Chase Elliott will race for his first NASCAR Cup Series championship with a victory in perhaps the biggest race of his career thus far.
Elliott, who for all practical purposes needed a win to advance to the title race next weekend at Phoenix, came up with his best performance at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Sunday, leading 236 of 500 laps and easily held off Ryan Blaney at the finish to clinch the victory.
With the win, Elliott will join Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski as the four drivers who will compete for the 2020 series championship next weekend. Whoever finishes highest in the race among the four will be the champion.
The win is Elliott’s fourth of the season – a career-best – and second in the 10-race playoffs, which have proved especially timely.
Elliott’s appearance in the Championship 4 will give Chevrolet an opportunity to win Cup Series title for the first time since 2016.
“Biggest win ever for us. Just so proud,” Elliott said. “I feel like that’s what’s been missing these past four or five years, to perform when we don’t have a choice. To do that tonight, couldn’t ask for a better night. It’s unreal.
“Just unbelievable. Going to Phoenix, with a shot to win a championship. I can’t believe it.
“What more could you ask for?”
Joey Logano finished third in the race, Keselowski was fourth and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five.
Completing the top-10 finishers were Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch and Matt DiBenedetto.
Kevin Harvick, who won the regular season title, entered the final lap needing one more position to transfer to the Championship 4 and turned Kyle Busch, but Busch still ended up finishing ahead of Harvick when they crossed the finish line.
“Everybody kept battling there. I tried to run into the door of (Kyle Busch) there as a last ditch effort and spun him out,” Harvick said. “I’m sorry to him for that. Not a great three weeks for us.”
Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, all the lead-lap cars pit with Elliott the first off pit road. On the restart on Lap 268, Elliott was followed by Truex and Kurt Busch.
Hamlin had to pit twice for loose lug nuts and restarted in the rear of the field.
With 200 laps remaining in the race, Elliott held about a 1-second lead over Truex with Blaney having moved to third.
On Lap 311, Truex got to the rear bumper of Elliott and in position to challenge him for the lead.
Timmy Hill hit the wall in Turn 2 on Lap 352 to bring out the caution. The lead-lap cars all pit with Logano the first off pit road.
On the restart on Lap 359, Logano was followed by Truex, Blaney and Elliott.
Blaney got around Logano on Lap 369 to take the lead for the first time in the race.
James Davison’s car came to stop off Turn 2 on Lap 400, which was the 11th caution of the race. Harvick returned to the lead lap thanks to being the first car one lap down at the time of the caution.
All lead-lap cars pit with Logano the first car off pit road. Keselowski was penalized for speeding on pit road and had to restart from the rear of the field.
On the restart on Lap 409, Logano was followed by Blaney and Keselowski.
Truex made contact with Logano on the restart and moved into the lead.
With 80 laps to go, Truex had built up a 1.3-second lead over Blaney while Logano ran third.
William Byron, who was running 14th at the time, backed his No. 24 into the Turn 4 wall which forced another caution flag.
Most of the lead-lap cars pit with Truex the first off pit road. On the restart on Lap 449, Corey LaJoie led the way – he stayed out since he had no new tires – followed by Truex, Logano, Elliott and Blaney.
LaJoie was black-flagged for jumping the restart and Truex moved into the lead followed by Elliott and Logano.
On Lap 457, Elliott got around Truex off Turn 4 to retake the lead.
With 27 laps to go, Truex began falling back as he complained of a loose wheel, which allowed Logano to move up to second behind Elliott. Truex ended up having to pit on Lap 476.
With less than 10 to go, Elliott still held a more than 5-second lead over Blaney as Logano ran third.
Elliott ran down Hamlin with new tires and cruised to the Stage 2 win over Truex.
Hamlin ended up third, Blaney fourth and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five.
Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, several lead-lap cars elected to pit with Elliott the first off pit road. Kyle Busch stayed on the track and inherited the lead.
On the restart on Lap 140, Kyle Busch was followed by Kurt Busch and Custer. Elliott restarted seventh.
After running side-by-side for two laps with his younger brother, Kurt Busch cleared for the lead on Lap 143.
On Lap 146, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. began smoking heavily and dropped fluid all over the track which brought out another caution. The incident required an extensive clean-up but the race was not red-flagged.
The race returned to green on Lap 159 with Kurt Busch still out front.
Elliott got around Kurt Busch on Lap 163 to retake the lead as Hamlin moved into the runner-up position.
On Lap 181, Harvick was forced to pit under green for a flat tire. When he returned to the track he was running 32nd and two laps down.
Brennan Poole wrecked off Turn 2 on Lap 185 to bring out a caution. All the lead-lap cars pit with Elliott the first off pit road.
On the restart on Lap 193, Elliott led the way followed by Hamlin and Truex.
Ryan Preece spun on Lap 216 in Turn 2 to bring out the yellow. A handful of lead-lap cars pit, including Elliott, which handed the lead over to Hamlin.
The race returned to green on Lap 222. Elliott restarted 16th in new tires.
By Lap 237, Elliott had moved up to second behind leader Hamlin. Elliot got to the inside of Hamlin and moved back into the lead on Lap 240.
With 10 laps to go in the stage, Elliott’s lead over Hamlin had expanded to 2.4 seconds with Truex in third.
Hamlin pit late and ran down Elliott for the lead on fresher tires and held off Bowman to take the Stage 1 victory.
Keselowski was third, Elliott fourth and Logano rounded out the top-five.
Keselowski started on the pole and led the first three laps until Truex got around him on Lap 4 to grab the lead as Hamlin moved into second.
On Lap 61, NASCAR issued a competition caution to allow teams to check tire wear. All the lead-lap cars elected to pit with Truex the first off pit road.
When the race restarted on Lap 69, Truex was followed by Elliott and Logano.
On Lap 73, Bowyer got spun in Turn 1 by Almirola and collected Austin Dillon in the incident to bring out a caution.
Truex continued to lead on the restart on Lap 80, followed by Elliott and Logano.
Elliott finally got to the inside of Truex on the frontstretch and grabbed the lead for the first time in the race on Lap 89.
With 30 laps remaining in the first stage, Elliott maintained a small advantage over Truex while Hamlin ran close behind in third.
Garrett Smithley came to a stop on the track in Turn 4 to bring out a caution on Lap 105. Many lead-lap cars pit but Elliott remained on the track and in the lead.
Both Bubba Wallace (removing equipment) and Blaney (speeding on pit road) had to restart the race from the rear of the field,
On Lap 110 the race restarted with Elliott out front followed by Almirola and Truex.
Hamlin, on fresher tires, got the inside of Elliott on Lap 113 to take the lead for the first time.
Joey Gase got hit by Quin Houff in Turn 4 and came to a stop on the track to bring out a caution on Lap 116. The race returned to green on Lap 121 with Hamlin leading the way followed by Elliott.
Bowman got around Elliott for the second position on Lap 123.
|18||6||Ryan Newman||Ford||499||3:40’27.831||1 Lap||1 Lap|
|19||37||Ryan Preece||Chevrolet||499||3:40’27.989||1 Lap||0.158|
|20||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Chevrolet||499||3:40’28.166||1 Lap||0.177|
|21||43||Bubba Wallace||Chevrolet||499||3:40’30.290||1 Lap||2.124|
|22||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||499||3:40’45.312||1 Lap||15.022||129|
|23||3||Austin Dillon||Chevrolet||498||3:40’27.324||2 Laps||1 Lap|
|24||8||Tyler Reddick||Chevrolet||498||3:40’29.247||2 Laps||1.923|
|25||32||Corey Lajoie||Ford||498||3:40’31.645||2 Laps||2.398||6|
|26||38||John Hunter Nemechek||Ford||498||3:40’47.072||2 Laps||15.427|
|27||96||Daniel Suarez||Toyota||497||3:40’26.496||3 Laps||1 Lap|
|28||34||Michael McDowell||Ford||497||3:40’34.127||3 Laps||7.631|
|29||66||Timmy Hill||Toyota||495||3:40’32.110||5 Laps||2 Laps|
|30||48||Jimmie Johnson||Chevrolet||495||3:40’33.279||5 Laps||1.169|
|31||27||J.J. Yeley||Ford||494||3:40’30.633||6 Laps||1 Lap|
|32||7||Josh Bilicki||Chevrolet||490||3:40’38.611||10 Laps||4 Laps|
|33||00||Quin Houff||Chevrolet||489||3:40’35.547||11 Laps||1 Lap|
|34||51||Joey Gase||Ford||447||3:31’02.365||53 Laps||42 Laps|
|35||24||William Byron||Chevrolet||439||3:14’46.242||61 Laps||8 Laps|
|36||53||James Davison||Ford||422||3:19’58.480||78 Laps||17 Laps|
|37||15||Brennan Poole||Chevrolet||184||1:28’45.571||316 Laps||238 Laps|
|38||17||Chris Buescher||Ford||146||1:08’00.151||354 Laps||38 Laps|
|39||77||Garrett Smithley||Chevrolet||100||43’37.584||400 Laps||46 Laps|
Source: Read Full Article