Another year, another Hendrick Motorsports driver in NASCAR Cup series victory lane at Nashville Superspeedway.
This year it was the turn of Chase Elliott to hoist the guitar trophy.
Unlike last year when Kyle Larson dominated and led the most laps, Elliott had to overcome an early race extra pit stop for a shock adjustment that put him deep in the field, and over three hours of weather delays to score his second win of 2022.
Elliott led only 42 laps on the night taking the lead for the final time on lap 262 of 300 then survived a four-lap shootout to hold off Kurt Busch by .551 of a second.
“I was figuring that it was coming, but was hoping not,” Elliott said of the final caution. “Ryan (Blaney) gave me a great shove and I appreciate him doing me a solid there in getting us out front.”
His win spoiled what had been Joe Gibbs Racing party up to that point.
Polesitter Denny Hamlin led a race high 114 laps, including the first 65; Martin Truex Jr. led the second most, 82, and swept both stages, while Kyle Busch the third most 54. In all the three combined to lead 250 of the 300 laps run.
In the end Hamlin was the only one of the three to finish in the top 10, coming home in sixth.
The undoing for the JGR trio came with the races’ tenth and final caution that came out with 9 laps to go when Josh Bilicki lost an engine. A total of 10 cars stayed out, led by Elliott while Busch, Hamlin, and Truex all pitted. Busch got two tires and was out first, while Hamlin and Truex took four.
Busch restarted 11th, but with only four laps to go could never get momentum and had to settle for 21st, with Truex one spot behind in 22nd.
Kurt Busch, who was leading during a round of green flag stops that started on lap 248, was able to take advantage of a caution when Chris Buescher lost a tire bringing out the yellow on lap 256 to gain track position and come home with the runner up spot.
“We were going to stay out no matter what,” Busch said. “I needed to start throwing fenders to move people around. I didn’t get after it, and I made too many mistakes and didn’t stick with our strength. I’m not going to say what our strength was, but we did a lot of things good. We didn’t have one exceptional item. We’re second with our Toyota Camry. I want to do it over, but you don’t get those at this elite level and Chase (Elliott) got the job done.”
Ryan Blaney who had spun on lap 206, recovered for third, last years winner Larson was fourth with Ross Chastain rounding out the top five.
“Jonathan (crew chief Jonathan Hassler) made a good call to stay out the last stop,” Blaney said. “Why not, running ninth and was able to run third, so that was a good call by him. Overall, I wish it was in the hot and slick of the day because I thought we were a little bit more competitive, but not a bad finish.”
Behind Hamlin in sixth, Austin Cindric was seventh, the fourth JGR driver Christopher Bell was 8 with Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick completing the top 10.
The race finished after midnight on the east coast after a red flag for just over an hour at lap 47 for lightning and a second one that started on lap 140 for rain and lightning that stretched out to over two hours for track drying.
“My team just stuck with it,” Elliott said. “Thanks to everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. They have been working really hard over the winter and through the spring to keep up. The engines have been running great and obviously great support from Chevrolet.
“These things are hard to come by and you have to enjoy them. You never know when or if ever you will get another one. So, super thankful and looking forward to next week.”
NASCAR heads to Road America in Wisconsin with the Cup series racing on the 4.048-mile road course next Sunday.
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Ally 400
Sunday, June 26, 2022
1. (4) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 300.
2. (19) Kurt Busch, Toyota, 300.
3. (6) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 300.
4. (3) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 300.
5. (7) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 300.
6. (1) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 300.
7. (24) Austin Cindric #, Ford, 300.
8. (9) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 300.
9. (2) Joey Logano, Ford, 300.
10. (8) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 300.
11. (23) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 300.
12. (30) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 300.
13. (18) Michael McDowell, Ford, 300.
14. (20) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 300.
15. (5) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 300.
16. (25) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 300.
17. (11) Aric Almirola, Ford, 300.
18. (16) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 300.
19. (14) AJ Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, 300.
20. (22) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 300.
21. (36) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 300.
22. (10) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 300.
23. (21) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 300.
24. (33) Todd Gilliland #, Ford, 300.
25. (26) Harrison Burton #, Ford, 300.
26. (17) Cole Custer, Ford, 300.
27. (31) Cody Ware, Ford, 298.
28. (32) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 298.
29. (27) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 298.
30. (15) Chris Buescher, Ford, 297.
31. (29) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 297.
32. (35) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 295.
33. (34) Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, Engine, 285.
34. (28) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 269.
35. (13) William Byron, Chevrolet, 262.
36. (12) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, DVP, 49.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 111.22 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 35 Mins, 15 Secs. Margin of Victory: .551 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 10 for 57 laps.
Lead Changes: 18 among 7 drivers.
Lap Leaders: D. Hamlin 1-65;M. Truex Jr. 66-93;J. Logano 94-96;M. Truex Jr. 97-124;R. Blaney 125;M. Truex Jr. 126;D. Hamlin 127-129;M. Truex Jr. 130;D. Hamlin 131-150;M. Truex Jr. 151;D. Hamlin 152-170;M. Truex Jr. 171-193;K. Busch 194-244;C. Elliott 245-247;D. Hamlin 248-254;K. Busch 255-257;J. Logano 258;K. Busch 259-261;C. Elliott 262-300.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Denny Hamlin 5 times for 114 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 6 times for 82 laps; Kyle Busch 2 times for 54 laps; Chase Elliott 2 times for 42 laps; Joey Logano 2 times for 4 laps; Kurt Busch 1 time for 3 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 19,11,12,20,4,5,23,9,18,45
Stage #2 Top Ten: 19,11,18,9,45,5,1,4,12,34