Finally: Chase Elliott wins at Texas in a double overtime finish

FORT WORTH, TEXAS - APRIL 14: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 Hooters Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 14, 2024 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

It was a long time coming. Chase Elliott finally broke through ending a 42-race winless streak emerging from a chaotic day at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday.

In a wild day that saw a record 16 caution flags Elliott had to survive a restart with 8 laps to go then two overtime finishes before he could celebrate his 19th career win and his first since Talladega in the fall of 2022.

“Oh, man, couldn’t feel any better,” Elliott said over the roar of the crowd at the start-finish line. “So just man, couldn’t be more grateful for this journey and kind of the path that hasn’t always been fun, but certainly have enjoyed working with our guys, “We’ve been working really hard and really well together. Like I said, hasn’t always been fun, but we’ve enjoyed the fight together.”

With less than 20 laps to go, Denny Hamlin was leading over Elliott with Brad Keselowski making a hard charge towards the leaders. But a solo spin by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. with 13 laps to go brought out the caution. The top 20 led by Hamlin stayed out but, on the restart with 8 laps to go, Larson spun from 17th place going into Turn 1. NASCAR scored Elliott in the lead at the time of caution and the field was reset.

The first restart came with 2 laps to go with Elliott on the inside, and Hamlin on the outside. Hamlin’s shot for the win though came apart on the final lap coming to the white flag. Exiting Turn 3 while racing for the lead, Hamlin spun on the outside setting up an overtime finish with Elliott in the lead and Ross Chastain inheriting second.

“I haven’t seen a replay of Denny and us,” Elliott said. “I didn’t feel like I did anything super crazy there any more than anybody’s ever done to me. Just had to run forward. I want to look at it. I didn’t feel like I did anything to crash him. I think just the circumstances. But nonetheless, apologies to him if so.”

On the first attempt at overtime Harrison Burton, who led 7 laps earlier in the race, spun in Turn 2 and the field slowed setting up a second attempt at an overtime finish.

On what turned out to be the final restart Elliott and Chastain raced side by side with Elliott getting clear coming to the line to take the white flag.  Coming out of Turn 2 Chastain slipped up and in front of the Chevy of William Byron. Chastain’s car was sent front first into the outside wall, the final caution of the day flew, and Elliott was declared the winner.

“I just had a big run,” Byron said. “Ross (Chastain) and I race really well, and I didn’t want to wreck him there, but he blocked me late, which is understood. It’s racing at the end, but I was already there and unfortunately, we made enough contact to where it got him squirrelly and it happened.”

Brad Keselowski was second, Byron third with Tyler Reddick and Daniel Suarez rounding out the top five.

“We didn’t have a ton of speed,” Keselowski said. “Honestly, I’m more frustrated than anything because I feel like we have a great team, and we don’t have the speed to go with it. We’re doing all we can do to overcome that.

“The driver in me is frustrated because I feel like these are races I’m good enough to win, and we don’t have the speed to do it. Only reason I am mad as hell is it’s my fault for not making the cars faster.”

Chastain was scored 32nd. He was among the early leaders, out front for a total of 33 laps winning Stage 2.  Reddick was also among the early leaders recovering from a slow put stop under green on lap 213 and leading 37 circuits.

Kyle Larson led the most laps on the day but saw his race come undone in a bizarre way. After leading from the pole, and 77 laps winning Stage 1 along the way, during the race’s fourth caution for a spin from Carson Hocevar on lap115 Larson, who had pitted last on lap 102, lost a right rear wheel while the field circled under caution on lap 116. He was forced to pit from the lead and then held for two laps as a penalty.

Larson would earn his two laps back but was never able to get back to the front and had to settle for a 20th place finish. Hamlin led a total of 37 laps, but his final spin doomed his hopes for a win and left him 30th.

Chase Briscoe was sixth, Austin Dillon seventh, Bubba Wallace eighth with Kyle Busch and Hocevar finishing out the top 10.

After it was over Elliott celebrated along with frontstretch with a Polish victory lap made famous by the late Alan Kulwicki. Sunday’s win was the first for the sponsor since Kulwicki won the spring race at Bristol in 1992.

“Hooter’s has been a partner of ours for a number of years now,” Elliott said. “It’s been a dream of mine to pay respect to the late Alan Kulwicki. Driving this car to a victory and do a Polish victory lap, just really crazy how things came full circle there in that moment. It was pretty emotional for me. He beat dad back in the day. Here we are sharing his sponsor and having an opportunity to win today.”

NASCAR heads next to Talladega Superspeedway where Kyle Busch is the defending winner.

Greg Engle