Elliott Pulls Off A Critical Win At TMS

Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott held off the field in a thrilling, wildly-popular double overtime victory in the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday afternoon to earn his first victory in 42 starts – dating back to the 2022 season.

By no means was it an easy win for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion and the sport’s perennial Most Popular Driver, but that’s part of what made it so special to 28-year old Georgia-native. The driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet prevailed in three late race restarts – including two in overtime – to claim his first NASCAR Cup Series win on the 1.5-mile Texas high banks and first trophy since a Playoff victory at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in October 2022.

“Oh man, it couldn’t feel any better,” said a smiling Elliott, who did a “reverse” victory lap around the track in homage to the late series champion Alan Kulwicki, whose car was also sponsored by the Hooters restaurant chain that Elliott’s car carried on Sunday.

“Couldn’t be any more grateful for this journey and the fact, it hasn’t always been fun but certainly I have enjoyed working with our guys,” he continued. “We’ve been working really hard and really well together and that’s always been fun. We’ve enjoyed the fight together.”

RFK Racing owner/driver Brad Keselowski finished a season-best runner-up in a race that lasted more than three and a half hours and had a track record 16 caution periods.

On a restart with two laps of regulation to go, Elliott and Denny Hamlin were vying for the lead side-by-side when Hamlin’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota got loose and into the wall, putting the race into a two-lap overtime shootout. Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain started alongside Elliott but couldn’t pass him before another caution came out a lap into overtime, forcing another restart.

On that restart, Elliott got ahead of Chastain again and took the white flag signaling one lap to go, when Chastain was tagged from behind by Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron – officially ending the race. Chastain, who led 33 laps on the day was credited with a 32nd-place finish. Hamlin, who led 37 laps, ended up 30th.

Elliott conceded the afternoon was a full-on day of drama and high competition. There were 23 lead changes among 13 drivers – seven of whom led double digit laps.

“It was crazy,” he said, “And I couldn’t be more proud of our team.”

Bryon, a three-race winner this season, was third, followed by 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick and Chastain’s Trackhouse Racing teammate Daniel Suarez.

“We didn’t have a ton of speed, I was more frustrated than anything because I feel like we have a great team and we don’t have the speed to go with it and we’re doing all we can do to overcome that,” Keselowski said, adding. “So proud of the team for the pit stops, the strategy and the execution [today].”

Differing pit strategies and plenty of pit road issues played into the late race push to the checkered flag.

With 60 laps remaining Reddick pulled away to the biggest lead of the race – more than six seconds on the field, but a slow pit stop – trouble with the left rear tire – forced him into a game of catch-up. His top five was impressive considering the setback.

Similarly, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Martin Truex Jr., who has led the championship standings this year, was running up front when he had trouble on pit road – forced to make two stops on the final pit stop cycle to correct a loose wheel. He finished 14th despite the woes.

And the day’s most dominant driver, Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson also had to rally from a setback. He started his No. 5 Hendrick Chevrolet from the pole position for the third consecutive week and led a race best 77 of the 276 laps early – winning the opening stage, only to have a right rear tire fall of his car during an early caution period.

He was penalized two laps for the tire situation – per the rulebook – and spent much of the remainder of the race trying to make up ground. He got back on the lead lap and was moving forward when he was caught in an accident with only eight laps remaining.

Larson ultimately finished 21st, but holds a 17-point edge over Truex atop the NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe finished sixth. Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon earned his best finish of the season with a seventh-place run. 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace, RCR’s Kyle Busch and Spire Motorsports rookie Carson Hocevar rounded out the top-10.

The NASCAR Cup Series moves East for next Sunday’s GEICO 500 at the famed Talladega Superspeedway (3 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Kyle Busch is the defending race winner.

Check out the Results of the AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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