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Elliott Puts On Awesome Show In Winning Atlanta

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 10 2022

Chase Elliott brought the home-state fans to their feet on Sunday in Atlanta. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

HAMPTON, Ga. – Following a dazzling debut in March, the reimagined Atlanta Motor Speedway racing surface delivered again as home state hero Chase Elliott used a bold three-wide move on the next-to-last lap to surge into the lead before holding off Ross Chastain coming off Turn 2 just as the caution flag waved to capture Sunday’s Quaker State 400.

It was the first career win for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a track that saw his legendary father Bill Elliott visit victory lane on six occasions.

“This is a really special one for me. It’s a moment you want to bottle up and enjoy forever,” said Elliott, who hails from and resides in nearby Dawsonville. “It hasn’t been our best track. I don’t know what got into (crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) and the guys this week.

“This NAPA Chevrolet was unreal all day. I felt like we were just really solid and could do anything with it. And when you have days like this, you have to capitalize on it.”

Longshot Corey Lajoie nearly stole the show after running in the lead pack all afternoon and flexing plenty of muscle during the final 50 laps as his No. 7 Chevrolet rode in the Top 3.

LaJoie found himself at the front of the field on the race’s final restart with three laps remaining. But heartbreak set in as the field roared off Turn 2 and LaJoie spun while trying to hold off the eventual race winner.

A victory would have virtually assured a berth in the upcoming playoffs for LaJoie. Instead, he was left wondering what might have been after being credited with a disappointing 21st-place finish.

“You only get one shot and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t,” LaJoie said. “We’re capable as a team but we’ve just had a tough stretch with some mechanical failures.

“When you come to a place like Atlanta, you have to capitalize. It was damn close. I would have rather gone down in a ball of flames rather than be content to finish second.”

After the spring race produced constant drafting and side-by-side racing, there had been talk the large packs of cars might not be as plentiful following several months of aging on the new ribbon of asphalt and the recent stifling heat that saw temperatures climb over 100 degrees in Georgia.

But there was ample side-by-side action throughout the 260 lap event, which saw the race leader never hold more than a three car length lead over the field.

There were plenty of storylines throughout the event, most notably another Ross Chastain-Denny Hamlin dustup with 13 laps remaining as the duo raced inside the Top 5.

While Chastain explained to the media how he nearly won the race, 25th-place finisher Hamlin stood on the other end of pit road glaring over the damage of his No. 11 Toyota.

It was all Hamlin could do to keep his temper in check as walked toward the garage with a gaggle of media in tow peppering him with questions about the incident with the aggressive Chastain that cost him a chance to win.

“It’s just another unfortunate circumstance,” said Hamlin, who was on the receiving end of two other aggressive moves by Chastain earlier this season. “Everyone has their different tolerance level.

“As you guys know, I’ve reached my peak. It all works itself out in the end.”

Hendrick Motorsports Vice Chairman Jeff Gordon, one of the sport’s all-time greatest drivers, has experienced his share of special wins in his career. He labeled Elliott’s victory as one of the most important of his young career.

“He has a great fan following everywhere he goes,” Gordon said. “But here, there’s no doubt it’s something special. He’s a hometown kind of guy.

“He’s a Georgia guy through-and-through with the sports teams, to living here to his family’s legacy. So I know this one means a lot to him.”

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NASCAR Cup Series Race

Atlanta Motor Speedway

Hampton, Georgia

Sunday, July 10, 2022

  1. (1)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 260.
  2. (2)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 260.
  3. (5)  Austin Cindric #, Ford, 260.
  4. (25)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 260.
  5. (6)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 260.
  6. (7)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 260.
  7. (24)  Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 260.
  8. (22)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 260.
  9. (18)  Cole Custer, Ford, 260.
  10. (27)  Harrison Burton #, Ford, 260.
  11. (9)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 260.
  12. (10)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 260.
  13. (3)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 260.
  14. (32)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 260.
  15. (12)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 260.
  16. (14)  Chase Briscoe, Ford, 260.
  17. (28)  Todd Gilliland #, Ford, 260.
  18. (31)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 260.
  19. (15)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 260.
  20. (19)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 260.
  21. (30)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 260.
  22. (21)  Kurt Busch, Toyota, Accident, 259.
  23. (34)  Cody Ware, Ford, 259.
  24. (36)  Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 259.
  25. (16)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 259.
  26. (17)  Joey Logano, Ford, DVP, 252.
  27. (33)  Garrett Smithley(i), Ford, 252.
  28. (23)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, DVP, 174.
  29. (4)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, Accident, 170.
  30. (13)  William Byron, Chevrolet, Accident, 170.
  31. (20)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Engine, 162.
  32. (8)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, DVP, 160.
  33. (11)  Chris Buescher, Ford, Accident, 107.
  34. (29)  Noah Gragson(i), Chevrolet, Suspension, 91.
  35. (26)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 90.
  36. (35)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, Accident, 77.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  118.754 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 22 Mins, 18 Secs. Margin of Victory:  Under Caution Seconds.

Caution Flags:  13 for 64 laps

Lead Changes:  27 among 12 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   R. Chastain 1;C. Elliott 2;R. Chastain 3-21;D. Hamlin 22-23;R. Blaney 24;C. Elliott 25-50;R. Blaney 51;C. Elliott 52-63;T. Reddick 64-69;M. Truex Jr. 70-86;C. Elliott 87-94;H. Burton # 95-98;R. Stenhouse Jr. 99-100;H. Burton # 101-105;W. Byron 106-146;T. Reddick 147-153;C. Elliott 154-162;A. Cindric # 163-169;E. Jones 170-179;R. Chastain 180-191;C. LaJoie 192-201;C. Elliott 202;C. LaJoie 203-204;C. Elliott 205-241;M. Truex Jr. 242-251;C. LaJoie 252-258;C. Elliott 259-260.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Chase Elliott 8 times for 96 laps; William Byron 1 time for 41 laps; Ross Chastain 3 times for 32 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 2 times for 27 laps; Corey LaJoie 3 times for 19 laps; Tyler Reddick 2 times for 13 laps; Erik Jones 1 time for 10 laps; Harrison Burton # 2 times for 9 laps; Austin Cindric # 1 time for 7 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 2 laps; Ryan Blaney 2 times for 2 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 2 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 9,48,1,12,24,18,45,11,5,20

Stage #2 Top Ten: 9,8,6,12,45,20,21,24,1,7

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 10 2022
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