Chase Elliott comes from the back for strategic Xfinity win at Charlotte

Chase Elliott celebrates on top of his car after winning the Xfinity Series' BetMGM 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (Photo: Greg Engle at

Chase Elliott started from 30th, but he kept his eye on the prize throughout the BetMGM 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Elliott took a gamble to stay out in late cautions in Stage 1 and Stage 2, which cost him finishing positions in both stages – but, being a full-time Cup Series driver, that was of little concern to Elliott. Instead, he was able to keep an extra set of tires when the caution came out for a spinning Ryan Ellis, setting up a run to the finish of less than 30 laps. His competitors all had to take used scuffed tires.

The restart was far from easy. In fact, it ended up being multiple restarts after a mess throughout the pack: first, Shane van Gisbergen was crowded into the wall, taking him out of contention. Then, just after getting the lead, Justin Allgaier, who had been dominant all day, cut up in front of Ty Gibbs when he wasn’t clear and turned off Gibbs’ nose into the wall, taking him out of the race altogether, bringing the caution out.

After another restart, Cole Custer and Austin Hill get together down the fronstretch, ultimately cutting Hill’s tire, sending him spinning into the wall and collecting Custer. Hill was none too happy and angrily pushed the damaged No. 00 car of Custer down the backstretch before ultimately sending him spinning off his front bumper, bringing out another caution.

But, when it was all done and dusted, Elliott had the lead and didn’t look back until he saw the checkered flag, holding off a hard-charging Brandon Jones.

CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA – MAY 25: Chase Elliott, driver of the #17 Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series BetMGM 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 25, 2024 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Elliott was full of praise for crew chief Greg Ives for the strategy call that gave him fresh rubber at the end.

“Yeah, they did a really good job,” Elliott said of his Hendrick Motorsports crew. “Greg made a really good call, I think ultimately that was what won us the race.”

It was not part of the plan heading into the race, either, with Ives calling an audible atop the pitbox.

“No, we had not talked about it, it just worked out that way,” Elliott said in the media center post-race. “Our track-position situation was poor enough at that point in time that we thought it was worth taking the risk and you know seeing if it played out for us later. Fortunately, it did.”

Elliott was driving the No. 17 Chevrolet Camaro, an emotional number for team owner Rick Hendrick, since the number and paint scheme adorned son Ricky Hendrick’s race-winning Truck Series entry. It’s just the second win for that number since Kyle Larson won for the team at Circuit of The Americas earlier this season, when he also had to climb from the back of the field to the win.

“Super special to win with the 17 on the car, for the boss…obviously a great honor here with the Ricky Hendrick scheme. It means a lot to all of us that get to be a part of this whenever it runs,” he said. “I appreciate the boss for letting me do it, glad we could get you a win.”

CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA – MAY 25: Brandon Jones, driver of the #9 Menards/CharBroil Chevrolet, and AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #16 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Xfinity Series BetMGM 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 25, 2024 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Brandon Jones fought all day to secure second place after a brake issue that forced him down pit road several times more than his competitors, meaning he had to drive from the back to the front multiple times.

“I mean, talk about an up-and-down day and coming back from it,” Jones said. “Come from the back to the front I think, what, three or four times? So a really, really fast Camaro right there.”

Despite clearly having a fast car, Jones couldn’t quite get to Chase Elliott in the final laps, though he did close in.

“Probably needed, maybe, some track position – I would have liked to have been a little bit better on that restart to take advantage and just some clean air on the nose, I think that’s really what the [No.] 17 had there at the end,” Jones explained.

“I was a little on the struggle bus to get going, but I was always a little better at the end of runs. All-in-all a really fun day, I love these hot, slick races you’ve got to prepare for. People are falling out of the seat, you’ve got to get better at the end, so that’s the fun part for me. Wish we could’ve won but we’re really close right now.”

Sammy Smith and Sam Mayer, Jones’ JR Motorsports teammates, finished third and fourth respectively. They were followed by AJ Allmendinger to round out the top five, who rallied from contact with Riley Herbst early in the race that sent Herbst spinning and out of the race, plus hitting the wall himself and incurring damage in the middle of the race.

Kyle Busch, driving the No. 33 machine for Richard Childress Racing, finished sixth. Busch was able to run up front in the early and middle stages of the race, having started second and gotten around polesitter Ty Gibbs, but his car couldn’t keep pace in the closing laps. His team kept him five extra laps out in the final green-flag pit cycle, hoping for a strategy call of their own, but it backfired with Busch losing positions to cars that undercut him with fresh tires and he was unable to get back up to contend for the lead in the ensuing restarts.

CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA – MAY 25: Justin Allgaier, driver of the #7 Hellmann’s/Round Canopy Team Chevrolet, spins into the wall after an on-track incident as Ty Gibbs, driver of the #20 He Gets Us Toyota, Chase Elliott, driver of the #17 Chevrolet, and Sam Mayer, driver of the #1 Tire Pros Chevrolet, pass during the NASCAR Xfinity Series BetMGM 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 25, 2024 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The race was especially heartbreaking for Justin Allgaier, who had dominant speed all race. He was able to drive to the front in every stage of the race, sweeping the stage wins. However, in the late Stage 3 restarts, he moved in front of Ty Gibbs, trying to secure the lead when he wasn’t clear, ending up out of the race. Allgaier finished 33rd and Gibbs ended the day 9th. It’s the second time Allgaier has lost a race after running up front most of the day so far this season, with victory slipping out of his hands at Phoenix.

Cole Custer might have been even more unhappy after his run-in with Austin Hill just after Allgaier’s incident.

“He put me in the fence off four and then we hit on the frontstretch because I was gonna go pinch him down and he decided to try and go up and side draft me and then we hit again,” Custer explained.

“And then I don’t know if he blew a tire into one or what happened into one, but then he tried to kill me on the backstretch and just held it full throttle until he wrecked our car and killed the rear clip. I slapped my head against the back of the headrest.

“I don’t know. I know it was hard racing, but at the end of the day I don’t like getting intentionally wrecked and killing the front and rear clip on our race car. It’s just ridiculous. If he wants to drive like a pissed off teenager, it’s just ridiculous. I’ve said enough.”

The race featured eight cautions overall, six of which were for cause.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns for road course racing at Portland International Raceway on Saturday, June 1st.


Photos: NASCAR at Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday, May 25, 2024

Owen Johnson