TALLADEGA, Ala.--Chase Elliott drove one of the best races of his career this past Sunday on the way to a sensational victory in the 188 lap Cup Series race.
“This was one of the coolest things,” said Elliott. “It was really awesome. You never know what is going to happen near the end, but the last lap is always crazy. We were in a good position, and knew we had a fast car, but you never can be sure about these races.
“This is close to home for me, so It’s a little bit like on your home course.”
The 23-year-old Dawsonville, Georgia driver won Stage Two and was leading the race when he pitted on lap 132. During an earlier pit stop, his team was the fastest, but when he returned to the track on lap 133, he had lost eight positions.
During lap 181, Aric Almirola got into the rear of Chris Buescher, sending his No. 37 into the wall, and collecting three other cars. This brought out a caution, then the race was redflagged.
When green flag racing resumed on lap 184, Elliott was fifth. In less than two laps, he had gained the lead from Joey Logano. With his teammate Alex Bowman pushing him, it looked good for the two Hendrick Motorsports cars.
Eric Jones spun, but did not wreck and the race stayed green. Immediately after Elliott had taken the white flag, seven cars got together, bringing out the race’s last caution, which froze the field, and locked everyone in position, giving Elliott his fourth career Cup Series win, and first superspeedway victory.
Bowman had run up front for much of the race and appeared poised to challenge Elliott for the lead, until the caution came out.
“We had a great race car and were in good position,” said Bowman. “I knew I could get to his quarter-panel, but I don’t know whether I could have gotten around him.”
Third-place finisher, Ryan Preece had his best career Cup Series finish.
“It was an awesome day for us,” said Preece. “While some guys might feel bad about not winning, we appreciate where we did finish.”
Joey Logano was fourth, followed by Daniel Hemric, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Brendan Gaughan, Aric Almirola, and Kyle Busch.
The big wreck came during the last lap and involved cars that were running at nearly 200 miles per hour down the back straightaway. Kyle Larson’s car hit the inside wall, was banged into by two other cars and made four complete rollovers. But he emerged unscathed.
“Man, what a ride,” said Larson. “It was the wildest experience I’ve ever had. We had a good, fast car, but we were in the wrong place and it turned into a bad day.”
NASCAR penalized eight teams less than two hours before Sunday’s Cup Series race for unapproved adjustments.
They included Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Reed Sorenson and Cody Ware.
Top-10 leaders after 10 of 36: 1. Kyle Busch-430, 2. Logano-415, 3. Hamlin-367, 4. Harvick-350, 5. Keselowski-337, 6. Truex-328, 7. Elliott-324, 8. Kurt Busch-323, 9. Blaney-306, 10. Bowyer-288.
REDDICK PERSEVERES AT TALLADEGA
Twice during Saturday’s 113-lap Xfinity Series race, Tyler Reddick took himself out of contention, but each time he overcame the adversity to get his first win of the season.
First, he received a pit road speeding penalty and then his team had to repair damage to the right side of his No. 2 Chevrolet, after a brush with the outside wall.
The race’s last restart was a green-white-checkered finish. Reddick was the leader, followed by Christopher Bell and Austin Cindric. Reddick got a good jump, but Gray Gaulding got a run on him as the field took the white flag, signifying one more lap. It appeared Gaulding might be able to make a pass, but was unable to do so, and had to settle for second.
“We knew we had a good car, but after hitting the wall, I’m surprised we were able to get back in the mix,” said Reddick. “It’s amazing we were able to win today with this car as messed up as it is.”
Gaulding’s second-place was his highest finish of the season.
“I thought I had timed my move perfectly,” said Gaulding. “I got up beside him just like I wanted, but that was all I could do.”
Christopher Bell was third, followed by Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, John Nemechek, Justin Haley, Josh Williams, Landon Cassill, and Chris Cockrum.
Top-10 leaders after 9 of 33: 1. Reddick-413, 2. Bell-381, 3. Cindric-339, 4. Custer-338, 5. Allgaier-298, 6. John Nemechek-295, 7. Briscoe-295, 8.Sieg-289, 9. Gragson-284, 10. Haley-273.
EARNHARDT TRADITION CONTINUES
Jeffrey Earnhardt is still carrying on a family tradition. Even though he has never won a major NASCAR race, the fourth generation Earnhardt is having a career year.
He is the grandson of seven-time Cup Series Champion Dale Earnhardt and nephew of this generation’s most popular driver, Dale Jr. Jeffrey began his race career in a silver 4-cylinder Yugo on the dirt tracks of Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Virginia. He won Rookie of the Year at the local track and knew immediately that he’d be chasing his dreams to the paved tracks of NASCAR. He created his own company and is working his way through the ranks like his grandfather did. Jeffrey has competed in Truck, Xfinity and Specialty events including the Rolex Series and NASCAR Euro Series.
“This weekend was about putting on a great show and coming out of Talladega with two good finishes,” said Earnhardt. “The support from these two teams has been amazing, and the best way for me to show that is to go out, take care of the equipment and be there at the end with a chance to win. You don’t know what to expect at Talladega. You never know how the race is going to play out, but if you can hang around and make it to those final laps, you’ve got a chance to take home a trophy. There have been a lot of learning moments this year and I’m sure we have some more coming. ”
This past weekend he drove the No. 18 Toyota on Saturday for Xtreme Racing, and the No. 81 for Joe Gibbs Racing on Sunday.
Earnhardt was running second in the Xfinity race with nine laps to go, when he was shuffled back, hit the outside wall and finished 26th. In Sunday’s Cup race, he was involved in the big wreck and wound up one lap down in the 22nd position.
Earnhardt said he is absolutely committed to “Earning Earnhardt” and has his sights set on becoming a NASCAR Champion.
Racing Joke: The drivers and crewmembers were lined up in the track cafeteria prior to the evening practice session. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. One of the chef’s made a note, and posted on the apple tray: “Take only one. God is watching.”
Moving further along the lunch line, at the other end of the table was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. Kurt took his pen, scribbled a note and put it by the cookies, “Take all you want. God is watching the apples.”
Weekend Racing: It’s on to Dover’s Monster Mile for all three of NASCAR’s major series.
Fri, May 3; Truck Series race 5 of 23; Starting time: 2:00 pm ET; TV: FoxSports1.
Sat, May 4; Xfinity Series race 10 of 33; Starting time: 12:30 pm ET; TV: FoxSports1.
Sun, May 5; Cup Series race 11 of 36; Starting time: 2:00 pm ET; TV: FoxSports1.
Racing Trivia Question: Who is the owner of the ARCA Racing Series?
Last Week’s Question: Where is Joey Logano’s hometown? Answer. Middletown, Connecticut.
Gerald Hodges is a syndicated NASCAR writer and author. You may contact him by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org