Following the disappointment of a crash at the Texas Motorsport Speedway a week ago, Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliot kept his cool to win NASCAR’s YellaWood 500 held at the Talladega Superspeedway.
Elliot was helped on his way to victory by a bump draft provided by Petty GMS Racing’s Erik Jones. The momentum generated by the push was just about enough to see Elliot prevail over his close friend Ryan Blaney by 0.046 of a second.
Front Row Motorsports’s Michael McDowell finished third with Trackhouse’s Ross Chastain in fourth and Denny Hamlin rounding out the top five.
The result meant Elliot, who was in danger of dropping out of playoff contention, became the first championship-eligible driver to win a race in the playoffs and gain an automatic qualification to the next round.
Elliot hails Chevrolet team spirit
Uncertain about his chance of winning heading into the last lap, Elliot admits he was fortunate to benefit from push given to him be fellow Chevrolet racer Jones.
“It was a wild last couple laps,” Elliot said after the race.
“I wasn’t super crazy about being on the bottom and fortunately I got just clear enough off of [Turn] 2 to slide up in front of Erik [Jones] and he gave me some great shoves, obviously a Team Chevy partner there.
“Just had a good enough run to get out front and then was able to stay far enough in front of Ryan [Blaney] at the line to get it done.
“Moments like that, you have to really cherish and you guys are what makes this special to me.
“These things are so so hard to win, you gotta enjoy them and just appreciate everyone’s effort today.”
Blaney wonders if things could have gone differently
After leading 31 laps and going into the last portion of the race as one of the pack’s two leaders along with Jones, the Penske’s Blaney admits he will spend some time contemplating the race finish to see if he could have employed a different approach to the race’s climax.
“I thought about it,” Blaney said when asked if he could have used approach when fighting for the lead.
“The second lane was kind of the strongest, definitely the second half of the race. And I thought about (throwing a block on Elliott) but when you go to the middle without a Ford or teammate behind you, the chances of getting split are so high.
“As much as I trust Chase, I don’t trust him enough for him not to take me three-wide and leave me in the middle so I chose to stay down in front of (fellow Ford driver) Michael (McDowell).
“He was awesome at pushing me on the last restart and giving me great shots. Just a little bit too late.
“Maybe I could have faked the top and gone to the bottom there on the frontstretch, but I don’t know if I could have gotten there anyway, but overall, not a bad day.
“Just probably going to replay in my head five different things I could have done different.”
What the playoff standings look like
Following his win, Elliot becomes the first driver to automatically secure his place in the next round. After finishing second, Blaney now leads the standings behind Elliot, with Chastain in third, Hamlin in fourth and Joey Logano, who finished second in Texas last week fifth in the standings.
Last year’s champion Kyle Larson is currently in sixth, with the Hendrick Motorsports driver only managing 18th at Talledega.
Chastain’s teammate Daniel Suarez and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe round out the top eight.
The next round of the NASCAR Cup Series will take place this coming Sunday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Bank of America ROVAL 400.
YellaWood 500 Top 10 Results
|1||Chase Elliot||Hendrick Motorsports||3:15’23.307|
|2||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||+0.046|
|3||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports||+0.094|
|4||Ross Chastain||Trackhouse Racing||+0.160|
|5||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||+0.183|
|6||Erik Jones||Petty GMS||+0.251|
|7||Todd Gilliland||Front Row Motorsports||+0.284|
|8||Daniel Suarez||Trackhouse Racing||+0.296|
|9||Austin Cindric||Team Penske||+0.312|
|10||Chase Briscoe||Stewart-Haas Racing||+0.322|