CONCORD, N.C. – Chase Elliott’s series of bitter defeats in NASCAR’s hectic first impetus for rescheduled races ended with his first cup win of the season.
Elliott won Thursday night at the Delayed Rain event at Charlotte Motor Speedway to end 12 days for NASCAR. The event, which was postponed on Wednesday evening, was the fourth cup race since the series resumed on May 17.
Elliott had two frustrating defeats during that time, including the Sunday night defeat at Coca-Cola 600 when Elliott took the lead with two laps to go.
“Man, it was definitely a tough week,” said Elliott. “We had some heavy losses, but this Sunday night deal was a heartbreaker.”
Elliott’s frustration began when he tried to run for the lead at Darlington Raceway, South Carolina last week – three cup races ago – and was destroyed by Kyle Busch.
Then he had the 600 checkered flag in sight until caution was caused by his own teammate. Elliott came to the pits from the front, took four tires and was unable to return in two laps during the overtime sprint.
There was little tension in this. Elliott drove Kevin Harvick with 27 laps remaining and ended the win. Elliott also won the Truck Series race in Charlotte on Tuesday night to give him two victories in a race of four races on the track just minutes from Hendrick Motorsports headquarters.
“It’s not the Coke 600, but winning the Cup series is really hard to achieve,” said Elliott. “I just appreciate everyone at Hendrick Motorsports across the street. Everyone worked really hard.”
Elliott was tough on Harvick and still had 35 laps to go when asked if he had enough fuel to finish. Crew chief Alan Gustafson replied, “Yup. Go hard.”
Elliott did just that. But after Elliott drove past Harvick and had only a clear lead ahead of him, he couldn’t help but feel persecuted on Sunday evening.
“I was just waiting for caution to come out,” he said. “If the caution did not come out, I thought I would probably break something or I would crash. After the past few weeks it would certainly not turn green until the end.
“Hopefully we are on the right track again.”
Denny Hamlin finished second in a Toyota. Three crew members were at home on Sunday evening for a suspended suspension violation. His crew chief, auto chief, and engineer received automatic four-race suspensions when a piece of tungsten fell off Hamlin’s car during a lap.
With NASCAR holding all of its events as one-day shows with no qualifications or training, Hamlin said his Joe Gibbs Racing team had been through the change.
“The one-day format makes it easier for us,” said Hamlin. “If we had qualifying, it would definitely hurt. But in these circumstances, it doesn’t hurt so much.”
Ryan Blaney finished third in a Ford for Team Penske, followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for JTG Daugherty Racing, an enormous boost after a poor resumption of the season. Stenhouse collapsed in the first lap of the first race and finished last, before being 25th and 24th before Thursday.
Blaney, one of Elliott’s closest friends, hosted the most popular NASCAR driver since the sport was run four times in five nights in Charlotte. He said Elliott could focus on the Truck Series race again after losing the 600cc. After defeating Busch to earn a $ 100,000 bounty, Elliott turned his attention to the cup race.
“We talked about the race and that’s just bad luck. He was very lucky,” said Blaney. “It stank for him with the 600. We talked about it that night, but he was ready for the trucks race. We talked and there were a few hours of it. But he went on and showed that he was two in one could win series. “
Hamlin thought the focus on Elliott’s losses was excessive.
“Sometimes you don’t take precautions,” said Hamlin. “I think everyone feels bad because it’s Chase and everyone loves him.”
When asked if he felt sorry for Elliott, Hamlin answered with a definite “No”.
Elliott’s victory was the first for a Chevrolet driver when NASCAR returned to the Cup race. Harvick won the first race in a Ford, Hamlin won the second race in a Toyota, and Brad Keselowski won the 600 in a Ford.
But Elliott and his Hendrick teammates have been very strong since the series returned after a 10-week shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Elliott, Alex Bowman, William Byron and seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove all the laps – a huge boost for a team that has been largely rebuilt in the past three seasons.
The newly planned event on Thursday was interrupted by lightning and rain for almost 75 minutes after 30 laps.
NASCAR is heading to the fifth Cup race in 15 days at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee on Sunday as the series tries to postpone eight events in a hectic section through the southern states.