Chase Elliott could finally smile. After a couple of races that ended with disappointment, Elliott finally saw the checkered flag. And he earned $100,000 bounty to top it off.
Elliott, in his first NASCAR Gander RV Truck Series since 2017, held off Kyle Busch to win the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway Tuesday night in the series first race since Feb. 21 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. NASCAR was forced to postpone the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March.
The win came after Elliott was knocked out of contention for the Cup series win at Darlington due to a mistake by Kyle Busch, and only two days removed from losing the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte due to failed pit strategy.
“It was a lot of fun. This truck was really good from the get-go and having no laps and the splitter needing to be where it needed to be,” Elliott said. “It doesn’t make up for Sunday’s (Cup race) but it was a really good night. I was glad to win and do some good for the relief efforts for this virus.
Elliott’s GMS Racing No. 23 Chevrolet led a race high 47 of the 134 laps.
“Kyle was a little better than I was at the end,” Elliott said. “I got tight and I don’t think we adjusted enough on that last (pit) stop. I didn’t really know what these things needed as time went on. Luckily, the right-front (tire) stayed on it long enough to get to the end and I think he burnt up his stuff pretty hard trying to get to me.”
“To be able to come out and to outrun him and him finish second – I would much rather him finish second then wreck or something. I feel like I did something right.”
After the win Elliott stopped at the start-finish line and grabbed the checkered flag then bowed, a move Busch does when he wins.
Elliott was among those vying to win a bounty placed on Busch, who was looking for his eighth straight Gander Trucks victory, a streak dating back to 2018. The $100,000 prize was set by Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick and Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis, who each placed $50,000 in the pot for an eligible Cup Series driver who could best Busch in a Gander Trucks race. The bounty was open to any fulltime Cup driver who could beat Busch in a Truck race and was offered prior to the event in Atlanta. The money will go to the COVID-19 charity of Elliott’s choice.
Busch led laps early but had several issues that forced him to pit and forced him to work his way through the field. He led 25 laps but not the most important settling for the runner-up spot.
“We were out in left field the whole night, never really had a great feel for the truck, a great-driving truck, and just salvaged what I could,” Busch said.
Zane Smith was third with Brett Moffitt fourth and Sheldon Creed completing the top five. Four of the top five trucks were from GMS Racing.
John Hunter Nemechek was sixth followed by Johnny Sauter, Ty Majeski, Austin Hill and Ben Rhodes rounding out the top 10.
The tour’s next race is scheduled June 6 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Truck series was at Atlanta on Friday March 13 when NASCAR suspended all operations.
NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Race Results
18th Annual North Carolina Education Lottery 200
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Concord, North Carolina
Tuesday, May 26, 2020
1. (26) Chase Elliott(i), Chevrolet, 134.
2. (16) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 134.
3. (30) Zane Smith #, Chevrolet, 134.
4. (22) Brett Moffitt, Chevrolet, 134.
5. (21) Sheldon Creed, Chevrolet, 134.
6. (38) John Hunter Nemechek(i), Ford, 134.
7. (8) Johnny Sauter, Ford, 134.
8. (7) Ty Majeski #, Chevrolet, 134.
9. (5) Austin Hill, Toyota, 134.
10. (1) Ben Rhodes, Ford, 134.
11. (27) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 134.
12. (9) Grant Enfinger, Ford, 134.
13. (2) Tyler Ankrum, Chevrolet, 134.
14. (6) Christian Eckes #, Toyota, 134.
15. (20) Raphael Lessard #, Toyota, 134.
16. (25) Derek Kraus #, Toyota, 134.
17. (17) Tate Fogleman #, Chevrolet, 134.
18. (31) Codie Rohrbaugh, Chevrolet, 134.
19. (15) Austin Wayne Self, Chevrolet, 134.
20. (35) Jesse Little(i), Chevrolet, 134.
21. (3) Tanner Gray #, Ford, 134.
22. (33) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 134.
23. (12) Angela Ruch, Toyota, 133.
24. (34) Korbin Forrister, Toyota, 133.
25. (19) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 133.
26. (29) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, 133.
27. (13) Natalie Decker, Chevrolet, 132.
28. (40) Bayley Currey(i), Chevrolet, 132.
29. (39) Clay Greenfield, Toyota, 130.
30. (10) Stewart Friesen, Toyota, 130.
31. (18) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, 130.
32. (23) Cory Roper, Ford, 129.
33. (37) TJ Bell, Chevrolet, 127.
34. (36) Bryan Dauzat, Chevrolet, 120.
35. (4) Matt Crafton, Ford, 107.
36. (24) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, Rear End, 105.
37. (11) Todd Gilliland, Ford, Accident, 102.
38. (32) Brennan Poole(i), Toyota, DVP, 83.
39. (14) Jesse Iwuji, Toyota, Accident, 74.
40. (28) Spencer Davis #, Toyota, Transmission, 54.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 111.978 mph.
Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 47 Mins, 42 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.627 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 7 for 37 laps.
Lead Changes: 19 among 10 drivers.
Lap Leaders: B. Rhodes 0;A. Hill 1-19;M. Crafton 20;A. Hill 21-26;R. Chastain(i) 27-32;Z. Smith # 33-36;R. Lessard # 37-38;M. Crafton 39-43;C. Elliott(i) 44-63;B. Rhodes 64;C. Elliott(i) 65-67;B. Rhodes 68;K. Busch(i) 69-86;B. Moffitt 87-88;K. Busch(i) 89-92;A. Hill 93;K. Busch(i) 94-96;Z. Smith # 97-107;J. Sauter 108-110;C. Elliott(i) 111-134.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Chase Elliott(i) 3 times for 47 laps; Austin Hill 3 times for 26 laps; Kyle Busch(i) 3 times for 25 laps; Zane Smith # 2 times for 15 laps; Matt Crafton 2 times for 6 laps; Ross Chastain(i) 1 time for 6 laps; Johnny Sauter 1 time for 3 laps; Ben Rhodes 2 times for 2 laps; Brett Moffitt 1 time for 2 laps; Raphael Lessard # 1 time for 2 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 42,16,21,88,45,24,38,99,26,23
Stage #2 Top Ten: 24,99,8,88,51,23,21,38,42,16