a flawless race en route to his third career NASCAR Nationwide Series win.
In his 18th start, the 18-year-old Dawsonville, Ga. native pulled away from the field over the final 20 laps and sprinted to the victory by 1.7 seconds over Trevor Bayne.
Sprint Cup regulars Kyle Larson and Kasey Kahne – one of Elliott’s two JR Motorsports teammates – finished third and fourth, followed by Ty Dillon in fifth.
The race – a rare standalone event on a Sprint Cup off-weekend – had plenty of Nationwide Series flavor.
Elliott’s No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet led a race-high 85 laps and in so doing, recorded the seventh win of the season for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s JRM operation.
“We made some really good adjustments overnight,” Elliott said. “I can’t thank (crew chief) Greg (Ives) enough. We didn’t quit. Our car had speed the whole time but it got better.”
The key to Elliott’s success – it’s also his third win on a track he’d never raced on before – came down to his car, he said.
“You just try to make the most of your practice laps,” Elliott said. “The biggest thing is these guys brought me a really good race car. It’s just a pleasure to drive these cars for JR Motorsports.”
Bayne said his second-place finish was the highlight of his season.
“I’m proud of this Roush-Fenway Racing team,” Bayne said. “We’ve had some rough races lately, but we’re trying hard and we aren’t giving up.”
Polesitter Brian Scott finished sixth and earned the $100,000 Nationwide Dash 4 Cash bonus, while rookie Erik Jones was seventh in his NNS debut for Joe Gibbs Racing. Chris Buescher, Ryan Blaney and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top 10.
Elliott’s other JRM teammate, Regan Smith, didn’t have the kind of night he’d hoped. Smith entered the race with the series points lead, but surrendered it to Elliott after struggling to a 16th-place result, two laps down.