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As the 23rd driver to win @WGI, @chaseelliott now becomes the youngest road-course winner in #NASCAR Cup Series history and the fourth driver to get his first win at the New York track. 👍 pic.twitter.com/GC5vItcUVi
— Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) August 5, 2018
As NASCAR made its annual early August visit to New York, Chase Elliott earned a victory that was historic in more ways than one.
NASCAR fans don’t agree on much these days. Seeing a young stud and son of a series legend earn his first career win created some rare unanimity.
Chase Elliott earned the first win of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career, taking the checkered flag at Sunday’s Go Bowling at the Glen event at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, NY. In his 99th career start, Elliott held off defending race winner and reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr. to secure the checkered flag.
Elliott, son of former series champion Bill, had eight runner-up finishes prior to Sunday’s victory. Needless to say, the young driver was relieved to get the winless monkey off his back.
According to Daniel McFadin, Elliot had this to say following his first career victory:
“Holy cow, what a thrill. I don’t know what to say. (I’m) just so thrilled, just so emotional, so much relief. (We’ve been) working all three years and hadn’t won one. (We) came here with a great opportunity today and I was able to get it done.”
Starting from the third position, Elliott spent a majority of the race’s first 20-lap stage battling pole-sitter Denny Hamlin for positioning in the top four while Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch fought for the lead. When Elliott took the lead from Busch on lap 27, the Watkins Glen fans cheered in approval. Elliott would go on to win the second 20-lap segment, earning a stage victory for the third consecutive week.
Busch retook the lead after the second segment and was up front when the caution flag came out on lap 55 to account for the stalled car of Matt DiBenedetto. Busch emerged with the leaders, but an issue with his fuel probe put only a few gallons of fuel in his #18 Toyota, forcing him to return to pit lane to top off. Though Busch raced back to finish third, his chances of victory vanished with the mishap.
The rest of the race went green, with Elliott leading the final 34 laps. Truex threatened several times, most prominently when Elliott got slightly loose in the first turn on the final lap. Restarting 12th after the DiBenedetto caution, Truex worked his way up to Elliott’s back bumper, but the 22-year-old Elliott stood his ground. Once Truex ran out of fuel toward the end of the final lap, Elliott crossed the start/finish line to the tune of the crowd’s cheers.
Ironically enough, Elliott ran out of fuel as he made his victory lap around the track. Fortunately enough, Elliott’s teammate, seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson pushed Elliott back in front of the stands, where he met his joyous crew for the victory.
It was a fitting ending for the afternoon, as Elliott’s victory marked the 250th visit to victory lane for his team, Hendrick Motorsports. One of the most prominent names in the history of NASCAR, the team has won 12 Cup Series titles under team owner Rick Hendrick, including four from Jeff Gordon and one more from Terry Labonte.
“Jimmie has been one of my heroes for a long, long time,” Elliott told NASCAR.com. “I leaned on him a lot over this past offseason and I always lean on him, but certainly a lot throughout this offseason just about the opportunities I’ve had in the past and not closing them out. He has been a big supporter of mine and that was one of the coolest things ever and I will never forget it.”
On a more personal level, Elliott earned the victory with the help of his father, winner of 44 Cup Series races and the 1988 series title. Inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015, Bill earned his first victory at defunct road course Riverside International Raceway and recently announced he would run in the upcoming NASCAR Xfinity Series race at another road course race, the Johnsonville 180 at Road America. The elder Elliott served as a spotter for his son on Sunday.
“I don’t know how to describe it. I’m sitting there, counting the laps wind down and I’m thinking…’what’s going to go wrong now?'” Bill Elliott said to Rutledge Wood of NBC. “But we held to together and, lo and behold, Truex runs out of gas. Luck went our way today.
- With his victory, Elliott became the eighth different race winner this winner and, by association, eighth driver to clinch his playoff spot. Despite no wins over his first two full seasons, Elliott qualified for the playoffs each time.
- Elliott’s victory was the first for a Chevrolet since Austin Dillon took home the season-opening Daytona 500. It was also the first victory for a Hendrick Motorsports car in 37 races, dating back to Kasey Kahne’s Indianapolis win in July 2017.
- Rookie William Byron, Elliott’s Hendrick teammate, finished eighth, earning back-to-back top ten finishes for the first time in his Cup career after a sixth-place finish at Pocono last week.
- Winner of the other road course race in Sonoma, CA in June, Truex was able to coast across the finish line to finish second. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas rounded out the top five, as Kyle Busch, Daniel Suarez, and Erik Jones finished behind the leaders.
- Kurt Busch was forced to start from the rear of the field, but mustered a top ten finish, moving up 27 spots to finish ninth.
- Joey Logano was relegated to a last-place finish in 37th after he was sent through the Turn 6 dirt by incidental contact from Kyle Larson, bringing out a caution on the race’s second lap. Logano took the car to the garage, but was unaware he was subjected to NASCAR’s damaged vehicle policy, which forces cars to leave the race.