Never quit. That was the lesson Chase Elliott taught the field Sunday. Elliott overcame a nose first crash into “Heartburn Turn” while leading at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval to score his second road course victory of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series season.
Elliott won Stage 2 and was leading the field to the restart on lap 63 after a caution for a spin by Daniel Hemric when he locked up the brakes on his Hendrick Motorsports Chevy and slid hard into the turn 1 wall. It appeared that his race was over, but the crew was able to repair the damage. Elliott fell to 37th but fought his way back through the field retaking the lead on a restart with 5 laps to go and never looking back winning by 3.024 seconds.
“I couldn’t believe I did that,” Elliott said. “That was just so stupid. I mean, if you could ‑‑ I don’t know that you could have done anything more stupid leading this race than what I did right there. Obviously, I was just really pissed off, and luckily our car wasn’t too bad, and our NAPA Camaro was fast enough to drive up through there, got the cautions at the right time, and just didn’t quit. If there’s ever a lesson to not quit, today was the example.”
The drama for Elliott was just part of the story of the second ever road course Cup race at Charlotte.
The race was a cutoff event for the Round of 12 and four drivers who started in the Round of 16 were eliminated Sunday.
Alex Bowman, needing a near miracle, pulled off the impossible charging from the back of the field in a backup car to finish second while his nearest rival, Ryan Newman held the final transfer spot until three laps to go when Newman missed the chicane on the backstretch and was penalized finishing 32nd.
Kevin Harvick led the second most laps on the day but had nothing for the hard charging Bowman in the final laps and settled for third. Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.
Erik Jones, already at the bottom of the 16 Playoff drivers when the day began saw any hope he had to advance end on lap 24 after he was swept up in a crash entering turn 8 when Kurt Busch got into the back of a slowing Chris Buescher who ran into the back of Jimmie Johnson who then got into Jones. Jones Joe Gibbs Racing crew tried to effect repairs but with a hole in the Toyota’s radiator he was forced to the garage and was scored in last place with a DNF.
Kurt Busch’s day never really improved and with a 20th place finish after a second spin on lap 100 where he was involved in another multi-car crash and hit the wall, was eliminated. Aric Almirola started tenth and finished tenth after getting past Newman in the final laps but it wasn’t enough, and he was the last driver eliminated.
William Byron who started on the pole and finished second in Stage 1, held on to finish sixth. Martin Truex Jr., who won the first two races of the Round of 16 and had already secured a spot into the next round, started in the back of the field due to an engine change. He missed the backstretch chicane twice in the early laps and was penalized with a stop and go, but when the dust settled, he was scored seventh. Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano rounded out the top 10.
Kyle Larson won Stage 1 and finished 13th. There were 10 cautions and a red flag period for fluid from the Kurt Busch car that lasted 8:22. Drivers had to fight each other the 17 turn 2.28-mile road course but brutal heat as well as temperatures hovered in the 90s near records.
Elliott thrilled fans in attendance after the race taking his Chevy back to the barrier entering turn 1 putting it against the wall and doing a celebratory burnout.
“Holy moly!” he yelled to the fans over the PA. “Did you like that? Oh my gosh. What a mistake. Holy moly. You talk about messing something up, right here. Don’t do that. What a day.”
The Round of 12 starts next week at Dover International Speedway.
The Round of 12:
1. Martin Truex Jr. 2175
2. Kevin Harvick 2163
3. Brad Keselowski 2152
4. Chase Elliott 2140
5. Joey Logano 2135
6. Denny Hamlin 2123
7. Kyle Busch 2118
8. Kyle Larson 2110
9. Clint Bowyer 2098
10. William Byron 2098
11. Ryan Blaney 2094
12. Alex Bowman 2086