It’s Turkey Day for Chase Elliott at Daytona

#9: Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro NAPA Auto Parts, #11: Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry FedEx Freight

In bowling, a turkey is three strikes in a row. And for Chase Elliott Sunday was a turkey. Elliott won his third NASCAR Cup series road course race in a row Sunday leading the most laps and holding off a hard charging Denny Hamlin to win the first NASCAR Cup series race on the 3.61 mile road course at Daytona International Speedway the Go Bowling 235.

Elliott led a race high 34 of the 65 laps at one point enjoying a lead of just over 10 seconds.  That was erased however when with 6 laps remaining, reigning Cup champion saw Kyle Busch an already miserable day come to an end with a crash along the backstretch setting up the race’s fourth and final caution.

The restart came with three laps to go. Denny Hamlin, Elliott’s nearest pursuer all race long tried one last time but came up short with Elliott winning by .202 of a second.  Martin Truex Jr. was third with Jimmie Johnson and Chris Buescher completing the top five.

“Our guys did a phenomenal job,” Elliott said. “We just had a phenomenal car. I don’t think I did anything very special today. I think Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and all our guys did a really good job pitting there at the start. We made a couple really small adjustments, I felt like, there, at that first stop and I was really kind of able to leave it after that. So, I just appreciate everybody that makes this happen.”

Elliott took the lead for the first time on lap 13 and won Stage 1 which ended on lap 15.

Hamlin would take control after the stops, win Stage 2 that ended on lap 30.  He would lead the second most laps on the day 16.

“I just would have liked to have stayed closer to him (Chase Elliott) to put a little pressure on entries,’ Hamlin said. “My entries were the strong point against him, but I was giving him four car lengths so he could kind of drive the entries the way he wanted to make sure he got a good exit. I wasn’t quite clean enough the last few laps, but I definitely gave myself a chance. Those last couple corners, I felt like I did as much as I could to get to him and tried to do it the right way.”

Pole sitter Kevin Harvick spun from fifth place after the start of final stage when his Ford was bumped from behind by the Toyota of rookie Christopher Bell. Harvick slid to a stop in turn 3 and continued, but in 37th place — last on the lead lap.

Several laps later, a nearby lightning strike halted the race for just over 30 minutes.  Elliott was firmly in control after the stoppage stretching out his lead. Only the crash by Busch slowed his pace.

For Kyle Busch, it was a forgettable day with his troubles starting early.  On lap 2 Busch locked up the brakes entering the frontstretch chicane sending him in for an unscheduled pit stop to change tires. He also spun in turn 6, dropping him back to 13th on Lap 25. The brakes on his Toyota finally gave out with 17 laps to go sending him to the garage. He returned six laps later but crashed shortly after.

Harvick spun again on lap 43, looping the No. 4 car around in turn 6. Harvick rallied to finish 17th, ending a streak of 10 straight top-10 results.

Clint Bowyer was sixth.  Kaz Grala finished seventh in his Cup Series debut, even leading three laps during a pit-stop cycle in the final stage. He had been tabbed by Richard Childress Racing as a late replacement in the No. 3 Chevrolet for Austin Dillon, who was sidelined after reporting a positive COVID-19 test Saturday.

William Bryon was eighth with Joey Logano and Michael McDowell rounding out the top 10.

Elliott won the road course race on the Charlotte Roval last fall as well as the road course race at Watkins Glen last August.  In the week leading up to the Daytona event, Elliott said he had a little help.

“A special thanks to Jordan Taylor and Boris Said for reaching out and being willing to help this weekend; some road course ringers,” Elliott said. “I tried to lean on them and luckily everything worked out.”

NASCAR decided to replace the road course race at Watkins Glen with the Daytona layout.  Despite some dire predictions the race was relatively clean.

“It was a lot more fun than I anticipated it to be,” third place finisher Truex said. “My opinion, this track suits our cars better than the Roval does for whatever reason. Even though the tire was really hard and not much tire wear, it was pretty slick out there. It was drivable and manageable. Charlotte kind of chatters and it’s hard to feel. This place was actually a lot of fun. I look forward to coming back.”

As the NASCAR Cup Series races to catch up on its COVID-19 delayed season, there will be a doubleheader weekend this week with races scheduled Saturday and Sunday at Dover International Speedway. The series returns to Daytona the following week to race on the traditional 2.5-mile oval in the regular season ending race.

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – AUGUST 16: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Go Bowling 235 at Daytona International Speedway on August 16, 2020 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Go Bowling 235 at the Daytona Road Course
Daytona International Speedway Road Course
Daytona Beach, Florida
Sunday, August 16, 2020

1. (7)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 65.

2. (2)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 65.

3. (3)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 65.

4. (11)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 65.

5. (21)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 65.

6. (12)  Clint Bowyer, Ford, 65.

7. (10)  Kaz Grala(i), Chevrolet, 65.

8. (13)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 65.

9. (5)  Joey Logano, Ford, 65.

10. (30)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 65.

11. (20)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 65.

12. (27)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 65.

13. (17)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 65.

14. (8)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 65.

15. (9)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 65.

16. (25)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 65.

17. (1)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 65.

18. (18)  Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 65.

19. (14)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 65.

20. (23)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 65.

21. (15)  Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 65.

22. (26)  Cole Custer #, Ford, 65.

23. (22)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 65.

24. (6)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 65.

25. (19)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 65.

26. (16)  Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, 65.

27. (31)  Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 65.

28. (33)  Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 65.

29. (37)  Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 65.

30. (38)  James Davison, Ford, 65.

31. (24)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 65.

32. (29)  Corey LaJoie, Ford, 65.

33. (35)  Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 64.

34. (32)  JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 64.

35. (28)  John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, Accident, 62.

36. (36)  Garrett Smithley(i), Ford, Battery, 60.

37. (4)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, Accident, 53.

38. (34)  Stanton Barrett, Chevrolet, 49.

39. (39)  Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, Transmission, 46.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  89.39 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 37 Mins, 30 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .202 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  4 for 7 laps.

Lead Changes:  13 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   K. Harvick 0;D. Hamlin 1;K. Busch 2;D. Hamlin 3-9;M. Truex Jr. 10-12;C. Elliott 13-16;J. Logano 17;D. Hamlin 18-21;M. Truex Jr. 22-27;D. Hamlin 28-31;C. Elliott 32-48;M. Truex Jr. 49;K. Grala(i) 50-52;C. Elliott 53-65.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Chase Elliott 3 times for 34 laps; Denny Hamlin 4 times for 16 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 3 times for 10 laps; Kaz Grala(i) 1 time for 3 laps; Joey Logano 1 time for 1 lap; Kyle Busch 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 9,22,48,14,21,20,24,19,41,37

Stage #2 Top Ten: 11,14,12,24,47,37,9,4,1,32

Greg Engle