After a frustrating week of racing, Chase Elliott earned the victory in Thursday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte.
Four nights after having a Coke 600 victory ripped out of his hands, Chase Elliott came home a winner on Thursday night at Charlotte. The 24-year-old was well on his way to winning Sunday’s race before a late caution caused him to fall victim to a pit-road shakeup. Just a few evenings earlier he was turned by Kyle Busch while going for the win at Darlington. Elliott’s fortunes turned on Thursday night though as he led the final 28 laps of the Alsco 500 en route to his first victory of the year.
The win was Elliott’s seventh of his career and virtually locks him into NASCAR’s playoffs.
For the second-straight race at Charlotte the No. 9 car was the one to beat late in the going. After taking the lead Sunday night with about 50 laps to go, Elliott appeared destined to win his first Coca-Cola 600–something his legendary father, Bill Elliott, couldn’t accomplish himself. As fate would have it though, a spinning William Byron brought out the caution with three to go, prompting Elliott to hit pit road, allowing Brad Keselowski to assume the lead, which he would go on to hold on to for two more laps.
One couldn’t help though on Thursday night to wonder what could go wrong next for NASCAR’s most popular driver. Thanks in part to fuel strategy, Elliott was able to reel in leader Kevin Harvick over the final laps before eventually passing him for the win. It was Elliott’s first of 2020 and his first on the oval at Charlotte.
The victory essentially locks him into NASCAR’s 10-race playoffs at the end of the season and marks his fourth top-five finish in eight races this season. Elliott also won the Gander Outdoors truck race on Tuesday, and by beating Kyle Busch earned $100,000 in COVID-19 relief to an organization of his choice. After the race Elliott said that after what he described as a “tough week” things are finally heading in the right direction.
Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, and others rounded out the top five.
Outside of Elliott redeeming himself, this week’s second race at Charlotte provided plenty of other action. Joey Logano and Alex Bowman won stages one and two and appeared two of the cars to beat before Bowman suffered heavy damage after hitting the wall with just over 80 to go. Kyle Busch and Keselowski each had to deal with their own issues early while some new faces ran up front.
One of those drivers who had a surprisingly good night was Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who notched his first top-five of the season as well as his first with JTG Daugherty Racing. Stenhouse ran in or near the top 10 all night along with Kurt Busch who also put together a quietly impressive drive. Stenhouse would go on to finish fourth and Busch fifth, with Hamlin and Blaney second and third, respectively.
The Cup Series’ next action will take place on Sunday at Bristol in the Food City 500 at 3:30 on FS1. Kyle Busch has won each of the past two spring races at Bristol and will likely enter the weekend as the odds-on favorite.