Chase Elliott parlays dominant performance into second-straight win at Watkins Glen

The win of the at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on Sunday came down to the last two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winners at the track and the top-two finishers from last year’s race there -- Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. After leading 80 of the 90 laps that made up the race, Elliott own his second straight at The Glen, defending his first-career Cup Series win from a year ago with his fifth-career win Sunday. His latest victory was his second of the 2019 season.

“Thank you guys; that was awesome,” Elliott said to his team after the race. “I’ve never been so far from home and felt like I was at my house, so thank you. You all are awesome. What a day! We had such a fast NAPA Camaro and these guys called a great race. We just stayed mistake free and Martin was a little quicker, I felt like, those last few runs, but the track position was key, and I didn’t mess up into turn one this time, so that was good. Just a huge thank you to everyone that makes this happen. Mr. [Rick] Hendrick [car owner] is here today and just a lot of people that have gotten me to this point. I wish my mom and my grandmother were here today, but I can’t wait to see you guys when I get back home. Love you.”

Truex finished second after running second to Elliott for more than half of the race.

“I tried to do all I could,” Truex said. “Chase, he did an excellent job just not making mistakes. All I could do was get to within two car lengths or one-and-a-half at the closest in braking, just trying to force a mistake. But he hit his marks, and his car was really fast in the key areas, there, where it needed to be and leaving a few of the key corners. Just couldn’t get a run on him and was just kind of stuck there. Unfortunate, but our Bass Pro Camry was really, really fast today. We passed quite a few cars and finished up front, just couldn’t pass that last one.”

Elliott last gave up his lead with a green-flag pit stop on lap 59. Others, including second-place-running Truex, also pitted under green before the yellow flag waved for the fourth and final time when Jimmie Johnson spun because of contact from Ryan Blaney on lap 61.

“It was just racing,” Blaney said. “I got off the bus stop better than him, and he left a lane. I tried to back out. I thought he knew I was there. I didn’t mean to spin him. It wasn’t my intention, but it was a good battle back after starting in the back. We had a good car, just could never really get up there to show us how it did, but overall, not a bad comeback for this group.”

Johnson viewed the contact as more than a simple racing incident.

"He just drove through me in the carousel,” Johnson said. ”I tried to hear what he was trying to say, but his lips were quivering so bad when he came to speak. I don't know if he was nervous or scared or both. I don't know what the problem is. He just drove through me and spun me out. And, clearly, that has big implications with what we are trying to do for the playoffs right now, so clearly not happy with his actions”.

Drivers who hadn’t pitted under green just before the caution pitted under the yellow, resulting in Elliott and Truex cycling back to the top-two positions in the running order.

Elliott was able to hold off Truex for the remaining laps.

Denny Hamlin finished third, Erik Jones was fourth and Blaney fifth.

Kyle Busch was spun by Darrell Wallace Jr. during the final caution in retaliation for contact Wallace received from Busch as the two drivers raced for 10th just before the yellow flag.

The incident with Wallace was Busch’s second dust-up of the race. After spinning on lap two while racing front-row starter William Byron for second, Busch contact with Byron on lap 19 that sent Byron off track with major damage to his car. The two drivers restarted the race in the back, Byron because of time on pit road for repairs and Busch because of a pit-road speeding penalty. Busch was able to work his way back to the front, but Byron’s struggles continued throughout the race.

“I think the only thing Kyle Busch didn’t hit today was the pace car,” Byron’s car owner Rick Hendrick said in a post-race interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Busch wound up just outside the top-10 with an 11th-place finish.

Elliott was up front at the end of each of the 20-lap stages in the first 40-laps of the race. He led the entire opening stage after starting the race from the pole.

The only other driver to lead laps in the first 40 laps of the 90-lap race was Kyle Larson. After some drivers pitted under green-flag conditions on lap 17 and the rest pitted during the caution after the opening stage, Larson didn’t make his first stop until lap 29. As a result of his late initial stop, Larson was up front for the restart at the beginning of second stage.

Elliott was outside the top-five to restart for stage two after drivers who pitted on lap 17 stayed out between the two stages. But when the race returned to green, he quickly got up to second to retake the lead with Larson finally made his first pit stop.

When Elliott got back up front, he maintained his lead for the remainder of the second stage, but Truex was closing on him when the yellow flag waved when Wallace hit a tire barrier on lap 39, bringing out the caution. The second stage ended under that yellow.

Matt DiBenedetto finished the race in the sixth position. Kevin Harvick was seventh, Larson eighth, Brad Keselowski ninth, and Kurt Busch finished 10th.

“We probably overachieved,” Harvick said. “We knew we were off, and we thought we could, at best, finish fifth and we finished seventh, so we were fine.”