Chase Elliott bounced back from a mistake at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL to take home the victory and lock himself into the next round of the playoffs.
The elimination race for the first round of the postseason had its share of game-changing moments, among them race leader Elliott locking the brakes and sliding into the turn 1 wall on a restart with 45 laps to go.
“What a day,” Elliott said to NBC. “I pretty well blew it, but got the cautions at the right time and brought it home.”
Ryan Newman, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones failed to make the next round of the playoffs, with Newman and Alex Bowman fighting over the final transfer spot in different parts of the track as the race wound down. Bowman rebounded from his lap 1 spin to finish second to his teammate and move on by one point over Newman.
ROVAL action kicked off with a cloud of smoke, as Bowman spun entering the backstretch chicane on the first lap. Martin Truex Jr. and Bubba Wallace both cut the chicane to avoid Bowman’s No. 88, with Truex serving a stop-and-go penalty on the frontstretch and Wallace being penalized with a pass-through on pit road.
Truex had an eventful first 10 laps, missing the backstretch chicane a second time and stopping on the frontstretch once again. Per NASCAR’s rules, drivers have to come to a full stop on the frontstretch to atone for missing the chicane.
Polesitter William Byron led early, nearly winning the first stage until a late caution derailed those hopes. Jimmie Johnson and Chris Buescher collided after Johnson locked up the brakes, and Bowman, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones all went around in the first turn.
Jones suffered a punctured radiator, sending the No. 20 to the garage and out of the playoffs after a miserable first round.
Up front, Kyle Larson got around leader Byron for the lead, winning the stage under caution, but Larson was penalized during the stage break after a pit crew member continued working on the grill after Larson left the box.
Joey Logano led the field back to green to start the second stage, but Elliott soon got around the No. 22 to take a commanding lead.
Logano would then get into the turn 3 tire barrier after a pit stop, the cold tires possibly causing the contact and sending the No. 22 back to pit lane.
The next caution would come out when Bowman turned Wallace into the wall coming out of the chicane. Wallace had apparently been giving Bowman the finger for several laps, and Bowman retaliated on lap 42.
Clint Bowyer and Michael McDowell led the field back to green while Elliott stormed back toward the front, but Brad Keselowski passed both for the top spot soon after. Elliott then went on a mission to the front, passing Keselowski with a lap and a half remaining of stage two and winning the stage. Bowyer finished third, gaining valuable points.
Daniel Hemric spun and brought out the caution flag again, and Elliott led the field back to green, but locked up the brakes and slid into the wall. The No. 9 didn’t suffer substantial damage, though, and the team was able to repair the car.
Kyle Busch then suffered a flat tire and limped back to pit road, but drove through too many boxes and had to serve a penalty, ending his chances of winning the race.
Cautions plagued the late portions of the race. Another multi-car crash with 17 to go marred the race when Hamlin spun around, causing a chain-reaction crash that involved Newman and Ryan Preece. Daniel Suarez slid through the grass after the restart, bringing out another yellow flag, and a crash involving Kurt Busch and Buescher brought out another with 11 to go.
After several caution laps, the red flag flew and cars came to a stop.
Kevin Harvick led off the majority of the restarts and led the field back to green with six laps left. Elliott then proceeded to run down the No. 4 and pass him, going on to win the race and lock himself into the Round of 12.
Elliott celebrated by bracing his car against the turn 1 wall where he crashed earlier and doing a burnout, the car rolling away after he got out of it.
“Such a fast NAPA Camaro ZL1,” he said. “Honestly, that was the only reason we were able to get back in it.”
Tempers flared on pit road after the race when Wallace approached Bowman, who was receiving medical attention on pit road after the cars had stopped rolling. Wallace then hit Bowman with a face-full of Gatorade and angrily walked away.
The next playoff round will get underway at Dover International Speedway on Sunday, Oct. 6, at 2:30 p.m. ET.
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