Chase Elliott’s hope for a three-peat at Watkins Glen International took a big hit even before Sunday’s green flag.
The No. 9 Chevy failed pre-race inspection twice Sunday morning sending him from his 11th place starting spot to the back of the field. The failed inspection also led to the ejection of crew chief Alan Gustafson.
The team was hit with L1 penalty for an issue with the rear-window air deflectors. The penalty also included a loss of 10 driver and owner points and a $25,000 fine.
Christopher Bell’s No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota also failed three times and crew chief Adam Stevens ejected. Bell gave up his starting spot of seventh.
Elliott was led by Tom Gray, lead engineer for the No. 9 and he was able to charge through the field making up nearly 10 seconds in the final laps and nearly stealing the win from his teammate Kyle Larson. Despite the comeback however, Elliott was disappointed when it was over.
“I made too many mistakes to get the win, unfortunately, and made it too late in the race,” Elliott said. “Super proud of our team. Been kind of an uphill battle all day, but everybody was just super prepared coming into the day, and our NAPA team just did a really good job of fighting it.”
“If I hadn’t have let them down there, I think we would have had a shot at it, but congrats to Kyle, Cliff, all the guys on the 5. Happy for everybody at HMS. Hendrick Motorsports has been working extremely hard, and not only do the people deserve to win, but Mr. Hendrick deserves to win. Really happy for him, and I’ll try to clean some things up and make less mistakes next time. Maybe it’ll work out.”
Bell finished the day in the same spot he was scheduled to start, seventh.