The first race for the NASCAR Cup Series at Road America since 1956 produced a familiar winner Sunday, with reigning Cup Series champion Chase Elliott celebrating his win of the Jockey Made in America 250. Elliott’s latest win was his second of the season, the first also coming on a road course at Circuit of the Americas, and his seventh-career road-course win, all coming since 2018.
“I just never felt like I got in a good rhythm [in practice] all of yesterday, so for whatever reason there, after about halfway through the race, I started finding some of that rhythm,” Elliott said. “I was able to put it together, pieced every part of the track, and then finally, I feel like I was able to piece most of it together. I just stayed with it and I’m glad it worked out.”
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Christopher Bell and Kyle Busch finished second and third, respectively. Kurt Busch finished fourth, and a third JGR driver, Denny Hamlin, rounded out the top-five.
“We kept working on it, making adjustments there,” Kyle Busch said. “We just did not have the tire life the 9 [Elliott] did. That was incredible. He was able to drive away from us. His braking was really good, but his drive off was awesome. They beat us by far today, but proud of the Skittles America Mix bunch. Everybody on this Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry did a good job. We all ran up front. We all had good speed. It showed that we were close. That was all we had, but overall, good day fighting through traffic. It was really uneventful because we jumped the stages, so that kind of gave us that track position there at the end. We didn’t get very many points today doing that, but I feel like we are in a good spot. Hopefully, we will go get them next week.”
Both Elliott and Kyle Busch started the race in the back, Busch after going to a backup car because of a crash in practice Saturday and Elliott after both his attempts to make a lap in qualifying Sunday morning were interrupted by red flags for other drivers.
Elliott took the lead from Matt DiBenedetto on lap 38 of the 62-lap race. When the yellow flag waved for Anthony Alfredo on lap 43, Elliott still was the race leader, but the caution came with Aric Almirola and Ryan Blaney already on pit road, so they stayed out during the caution to restart on the front row. When the race restarted for the last time on lap 46, Busch and Elliott got by Almirola and Blaney for the top-two positions and Elliott took the lead from Kyle Busch.
“Yeah, it’s just this track has a lot of character to it. It’s so long,” Elliott said. “You have a lot of opportunity to make mistakes or be good whenever you hit it. I mean, four miles is a long course. Just has a lot of character to it, a lot of bumps, a lot of sections that are really tricky to get through. I think conserving your tire was actually a little bit of a thing today, which to be honest we don’t have much of that I feel like any more. It was a little different race. Like I said, proud of our group. Most importantly, thanks everybody for coming out. Thanks to our partners, everybody back at Hendrick Motorsports. Been doing a phenomenal job. Bodies, chassis, engines, fab shops. It’s just been incredible. Looking forward to more.”
After the Hendrick Motorsports duo of William Byron and Kyle Larson started on the race, with Byron on the pole, Byron led the first 15 laps of the race, including a stage-one win on lap 14. Pit strategy cost Byron his lead during the caution that followed his stage win, though. As he pitted under the yellow, drivers who pitted under green late in the stage, including Austin Cindric, Matt DiBenedetto and Kyle Busch, stayed out to restart the race up front.
Both Cindric and DiBenedetto led laps before Kyle Busch took the lead on lap 25. Soon after losing the lead, Cindric was in the garage with a mechanical problem.
“I only had one-wheel drive, and when you only have two other ones spinning with 750 horsepower, it is a bit challenging,” Cindric said. “It was quite dramatic taking the lead and then immediately losing everything. Not a weekend I am necessarily happy about. To have the opportunity to show up at this race track with extremely well-prepared race cars and have a shot to win both races is really great for someone in my position. But I want to make the most of it and I put way too much into it to have it go that bad, especially when you get moved out of the lead and then take it back as clean as possible, and then this is all you’ve got. That is racing. That is my motto for the weekend. I appreciate Pirtek and everyone at Road America for coming out to support us. It has been a great weekend.”
Kyle Busch gave up the lead to, again, pit before the stage-end caution. As a result of green-flag stops for others, Tyler Reddick inherited a lead that led to a stage-two win on lap 29.
After Kyle Busch cycled back up to the lead to restart for the final 33-lap stage, he and DiBenedetto led laps early in the stage before Elliott took his initial lead.
Chase Briscoe finished sixth, Ross Chastain was seventh, Reddick was eighth, Martin Truex Jr. finished ninth, and DiBenedetto was 10th.
“I thought we were good enough to run fourth there at the end but my engine shut off,” Briscoe said. “It was really cool to run sixth and be the best Ford today. We definitely had a lot of adversity with not getting a qualifying lap in and then the penalty at the beginning. I felt like we had a really good car on the long run. I am proud of that. It was a good day overall. We needed that. We will go on to the next one and see if we can get better.”