It was a tame race compared to the All-Star Open, but for Chase Elliott, it was the biggest night of his life.
“I can’t believe it. What a better night to have fans back than tonight,” Elliott said to FOX Sports after the race. “There’s nothing like Bristol, there’s nothing like the lights here, there’s nothing like racing here. Never won here, what a race to do it. Really proud of our team tonight and rebound, we’ve had a really tough couple of weeks. Just felt like we had kind of gotten off base and I felt like I was struggling. Just tried to hit the reset button this week and came out and put on a great performance. Great car, can’t thank all our partners — everyone who makes this happen — enough, and all those No. 9 hats and t-shirts in the stands, love to see it.”
"There's nothing like Bristol!"
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 16, 2020
Besides the new venue, there were other new features in the event. The cars already locked into the race had underglow lights at the rear with colors corresponding their manufacturers: Chevrolets had an amber color, Fords were blue and Toyotas were red. Additionally, the paint schemes were a bit different, as the numbers on the sides of the car were moved toward the rear tires. Finally, there was a new choose rule for restarts, where a driver needed to pick which lane he wanted to go in. Those who wanted the bottom lane went to the left of the orange V on the track, while those choosing the top lane moved to the right of that mark.
Though Martin Truex Jr. had won the pole, he had to drop to the back after failing pre-race inspection twice. Truex was never a factor for the lead after that. Alex Bowman led at the start, but the quick No. 12 car of Ryan Blaney took the lead on lap eight. Then, the caution flag waved after contact from Keselowski caused Kurt Busch to spin. Busch’s No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing car had a wrinkled left-rear quarter panel as a result of the incident.
After the ensuing restart, Matt DiBenedetto’s No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford slid up and hit the wall, but he regained control and continued on. There weren’t any more cautions for incidents in this opening stage, and Blaney won stage one.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 16, 2020
However, Harvick and Elliott beat Blaney off pit road under the stage break and took control of the race lead. Right after the race restarted, the yellow flag was out again for Ryan Newman, who got loose and spun on the frontstretch. Newman just barely scuffed the inside wall, so he was also able to keep racing.
Then on the restart, Harvick appeared to not fire off well, and Elliott easily got around him for the lead. While those behind him jockeyed for positions, Elliott held on to win the second stage.
Pit strategies varied under this stage break; Blaney was the lone driver to stay out, while Keselowski took two tires to lead the race off pit road. DiBenedetto also took two tires but lost some track position in stage three.
Though Blaney held the top spot on the restart for about 20 laps, Elliott made his move from third place. He passed the two Team Penske teammates and went on to win stage three.
Then, on the final restart, Elliott took to the lead while Kyle Busch moved into second. Busch tried his best to get close to Elliott’s rear bumper in the final 10 laps, but could not do it and had to settle for second place.