After a couple of near misses at Darlington Raceway and in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway that included being wrecked late while leading and giving up a lead for a late-race pit stop, Chase Elliott claimed his first NASCAR Cup Series win of 2020 Thursday night in the Alsco Uniforms 500K at Charlotte. The race was scheduled for Wednesday but rain forced a delay to Thursday.
“Honestly, it really just keeps you grounded, to be completely frank, especially after Sunday,” Elliott said of his previous near-wins. ”You’re just kind of waiting on something to happen. It just kind of keeps you grounded, and the fact that it’s never over until it’s over, we’ve been reminded of that quite a lot, and that’s a lesson I’m never going to forget.”
With the win, Elliott became the first driver to win in the Cup Series on the CMS oval and infield road course, or roval. He became the second driver to win on the roval last season.
Denny Hamlin finished second, Ryan Blaney was third and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five.
“Eventually, the air pressure built up enough to where it got off the race track,” Hamlin said. “The pit crew just did a phenomenal job picking up a bunch of spots. Our whole FedEx team prepared a good car. Every time we come back to a race track for the second time, our results are really, really good. We’re making good adjustments. I had a really good Camry, just needed to be a little better in the short run there.”
Elliott took his race winning lead by passing Kevin Harvick on lap 181. After losing the lead, Harvick lost additional positions, falling back to 10th at the checkered flag after leading a race-high 63 laps in the 208-lap race.
“We battled hard and finally got our car good enough, there, at the end,” Elliott said. ”I’m not sure that we had it exactly perfect, but the guys did a great job making good adjustments and good pit stops, there, to put us in a position, and I think the race going long played into our favor as compared to what Kevin had to work with. Just had some good fortune and things went our way. Just appreciate all our partners for sticking with us. Finally good to get a Kelley Blue Book win. That’s our first win together, so, hopefully, many more.”
Joey Logano won the opening 55-lap stage. After William Byron started on the pole and led most of the laps before a lap-20 competition caution, Logano stayed out during the yellow flag and inherited the race lead. Byron, meanwhile, sustained damage in the pits because of contact with Corey LaJoe. Byron made an extra pit stop during the caution for damage repair. He wound up 12th at the checkered flag.
Logano continued to lead the remainder of the stage. He was sixth at the finish after leading a total of 42 laps.
“We had a solid to okay day,” Logano said. ”Solid to start and okay to finish. We started off with some good track position on the initial start and, then, had the opportunity to stay out, which we were able to grab a stage win and get another playoff point for the second week in a row, which is nice. We had a decent second stage and finished third and, then, had two mediocre restarts that kind of put me back in the sixth or seventh-place range. It was just impossible to pass. It’s so hard to pass. I rode behind the 1 [Busch], which I was better than, but could not get to him. I was waiting for him to make a mistake, but he’s too good to make a mistake, so I rode around and waited and waited and waited. I needed a caution to have the opportunity to have a restart and a pit stop, but in this racing, you just run hard. You try to get everything you can on restarts. Details mean so much. We’re detail racing, for sure, and after that, you hope that maybe there’s a car like the 4 [Harvick] that is fast and falls off, and there might be one or two cars that you might get on the long haul, possibly, but it’s tough at a track that’s just not wide enough.”
Bowman won the second 60-lap stage. After Harvick took the lead from Logano on lap 66, Bowman was among 14 drivers who stayed out during a lap-73 caution to take the lead. Harvick was leading at the time of caution but gave up the position to pit.
About 10 laps after Bowman took his stage win, Harvick passed him to reassume the lead. Ten additional laps later, Bowman hit the wall and fell off the pace. He wound up with a 31st-place finish after leading 51 laps.
Harvick continued to run up front until Elliott took his only lead of the race.
“It just falls off after lap 30,” Harvick said. “We knew that’s what we had with our Busch Light Ford, and it went straight 60-some laps. They did a really good job turning the car around. It was the total opposite of what we raced last Sunday, so it was a good test session for us. We just didn’t need a long run.”
Other top-10 finishers included Brad Keselowski in seventh, Austin Dillon in eighth and Martin Truex Jr. in ninth.
“It wasn’t our prettiest day, but, all in all, we were decent,” Keselowski said. ”We had a lot of speed in our car, not as much as maybe the 9 [Elliott] car. He was lights-out fast today, but we had enough to, I think, run in the top-three or four. We had a little bit of contact early on and got a flat tire that did a lot of damage to the car, and we recovered, and I got contact, again, and had a lot of damage to the car, but came back in to fix it. There at the end, we started to recover. I think we drove up to seventh to finish the race, but it’s kind of not my strongest day. I was pushing a little bit too hard starting in the back and got us behind with damage a little bit early and had to kind of fight through it in a short race. We did the best we could to recover, but didn’t have enough laps, and I put us in too big of a hole.”