There may be a new mayor in Earnhardt Country. Chase Elliott led a Chevy parade in the closing laps Sunday and was in front when the famous Talladega “big one” erupted behind him on the final lap.
Elliott crossed the finish line as the checkered and yellow flags waved and the crowd roared for the fourth win of his career.
He climbed from his Hendrick Motorsports Chevy at the start-finish line soaking in the cheers. The Talladega fans, always partisan to anything Earnhardt went crazy as the young Elliott, who took over as NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver after the retirement of Dale Earnhardt Jr., soaked it all in.
“That was one of the coolest things ever,” Elliott said. “This crowd was absolutely insane.”
With a new aero package, one that was tweaked in the days leading up to Sunday, the racing at Talladega was closer than ever with no single car dominating. Elliott did lead a race high 44 laps. But there were 24 lead changes among 16 drivers throughout the 500 miles compared to 15 among 10 drivers last fall.
And for Chevy it was teamwork that made the dream work.
After going winless since Kansas last October, the manufacturer met with all its teams leading up to the race and made plans. The teams executed those plans perfectly with most pitting under green together and running the faster low line together much of the race. A Chevy won both stages (Ty Dillon the first, Elliott the second) and when it was all over taking six of the top 10 finishing positions.
“We just had a plan and executed really well,” Elliott said. “Obviously it could have gone both ways but fortunately everybody stayed together and stayed the course and had some help on that last lap with the caution. I just appreciate all the support. This is unbelievable. This is special. This is close to home for me. It feels a little bit like a home race.”
Among them were Alex Bowman who scored a career best second and rookie Ryan Preece who also scored a career best third. Joey Logano, who led 37 laps was fourth, with another rookie Daniel Hemric in a Chevy rounding out the top five.
“I’m not just going to let him win, right?” Bowman joked. “I got to try. I knew I could get to his quarter panel. I was pretty confident I could get to his quarter panel through the tri‑oval. Who knows who is going to get to the line first. At that point I thought I could do it.
“It would have been fun to try, but happy for Chase.”
Among the Chevy’s not around at the end was Bubba Wallace who crashed while running third on lap 12 taking out Kevin Harvick. Another crash late in the race, on lap 182 of 188 involved a total of five cars including Aric Almirola, Martin Truex Jr., Chris Buescher, Matt DiBenedetto and Justin Haley who went airborne. The crash brought out a red flag for nearly 9 minutes and saw the day end for Buescher and DiBenedetto who were running among the top 5 and for Haley who was making his Cup debut.
The last lap was typical wild Talladega as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was sent into the wall at the start-finish line just after Elliott had taken the white flag. The Ford of Stenhouse slid below the field and NASCAR kept the green waving for the final lap. But a multicar crash erupted when David Ragan sent William Byron into the outside wall exiting turn 2; Byron got into Kyle Larson who then swept up Jeffrey Earnhardt. Both cars were sent nose first into the inside wall but not before the car of Larson became airborne and began to flip. This time NASCAR immediately threw the caution, freezing the field and giving the win to Elliott. All drivers involved in the crash were able to get out under their own power.
Kurt Busch was sixth, Ryan Newman seventh, with Brendan Gaughan, Almirola and Kyle Busch rounding out the top 10. Polesitter Austin Dillon finished 14th.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series heads to Dover Delaware for next Sunday’s Gander RV 400.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Results GEICO 500
Sunday, April 28, 2019
1. (11) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 188.
2. (9) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 188.
3. (30) Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 188.
4. (8) Joey Logano, Ford, 188.
5. (5) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 188.
6. (14) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 188.
7. (24) Ryan Newman, Ford, 188.
8. (29) Brendan Gaughan(i), Chevrolet, 188.
9. (2) Aric Almirola, Ford, 188.
10. (22) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 188.
11. (36) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 188.
12. (16) Daniel Suarez, Ford, 188.
13. (4) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 188.
14. (1) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 188.
15. (7) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 188.
16. (17) Paul Menard, Ford, 188.
17. (13) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 188.
18. (37) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 188.
19. (27) Erik Jones, Toyota, 188.
20. (20) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 188.
21. (25) William Byron, Chevrolet, 188.
22. (33) Jeffrey Earnhardt(i), Toyota, Accident, 187.
23. (15) David Ragan, Ford, Accident, 187.
24. (10) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 187.
25. (6) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, Accident, 187.
26. (34) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 187.
27. (35) Parker Kligerman(i), Toyota, 186.
28. (40) Cody Ware(i), Ford, 184.
29. (3) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 182.
30. (31) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, Accident, 181.
31. (26) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, Accident, 181.
32. (38) Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 180.
33. (21) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 178.
34. (32) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 154.
35. (39) Stanton Barrett, Chevrolet, Suspension, 132.
36. (23) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, Accident, 80.
37. (18) Matt Tifft #, Ford, Accident, 11.
38. (19) Kevin Harvick, Ford, Accident, 11.
39. (28) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, Accident, 10.
40. (12) Michael McDowell, Ford, Accident, 10.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 161.331 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 5 Mins, 59 Secs. Margin of Victory: Under Caution Seconds.
Caution Flags: 6 for 21 laps.
Lead Changes: 38 among 16 drivers.
Lap Leaders: A. Dillon 0;B. Keselowski 1-7;J. Logano 8;R. Blaney 9;J. Logano 10-13;*. Gaughan(i) 14;J. Logano 15-16;A. Almirola 17-30;J. Logano 31-32;A. Almirola 33;K. Larson 34;A. Almirola 35-46;M. Truex Jr 47-49;T. Dillon 50-56;C. Elliott 57-60;A. Bowman 61-67;B. Keselowski 68-70;J. Logano 71-73;R. Blaney 74-75;K. Busch 76;R. Blaney 77;R. Stenhouse Jr 78-90;K. Busch 91-92;R. Stenhouse Jr 93;C. Elliott 94-112;*. Gaughan(i) 113-114;C. Elliott 115-132;*. Gaughan(i) 133-134;E. Jones 135-138;J. Logano 139-143;M. Truex Jr 144-151;J. Logano 152-154;M. DiBenedetto 155;R. Chastain(i) 156-164;R. Stenhouse Jr 165-166;J. Logano 167-173;K. Busch 174;J. Logano 175-184;C. Elliott 185-188.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Chase Elliott 4 times for 45 laps; Joey Logano 9 times for 37 laps; Aric Almirola 3 times for 27 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr 3 times for 16 laps; Martin Truex Jr 2 times for 11 laps; Brad Keselowski 2 times for 10 laps; Ross Chastain(i) 1 time for 9 laps; Ty Dillon 1 time for 7 laps; Alex Bowman 1 time for 7 laps; * Brendan Gaughan(i) 3 times for 5 laps; Ryan Blaney 3 times for 4 laps; Erik Jones 1 time for 4 laps; Kyle Busch 3 times for 4 laps; Kyle Larson 1 time for 1 lap; Matt DiBenedetto 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 13,88,3,9,41,6,24,17,18,95
Stage #2 Top Ten: 9,88,24,12,3,1,42,8,22,18