NASCAR: Elliott Finally Breaks Through at The Glen

Source: Twitter (@HendrickMotorsports)

Chase Elliott put all of his second-place finish demons to rest with his first NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series victory at Watkins Glen International.

The 22-year-old from Dawsonville, Georgia held off a late race challenge from Martin Truex Jr. to secure his place in Victory Lane and a place in the 2018 NASCAR Playoffs.

It was Kyle Busch who did much of the running in the early stages after a frenetic start saw Busch, Elliott, Truex and Denny Hamlin battle extremely aggressively for the lead.

Busch came to pit road early before the end of the first stage for pit strategy leaving Truex to take home the Stage 1 victory ahead of Jimmie Johnson and William Byron who both also chose not to pit.

Stage 2 saw Busch quickly come under pressure for the lead from the charging Elliott. A great battle ensued for the next few laps before Elliott finally made the pass into Turn 7 – much to the delight of the sellout crowd.

Elliott maintained a 2-second lead over Busch until the end of the stage, picking up his third stage win in as many races, after only picking up 2 stage victories over the first 17 races.

A big turning point came at the final pit stops after the caution came out just at the edge of the final stop fuel window, when Matt DiBenedetto’s car blew up.

Busch’s car had a refuelling problem and had to come back to pit road to fill up whilst third-placed Hamlin also had issues running over his crew and his equipment, leading to a pit road penalty.

Elliott also had trouble, hitting a crew member on his stop, but since the equipment was already off the car before he set off, no penalty was issued.

All of this led to a final 32-lap shootout for the victory between Elliott and Truex. Elliott took advantage of restarting out front to quickly build a small buffer over the #78 driver, but soon the gap began to whittle down as the #9 crew told Elliott that he needed to save fuel.

As the race drew into its last 15 laps, Truex stayed within just half a second of the race leader, but never seemed quite close enough to make a pass.

With just 2 laps to go, Truex made a mistake through the fast chicane entering the carousel giving Elliott was appeared to be an unassailable lead.

However, at Turn 1 on the final lap Elliott wheelhopped and nearly lost total control of his Hendrick Chevrolet. Putting the car into neutral and running wide he just maintained the lead by a matter of inches.

Truex kept pushing, but halfway round the lap he ran out of fuel and Elliott was home and dry. A first victory. And a hugely popular one at that. Both in the grandstands and in the garage.

A touching moment came on the cooldown lap when legendary 7-time champion teammate Johnson offered a helping hand when Elliott’s car ran out of fuel. Pushing him back to the finish line had the crowd on its feet in jubilation.

It also marked the 250th victory in the history of Hendrick Motorsports. A team synonymous with the sport which has provided the cars for Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte, Johnson and others to win now has a new name in the record books.

As his team told him on the radio as Elliott crossed the line, it could be “the first of many”.

1. Chase Elliott
2. Martin Truex Jr.
3. Kyle Busch
4. Daniel Suarez
5. Erik Jones
6. Kyle Larson
7. Jamie McMurray
8. William Byron
9. Kurt Busch
10. Kevin Harvick