It was bound to happen, and Sunday it finally did. Chase Elliott cruised to his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race win with just enough fuel left to cross the finish line at Watkins Glen International.
With his dad, 1988 Cup champion and 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Bill spotting for him, Elliott was able to hold off last year’s Watkins Glen winner Martin Truex Jr. in the closing stages to score his first win in 99 starts.
As intense as the final laps were, Truex was on Elliott’s bumper the final laps, the drama ended in the last few turns on the final lap when Truex ran out of fuel in the last two turns. Elliott was able to cruise in the last two corners running out of fuel after crossing the line and needing a push for his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson to get back to the frontstretch to celebrate with his crew and the fans occupying the sold-out grandstands.
“Holy cow! What a thrill!” Elliott said. “I don’t know what to say. I’m just so thrilled and so emotional. There’s so much relief you know; it’s been working on three years and I hadn’t won a one and came here with a good opportunity today. I was able to get it done.”
His famous father won his first race on a road course, and son Chase now shares that stat, along with both father and son having eight second place finishes before their first respective Cup wins.
Truex, who won Stage 1, was able to coast across the line in second. Kyle Busch who earlier was the main competition for Elliott until a broken fuel can forced him to return to the pits and restart 24th, rallied back to finish third. Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones rounded out the top five.
“Obviously I had to run my you‑know‑what off to try to do something with him,” Truex said. “So I burned up more gas that last run, clearly burned up my tires, as well, so it was all for naught.”
Busch, who led 31 laps was the car to beat early on and he was the class of the field. Elliott did pass Busch at one point, but Busch was able to get the lead back on a restart.
It all came apart for Busch during the race’s third caution when Matt DiBenedetto blew up lap 54. The leaders pitted, and chaos ensued on the pit stops. Pole sitter Denny Hamlin ran over his air hose dragging down a crewmember; Elliott also had an issue as the front tire changer caught the front of the car and slid across the hood landing on the ground but unhurt. NASCAR penalized Hamlin for removing equipment from the pit box, Elliott was cleared.
“Every year we come here, we have a fast car and fail to execute, whether that’s just called bad luck or whatever,” Busch said. “Last year we had a lug nut get stuck in the caliper, this year we had fueling problems. It never ceases to amaze me. Nothing surprises me anymore.”
Hamlin could only manage to come back to finish 13th.
During the same pit sequence, the crew reported that their second fuel can had an issue and he would need fuel. With most having enough fuel to finish, Busch was forced back in.
That gave Elliott the lead, and eventually the win after 15 laps of tense racing with Truex hounding Elliott nearly the entire way. The final lap started with drama as Elliott chattered his tires and nearly spun out heading into turn 1. Truex also slipped, but both were able to recover.
“I started to wheel hop,” Elliott, who led a race high 52 laps and Stage 2 said. “I knocked it out of gear to not spin out and luckily had a big enough gap where he couldn’t get me. But, what a day.”
Saturday’s Xfinity race winner Joey Logano saw his hopes for a weekend sweep end on lap 2 when he hit a car in front of him and damaged the oil cooler in his Ford. Instead of stopping on pit road, his crew chief ordered him to the garage and under NASCAR’s damaged vehicle policy that move put Logano out of the race; his second DNF of 2018.
“I was trying to keep the nose on the car and was gonna try to make a run on (Kyle) Larson off the carousel,” Logano said. “I was right on him when they checked up in front of him. He lifted and there was nothing he was supposed to do. He checked up and I ran into the back of him and there’s just not enough bumper on the front of my car apparently and it just knocked the radiator out of it.”
Kyle Larson was sixth, Jamie McMurray seventh followed by William Byron, Kurt Busch who was one of two drivers to fail Sunday mornings post-qualifying inspection and sent to the rear of the field, finished 8th. The other driver to fail, Paul Menard finished 28th.
Kevin Harvick came home 10th.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Michigan for next Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400. Live coverage will be on NBCSN starting at 2:30 p.m. ET.