“This is home for me,” Chase Elliott said as he stood on the start-finish line at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday night soaking up the cheers of the partisan crowd shortly after he won at his home track for the first time in his Cup career.
Elliott dominated the day leading the most laps, and sweeping both Stages, but in the end, victory was far from assured.
The Georgia native had to wrest the lead back from first Martin Truex Jr. then Corey LaJoie. LaJoie was a surprise in the closing stages and was leading when the races thirteenth and final caution came out with just 6 laps to go when Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin got together on the backstretch two laps after a restart for a yellow caused by a spin by Christopher Bell.
The restart came with 3 to go and LaJoie leading. As he had been all day, an aggressive Elliott charged forward and grabbed the top spot with 2 to go. Crossing the line to take the white flag Elliott led with Lajoie trying to score his first, and what would have been an improbable win in second. Elliott took the white flag and exiting Turn 2, Lajoie tried to make a move on the outside of Elliott. The two cars made contact with the car of Lajoie getting into the wall and sliding down across the track setting off a melee that forced NASCAR to throw the caution, freezing the field and giving the win to Elliott.
the younger Elliott now joins his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott as the only Georgia born driver to win Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“To win at your home track is a really big deal, I think to any race car driver,” Elliott said. “I’ve watched a lot of guys do it over the years… We haven’t really had a very good run here, so I felt like today was a great opportunity for us.
“Excited to get home. It’s going to be a big one tonight. I’m looking forward to it.”
After the contact on the last lap with LaJoie, Elliott said “I’m sorry” on his team radio. After the win he had no regrets, however.
“Well, I mean, obviously I knew he was going to have a big run,” Elliott said. “I didn’t really want to give him the bottom, and I tried to give it one real good aggressive block. Felt like I had enough room to kind of give it a second one, and he was just right there on the right side of my back bumper, so was far enough to the backside of the bumper to launch me forward. I hate I tore up some cars, but I don’t know what you do, either go for the win or don’t. I’m going to choose option A every day of the week.”
LaJoie finished 21st but was smiling and went to victory lane and congratulated Elliott.
“I made my move, and it didn’t work out,” he said. “Closest I’ve ever been, for sure that was fun. I’m proud of my guys at Spire and everyone whose helped us out.
“I made my move and it didn’t work out, and the siren is ringing in Dawsonville (Ga.) unfortunately,’’ LaJoie said referencing the famed Dawsonville (Ga.) Pool Room where the owners ring a bell to celebrate each of Elliott’s victories.
“I wish that 7 car was in Victory Lane, but we keep running like this more consistently, that time’s coming.”
Austin Cindric, Erik Jones, and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top five.
For much of the race, William Byron was one of Elliott’s closest contenders. He led the second most laps of the race, 41 to Elliott’s 96, but was swept up in a multicar crash on lap 171 started when Garrett Smithley got loose and spun coming out of turn 3. Bowman was forced to retire and finished 30th.
“Thinking that in the final stage some guys would stay out, we just seemed to get out further back than we thought we would,” Byron said. “We ended up like 18th or 19th and had to restart there, and that’s where the wreck happened. It was just unfortunate that we were back there. I don’t know if there is anything we could have really done because we had taken right side tires before then and our tires were pretty old.”
Denny Hamlin was the leading Toyota for much of the race and running inside the top five for most of the day. But, on lap 247 a feud with Ross Chastain that started at Gateway a few weeks ago flared up again after Chastain slipped up entering Turn 4 with his Chevy hitting the rear quarter panel of Hamlin’s Toyota sending it spinning. Hamlin would later be involved in the crash that set up the final dash to the finish. He was scored 25th.
“We were in really good position, and we were about to be clear of the 1 (Ross Chastain) and be in third in the outside line,” Hamlin said. “I was really happy with where I was at for sure. I think the 1 probably sensed that we were about to clear him, so he chased us up there and got into us.”
For his part Chastain was focused only on his runner up finish.
“Yeah, I hated that I took the best car here and I tore it up a couple times, but yeah, it’s incredible,” he said. “Hats off to Chevrolet and Trackhouse for bringing this fast of a Jockey Chevrolet to be able to come back. Our road crew and pit crew did an awesome job to rebound through all the damage repair, and we had a shot.
“I got inside of the 9 coming off of 2, coming to the checkered, and caution came out. I hope everybody is all right back there, but awesome job to Corey LaJoie and Spire Motorsports. I really thought into 1 when we took the white that I was going to push him to the win, and they all just fought for the top and almost gave it to us.”
Chastin’s Trackhouse Racing teammate Daniel Suarez was sixth, Justin Haley seventh, with Aric Almirola, Cole Custer and Harrison Burton completing the top 10.
When it was over Elliott was able to bask in the glow of his 15th career win, his third of 2022, but a win that probably means more to him than all the rest.
“Can’t wait to head back up 400 and get back home,” he said. “I want to say hey to my mom and dad. I know they’re watching at home. I wish they were here. This is a really special day for us, and just to thanks to all the fans here in Georgia who have supported me and supported my family for many years.
“Really just proud of this, and we’re going to enjoy it.”
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Quaker State 400
Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sunday, July 10, 2022
1. (1) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 260.
2. (2) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 260.
3. (5) Austin Cindric #, Ford, 260.
4. (25) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 260.
5. (6) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 260.
6. (7) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 260.
7. (24) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 260.
8. (22) Aric Almirola, Ford, 260.
9. (18) Cole Custer, Ford, 260.
10. (27) Harrison Burton #, Ford, 260.
11. (9) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 260.
12. (10) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 260.
13. (3) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 260.
14. (32) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 260.
15. (12) Michael McDowell, Ford, 260.
16. (14) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 260.
17. (28) Todd Gilliland #, Ford, 260.
18. (31) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 260.
19. (15) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 260.
20. (19) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 260.
21. (30) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 260.
22. (21) Kurt Busch, Toyota, Accident, 259.
23. (34) Cody Ware, Ford, 259.
24. (36) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 259.
25. (16) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 259.
26. (17) Joey Logano, Ford, DVP, 252.
27. (33) Garrett Smithley(i), Ford, 252.
28. (23) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, DVP, 174.
29. (4) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, Accident, 170.
30. (13) William Byron, Chevrolet, Accident, 170.
31. (20) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Engine, 162.
32. (8) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, DVP, 160.
33. (11) Chris Buescher, Ford, Accident, 107.
34. (29) Noah Gragson(i), Chevrolet, Suspension, 91.
35. (26) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 90.
36. (35) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, Accident, 77.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 118.754 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 22 Mins, 18 Secs. Margin of Victory: Under Caution
Caution Flags: 13 for 64 laps
Lead Changes: 27 among 12 drivers.
Lap Leaders: R. Chastain 1;C. Elliott 2;R. Chastain 3-21;D. Hamlin 22-23;R. Blaney 24;C. Elliott 25-50;R. Blaney 51;C. Elliott 52-63;T. Reddick 64-69;M. Truex Jr. 70-86;C. Elliott 87-94;H. Burton # 95-98;R. Stenhouse Jr. 99-100;H. Burton # 101-105;W. Byron 106-146;T. Reddick 147-153;C. Elliott 154-162;A. Cindric # 163-169;E. Jones 170-179;R. Chastain 180-191;C. LaJoie 192-201;C. Elliott 202;C. LaJoie 203-204;C. Elliott 205-241;M. Truex Jr. 242-251;C. LaJoie 252-258;C. Elliott 259-260.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Chase Elliott 8 times for 96 laps; William Byron 1 time for 41 laps; Ross Chastain 3 times for 32 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 2 times for 27 laps; Corey LaJoie 3 times for 19 laps; Tyler Reddick 2 times for 13 laps; Erik Jones 1 time for 10 laps; Harrison Burton # 2 times for 9 laps; Austin Cindric # 1 time for 7 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 2 laps; Ryan Blaney 2 times for 2 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 2 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 9,48,1,12,24,18,45,11,5,20
Stage #2 Top Ten: 9,8,6,12,45,20,21,24,1,7
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