Elliott Savors Victory After Big Day At His ‘Home Race’

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 3 2022

Chase Elliott smokes his tires for the folks in the Talladega grandstands. (Photo by Chris Owens/HHP for Chevy Racing)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer

TALLADEGA, Ala. – It was only fitting that the new Victory Lane at Talladega Superspeedway was christened on Sunday by Chase Elliott, NASCAR’s most popular driver.

His narrow win over Ryan Blaney in the YellaWood 500 resulted in a chorus of thunderous cheers reserved for drivers whose last name is Earnhardt or Elliott.

“North Georgia is not far from here,” said Elliott, who hails from Dawsonville, Ga. “So this definitely feels like a home race.”

His fifth victory of the season came with a last lap assist from fellow Chevrolet driver Erik Jones.

“Fortunately, I got just clear enough off of (Turn) 2 to slide up in front of Erik,” Elliott explained. “He gave me some great shoves and I had a good enough run to get out front and then I was able to stay far enough in front of Ryan at the line to get it done.”

Considering the carnage typically associated with 500-mile affairs at Talladega, it was a mainly uneventful day during a race slowed by six cautions.

The lone multi-car incident occurred on lap 25 when a bump gone awry by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. turned the No. 21 Ford driven by Harrison Burton.

“He hit me and as soon as he did I was crossed up and going side-to-side,” said Burton, who was one of eight drivers swept up in the melee in Turn 1.

The remainder of the day featured both single file 30-car trains and lengthy side-by side battles for the lead.

However, the whopping 57 official lead changes during the 188 laps left many non-Chase Elliott fans lighting up Social Media and calling the Sirius Satellite Radio post-race show complaining about the day’s lack of competition.

However, the race winner wasn’t buying into their claims.

“I thought it was a good show,” Elliott said. “It was another close finish right there at the start/finish line. There’s not much more you can really ask for.”

Fifth-place finisher Denny Hamlin, who made news on Saturday by saying the sport needs a “new car and new leadership,” was again critical of the current NextGen car following Sunday’s 500 as he explained the limitations of the vehicle on the mammoth 2.66-mile speedway.

“It’s just so hard to pass,” Hamlin said. “It’s just a train of two lines. You really can’t run three-wide with this car, so you just have to sit behind whoever is right there in front of you and hope you can push that line a little bit forward. And, hopefully, they switch lanes and you can leap forward.”

Elliott’s victory managed to deliver a bit of normalcy to the Cup Series’ Race to the Championship. The first four playoff races had been won by drivers not eligible to claim the title at Phoenix next month.

Following his win on Sunday, Elliott, the 2020 NASCAR Cup champion, is suddenly the favorite to win his second title.

He’ll also be the driver to beat at next Sunday’s race on the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

But the 18-time career Cup race winner has his sights set on the big prize that will be handed out following the season finale at Phoenix.

“The win today gets us through to the next one,” Elliott said. “That all you can ask for, to have more opportunities. That’s really what this is all about.

“We got six more playoff points to go with that win today. That’s a big deal.

“We’re excited for the final handful of events. Hopefully, we can make it out to Phoenix and give them a run.”


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 3 2022
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