Reid Spencer – NASCAR Wire Service
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – History will record that Chase Elliott won his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race by a whopping 7.560 seconds over reigning champion Martin Truex Jr.
That description, however, doesn’t do justice to Elliott’s magnificent drive over the final 32 laps of Sunday’s Go Bowling at the Glen, with Truex hounding him every inch of the way before running out of fuel with two corners left.
“Holy cow, I don’t know what to say—just so thrilled, so emotional, so much relief,” said Elliott, who notched his first win in NASCAR’s foremost series in his 99th start, after recording eight second-place finishes. “Working on three years, I hadn’t won one.
“I came here with a great opportunity today, and I was able to get it done.”
The victory came with a sense of accumulating tension that was almost palpable, as Truex repeatedly closed up on Elliott in the braking zones but couldn’t make a run off the corners.
And then there was the final lap. There were audible gasps when Elliott wheel-hopped into Turn 1 and lost the six car-length advantage he had built on the second half of the 2.45-mile road course on the penultimate lap.
“I started to wheel-hop, and I knocked it out of gear in order not to spin out, and luckily I had a big enough gap where he couldn’t get me—but what a day!” exclaimed Elliott, who led 52 laps.
Elliott led the field to green for a restart on Lap 59 of 90, after race leader Kyle Busch had to return to pit road on Lap 56 to take on fuel after a snafu on the previous lap left him 10 gallons short of a full tank.
It took Truex most of Lap 59 to pass Kurt Busch for second, and by then Elliott had pulled away to a lead of more than 1.5 seconds, on the way to Chevrolet’s first victory since Austin Dillon took the checkered flag in the season-opening Daytona 500.
“I could get right to him,” said Truex, who steadily closed the gap until he got almost to the rear bumper of Elliott’s No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. “I chased him down from a ways back after that restart. I took a little too long to get around the 41 (Kurt Busch).
“He checked up, got a lead on us, I just tried all I could to chase him down, and I got there with plenty of time. “It’s just every time I’d start putting together some good corners and get close enough to him to even think about making a move, I’d get sideways behind him. He did a good job of putting his car exactly where it needed to be and not making a mistake.”
And even though Elliott wheel-hopped into Turn 1 on the final lap, Truex’s fuel situation ultimately made the mistake moot.
“He missed Turn 1 on the final lap, but I missed the inner loop on the (next-to-last) lap and lost five car lengths to him, so when he made that mistake in 1, I was too far back to capitalize,” Truex said. “We ran out of gas anyway coming off of Turn 5 that last lap, so it was really all a moot point. He was going to win regardless.”
After the fueling glitch, Kyle Busch drove from 31st to finish third without benefit of a subsequent caution. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones, ran fourth and fifth, respectively.
Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, William Byron, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick completed the top 10.
Elliott’s victory, with his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, spotting for him on the backstretch, was the 250th for Hendrick Motorsports and the first since Kasey Kahne won at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 23 of last year.
When Elliott crossed the finish line for the last time—before running out of gas himself and getting a push to Victory Lane from teammate Jimmie Johnson—he got a loud standing ovation from the fans in the frontstretch grandstand.
“That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, and I just want you all to know that,” Elliott said. “And I am very grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
“Let’s go get some more.”
Joey Logano continues Watkins Glen domination
with NASCAR Xfinity win
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Joey Logano reaffirmed his mastery of the road course at Watkins Glen International, but it took a three-wide restart late in Saturday’s Zippo 200 for the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford to get the job done.
After winning his fourth straight NASCAR Xfinity Series pole at the 2.45-mile track, Logano took teammate Brad Keselowski and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Ryan Preece three-wide into Turn 1 after a restart on lap 75 of 82.
Logano’s move forced Keselowski wide and Logano cleared his teammate before the entry to Turn 2. But Keselowski wasn’t finished. He hounded Keselowski relentlessly until Keselowski spun in Turn 1 with two laps left.
That gave Logano a comfortable margin, and he cruised to the finish line 3.362 seconds ahead of charging AJ Allmendinger, as Keselowski fell to 10th at the end. Allmendinger passed third-place finisher Justin Allgaier in the final corner to secure the runner-up spot.
“That was all I had,” said Logano, who came to the green for the final restart with six-lap fresher tires than Keselowski. “He was definitely faster. I thought the tires would have been enough to be faster than him.
“I had a good restart and got in front of him, and he dogged me. These Xfinity cars draft quite a bit down these straightaways, and it’s hard to pull away. It felt good to race each other really hard, so it’s cool to see Penske cars doing that.”
The victory was Logano’s third in four races at WGI, his second in four starts this season and the 30th of his career, breaking a tie with Matt Kenseth for seventh on the all-time list.
Preece came home fourth, his fifth top 10 and fourth top five in six 2018 starts. Aric Almirola completed the top five.
Logano won the race’s first stage before a rainstorm forced a change to rain tires. Allmendinger showed his road racing superiority by pulling away to win the second stage before the sun came out and dried the track.
Allmendinger drew a one-lap penalty for sliding too far and pitting outside his stall during a fuel-only green-flag stop on Lap 52, but he fought back to finish second after two late cautions bunched the field.
“Just a dumb mistake on my part,” Allmendinger said. “I was coming in for fuel there, and it was still a little bit damp on pit road… I rolled in and slid a little more than I expected and got the nose over the line, and they’d already started to refuel.
“I just knew that, once we got the yellow, I was going to have to start roughing people up an driving up through there as hard as I could.”
Christopher Bell fell short in his attempt to match Sam Ard’s series record of four straight victories. Bell recovered from a pass-through penalty (for crewmen over the wall too soon on a Lap 16 stop) and finished ninth.
But Bell holds the series lead by 22 points over Cole Custer, who finished sixth on Saturday. Daniel Hemric (16th) is third, 23 points back, and fourth-place Elliott Sadler trials by 26 points.