Elliott Turns Bad Move Into A Winning Moment

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, September 30 2019
Chase Elliott hit some bumps in the road during Sunday’s Cup Series race at the Charlotte infield road course, but he recovered and got the victory. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – Redemption is sweet! 

Anyone who doubts that statement need only refer to Chase Elliott’s victory celebration Sunday following the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. After receiving the checkered flag, Elliott returned to the first-turn barrier he plowed into on lap 65 of the 109-lap race while leading on a restart. He stuck his Chevrolet’s nose into the same hole it made during the race and executed his burnout. 

“I was coming back on the frontstretch and I saw the dang thing and I was like, well, I couldn’t pass this opportunity up to go down here and redeem myself a little bit in turn one,” Elliott said. “I’m typically not very quick-witted, but I was really proud of that. Definitely, it should have never been special in the first place, but since I went out of my way to make it special today, I felt like I had to go back and see it one more time.”

Prior to the incident in the final stage, Elliott had led twice for 28 laps and clearly possessed one of the fastest cars. However, it was the restart following the fifth of 10 caution flags when it appeared his chance at victory had evaporated. He restarted the race, locked up his brakes heading into the first turn and never made the turn, bulldozing into the barrier.

“I’m not sure you could do something more stupid than that,” the 23-year-old Elliott said. “I just didn’t compensate enough for the fastest pace. I mean, yeah, it was nobody’s fault but mine.”

Elliott didn’t waste any time backing out of the barrier. In fact, he had the car in reverse so quickly, it appeared the entrance and exit was one fluid movement.

“I knew long before I hit it that I was going to hit it, so I was just thinking about reverse and getting out of there and finding a hole to crawl in as fast as possible because that was pretty dumb,” Elliott said. 

The second-generation driver used the speedway’s big screen TV to examine the damage on his car as he sped down the backstretch. Crew chief Alan Gustafson described the car’s damage as primarily cosmetic.

“It seemed like it pushed the hood down more than anything and kind of pushed the hood inside of the top of the fenders and kind of pushed it back into the windshield,” Gustafson said. “The biggest thing that we really had to do was get that back sealed up and get it down. Having that vented isn’t the greatest thing in the world for the performance of the car.

“As long as the splitter was intact and in good condition, no tire rubs, we were going to be in decent shape. I don’t know how we didn’t have more substantial damage than that. We got lucky.”

With 37 laps remaining, Elliott had fought his way back to 14th. Thirteen laps later the Dawsonville, Ga., native had made it to eighth, but it appeared his victory quest might end there since Kevin Harvick possessed a 7.311-second lead over second-place Martin Truex Jr. But then yellow fever struck. In the final 20 laps, there were four caution periods, which helped Elliott continue his march to the front. With 13 laps remaining, Elliott was fourth. When the final restart occurred with six laps to go Elliott was third. He quickly dispensed with the second-place Truex and then passed Harvick on the same lap on the 17-turn, 2.28-mile ROVAL. He then stretched his lead, finishing 3.024 seconds ahead of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman.

Elliott, Bowman, Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Truex, William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch advanced to the playoffs Round of 12. Those not advancing are Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola and Erik Jones. 

“I think we’re a stronger team now than we’ve ever been,” Elliott said. “I honestly feel like we’re really close to being able to assert ourselves amongst those top teams. I feel like we have that in us. I don’t say that because we won today. I say that because I believe it. 

“I think we definitely have work to do. You can’t run as bad as we did last weekend (Richmond) and then come here and win. You’ve got to be able to have a little more consistency than that. So we definitely have our work cut out for us and trying to get better.”

Elliott’s victory was his third this season and the sixth of his career. His first Charlotte victory came in the track’s fall race, just as his father’s did 35 years ago. On that October day in 1984, Bill Elliott defeated Benny Parsons by 14.5 seconds.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, September 30 2019
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