Reigning series champion Chase Elliott had won the past four points-paying NASCAR Cup Series races on road courses. His runner-up finish in the Daytona 500 put him on pole for today’s race, and his ultra-fast car had him in the lead for the vast majority of the early running.
With 15 laps remaining, however, spotters reported light rain over the track. There was no real threat of a deluge, but NASCAR still chose to enact their procedure for rain in road course races, calling a caution for teams to be given the option to put on wet tires. This was to be the final stop of the race, and every team in the field chose to keep their dry tires. Elliott’s crew struggled, and he fell out of the top ten before the restart that followed.
No more rain came, and nobody ever changed to wet tires. The yellow proved completely unnecessary.
Bad luck for Chase Elliott. Incredible luck for that sign.
WHAT A SAVE. Scale of 1-10?? pic.twitter.com/D2QF2YA1VS
Elliott was run off track on the restart that followed, but an incredible save kept his race alive. Damage to the No. 8 Chevrolet of Tyler Reddick brought out another yellow, and Elliott was already back in the top ten after that restart. He drove all the way up to the top five with only five laps to go. Then, things got even worse.
More trouble for Chase Elliott. He’s 26th with 5 to go. pic.twitter.com/g0aIhSKiP6
Elliott was making an attempt to bump the No. 2 of Brad Keselowski when he was hit from behind by Denny Hamlin, sending him spinning and ending his hopes of a fifth consecutive road course win. His teammate, Kyle Larson, had previously crashed in an attempt to pass within the top five, leaving Joey Logano comfortably leading Kurt Busch and Christopher Bell.
Bell moved past Busch, and Logano’s massive lead began to shrink. With two to go, it had become clear that his No. 22 Penske Racing Ford was struggling with a brake issue. Bell caught him on the oval portion of the track, made some light contact, and easily moved past him under braking heading into a chicane. He missed turn 1 on the next lap, but a quick recovery and Logano’s struggles with his own car kept him in front, securing Bell his first-ever NASCAR Cup Series win in what is just his second race with the lead Joe Gibbs Racing team.
Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, and Brad Keselowski would complete the top five. Surprises in the top ten include AJ Allmendinger, running in a one-off ride for Kaulig Racing, and Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell, a Front Row Motorsports driver who has recorded just 14 top tens in 358 career starts. McDowell is already effectively locked into the Playoffs postseason by virtue of his Daytona win, and he will now be joined by Bell.
Chase Elliott, who led 44 laps in the 70-lap event, finished just 21st.
NASCAR’s next race is just one week away. It will be run at Homestead, the first intermediate oval of the season and, after one pack race at Daytona’s big oval and one road course race in its infield, the first race that will reflect the majority of the season run this year.
From: Road & Track
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