Race Weekend Central

Chase Elliott Comes From Behind to Win in Wild Gander Outdoors 400 Finish

One year after learning how to lose at the Monster Mile, Chase Elliott found a way to win. Sunday’s (Oct. 7) Gander Outdoors 400 gave him that second chance.

Elliott stayed out during a late-race caution for Clint Bowyer’s wreck and then hung on through two tense final restarts to win at Dover International Speedway. Denny Hamlin hung on for second followed by Joey Logano, Erik Jones and Kurt Busch in the first Round of 12 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff race.

Bowyer changed the outcome of the race after slamming into the wall hard with eight laps left. That led to a variety of pit strategies and crew chief Alan Gustafson decided to keep Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet on the racetrack.

“That was our best opportunity to win the race,” he said. “It was the best opportunity to score the most points we could score.”

Elliott made the most of it, battling hard with Hamlin on the final restart. The two drivers raced clean and Elliott pushed ahead with the edge out of Turn 2 each time.

“After last fall,” said Hamlin, referencing their infamous Martinsville contact. “I was really sure to try and not make any contact, to be honest with you.”

Elliott’s victory comes one year after one of the most difficult days of his career. Kyle Busch ran a faster Elliott down in last fall’s Dover race and used lapped traffic to pass him with two laps left.

“It definitely makes you learn,” he said. “When you have those hard days, it gives you no choice but to grow up a little bit. Fought back [in 2018] to have a great shot at the end.”

Bowyer’s caution led to a variety of pit strategies, taking away what looked to be the first win since 2014 for Aric Almirola. Almirola had been maintaining about a one-second lead over teammate Kurt Busch in the closing laps.

But losing track position ultimately cost him. Back in the pack after pitting for tires, Almirola lost control on the restart and triggered a multi-car wreck that took out fellow title contenders Brad Keselowski and Alex Bowman.

“When Kevin [Harvick] had misfortune, I felt it put it in our lap as the car to beat,” said a dejected Almirola after the race. “You don’t get an opportunity to win races every day. I just got a little too tight against the fence, came down, collected Brad and a lot of cars.

“It just didn’t work out.”

“It seems like a pretty calm and controlled race until the end,” added Logano. “The No. 9 team capitalized today. Congratulations to them.”

Elliott earned just the third win for Chevrolet this year, a total that had been its lowest since 1981. It locks at least one of the manufacturer’s cars into the Round of 8 heading into the wild card restrictor plate race at Talladega Superspeedway next week.

GANDER OUTDOORS 400 UNOFFICIAL RESULTS

Kevin Harvick dominated the first 300+ laps at Dover, also pulling over 10 seconds ahead of the field at one point. He swept each of the first two stages en route to leading a race-high 286 laps.

But on the final green-flag pit stop of the race, Harvick was forced to pit a second time for a broken valve stem. The extra stop took him off the lead lap for a time and ruined what had been a whooping on the field.

“I can’t control where the lugnuts fly,” he said afterward. “The Busch Beer Ford was really fast. That’s about it.”

The flurry of late cautions at the end allowed Harvick to fight back to sixth. Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Daniel Suarez rounded out the top-10 finishers.

Jimmie Johnson, the track’s all-time leader with 11 Dover victories never made it to the green flag. A suspension failure put him behind the wall early as he ultimately finished 36th, 17 laps off the pace. It was his second straight week of rough luck after also spinning out on the last lap of the Charlotte ROVAL, killing off his 2018 title hopes.

About the author

The author of Bowles-Eye View (Mondays) and Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 30 staff members as its majority owner. Based in Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild.

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