Race Weekend Central

Hometown Hero Chase Elliott Wins Atlanta Cup Race

For the third time in 2022, the siren at the Pool Hall in Dawsonville, Ga. celebrated a Chase Elliott victory.

In Sunday’s (July 10) Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Elliott became the first three-time winner of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season. He also became only the second Georgia driver to win at Atlanta after his father Bill Elliott managed it five times.

Despite leading the most laps and winning the first two stages, Elliott only took the lead for the final time with two laps to go, diving to the bottom of Corey LaJoie into turn one, and blocking him in the same turn one lap later. As LaJoie bounced off the wall and spun back down the track, the caution came out and the race was over, Elliott was scored the winner over Ross Chastain

Elliott defended the move, telling NBC:

“I didn’t want to really give him the bottom, I tried to give him one, good, real, aggressive block. Felt like I had enough room to give him a second one, and he was just right there on the side of my back bumper. . . far enough to the back side of the bumper to launch me forward. Hate it tore up some cars, but I mean I don’t know what you do, either go for the win or don’t, and I’m going to choose option A every day of the week.”

Cup Series underdog LaJoie, who led a career-high 19 laps but had to settle for 21st at the flag, said:

“I’m proud of my guys. . . everyone who helps us out. It was nice to have that thing out there in the wind for a bit. I made my move, it didn’t work out, he made a good block. . . that was the first time I was leading a restart at one of these superspeedway-style racetracks, and how much you have to drag back, get runs, cover the lanes, it’s all new to me. So when I get myself in that position again, I’ll be a little more prepared and hopefully we can do a little better job.”

Despite a racetrack slicker than most had expected, the field kept it clean throughout the first stage, with the only yellow coming on lap 26 for the competition caution. Despite the best efforts of lap leaders Chastain, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney, it was Georgia’s favorite son in Elliott who took the stage one victory. It was the No. 9’s fourth of the year and first at his home track after a shove from teammate Alex Bowman on the final lap. 

The cautions started coming in the second stage. First, a spin from BJ McLeod involved Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon. Then, on lap 91, came the first big crash of the afternoon. 

Chastain gave Martin Truex Jr. a bad push in the center of turn two, and the No. 19 spun around in front of the field, collecting Michael McDowell, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch. Dillon got the worst of it, sent hard into the SAFER barrier with the right-front of his No. 3 Chevy. 

The Richard Childress Racing driver had some harsh words for Chastain.

“We were just a casualty of Ross Chastain again,” Dillon said to NBC outside the infield care center. “[…] I told myself we were going to race hard all day. Wasn’t one of those things where I was going to ride in the back and be there at the end, but when you’ve got guys out there wrecking half the field, you might as well actually take a different strategy sometimes.”

In the end, it was another yellow flag, this for a flat right rear on Alex Bowman’s No. 48, that brought the stage to an end, with points leader Elliott once again out front. 

A second Big One at the start of the final stage, triggered by contact between Garrett Smithley and Ty Dillon, eliminated the fast cars of William Byron and Tyler Reddick and caught up Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace and Todd Gilliland, among others. 

Things quieted down as the final stage continued, with Elliott dragging the field out single-file, but a caution for Christopher Bell with 24 to go let the cork out of the bottle. With Truex, Elliott and LaJoie dicing it up for the lead, more aggression from Chastain turned Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 in front of the pack, collecting only the No. 6 of Keselowski.

Despite all his involvement in carnage, Chastain was still second at the finish, followed by rookie Austin Cindric, who scored his best result since winning Daytona in February and his fourth consecutive top 10. Erik Jones was fourth for Petty GMS Motorsports, followed by Blaney in fifth. Daniel Suarez, Justin Haley, Aric Almirola, Truex and Kevin Harvick completed the top 10.

With a maximum haul of 60 points, Elliott extends his regular-season points lead over Ryan Blaney to 47, with Ross Chastain a further three back. Banking seven playoff points, the 2020 series champion now has the most of all drivers. 

On the bubble, a series of late-race calamities for Christopher Bell brings Harvick to within 18 points of the playoff cutline, assuming no new winners from lower in the field in the seven races remaining between now and the postseason

2022 Cup Series Atlanta July Results

Cup Series Regular Series Standings (Atlanta 2)

The NASCAR Cup Series travels north next week for the Ambetter 301 at the one-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, airing 3 p.m. EST on USA.

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