Elliott claims first Atlanta Cup win after chaotic last lap
Chase Elliott passed Corey LaJoie with one lap to go and won Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta when LaJoie wrecked while trying to reclaim the lead.
LaJoie led the way on a restart with three of 260 laps remaining at Atlanta Motor Speedway but Elliott was able to get around him with one to go.
On the start of the final lap, LaJoie got a big run and tried a pass in an attempt to regain the lead. Elliott blocked his advance and LaJoie darted up the track and into the wall, which forced NASCAR to throw a caution and secured Elliott’s win.
The victory is the third this season for Elliott – the most of any driver – and second in the last three races.
The win is the 16th of Elliott’s career and first at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the home track of the native of Dawsonville, Ga.
“To win at your home track is a really big deal, I think to any race car driver. I’ve watched a lot of guys do it over the years, Jimmie (Johnson) out in California,” Elliott said. “We haven’t really had a very good run here, so I felt like today was a great opportunity for us.
“But just so proud. This is obviously home for me, home to a lot of great fans who made a lot of noise today, home for NAPA right down the road in Atlanta. Couldn't be more proud of our team. What a car. I mean, I’m not sure we’ve ever had a speedway car that good. If we have, I’ve probably wrecked it down at Daytona.
“Man, what a few weeks it’s been. I feel like I gave one away last week (at Road America), and to come back and to put on a performance like that, I’m really proud of that.”
When the field was frozen for the caution, Ross Chastain was scored second, Austin Cindric third, Erik Jones fourth and Ryan Blaney fifth.
Completing the top-10 were Daniel Suarez, Justin Haley, Aric Almirola, Cole Custer, and Harrison Burton.
During the break between Stages 2 and 3, the lead-lap cars all pit with Cindric first off pit road after taking fuel-only.
Brad Keselowski had to restart from the rear of the field after an equipment interference penalty during his stop. Todd Gilliland restarted from the rear for pitting outside the box.
The race resumed on Lap 166 with Cindric out front followed by Almirola, Jones and Harvick.
On Lap 170 just after Jones grabbed the lead, Ty Dillon plowed into the back of a loose Garrett Smithley, which triggered another multi-car wreck, which brought out the eighth caution of the race.
Among those collected in the wreck were William Byron, Tyler Reddick, Keselowski, Bubba Wallace and Michael McDowell.
A handful of cars elected to pit but Jones stayed out. The race restarted on Lap 177 with Jones followed by Cindric, Harvick, Haley and Chastain.
On Lap 180, Chastain got around Jones to reclaim the lead as Elliott moved into second.
Cody Ware and Kyle Busch both spun in Turn 2 on Lap 189. Ware backed into the wall and suffered heavy damage but Busch was able to continue on.
All the lead-lap cars pit with LaJoie the first off after taking fuel-only on his stop. When the race resumed on Lap 195, LaJoie was followed by Chastain, Elliott, Suarez and Hamlin.
Elliott got around LaJoie for the lead on Lap 202, LaJoie reclaimed it on Lap 203 but Elliott got back around him again on Lap 205.
With 30 laps remaining, Elliott maintained his hold on the lead with Truex, LaJoie, Chastain and Hamlin close behind.
Christopher Bell spun off Turn 4 on Lap 236 to bring out the 10th caution of the race. He avoided any damage and was able to drive to pit road.
A handful of cars pit and Bell lost a left-rear wheel during his stop. Elliott stayed out and remained in the lead when the race resumed on Lap 242.
Truex got around Elliott quickly on the restart to reclaim the lead.
NASCAR displayed a caution when Chastain got into the left-rear of Denny Hamlin in Turn 4 on Lap 246, which sent Hamlin for a spin and also collected Keselowski.
The race returned to green on Lap 253 with Truex out front, followed by LaJoie, Elliott, Chastain and Jones. LaJoie got a push from Chastain to return to the lead on the restart.
Joey Logano and Hamlin wrecked on Lap 253 to place the race back under caution. The race returned to green with three laps remaining and LaJoie out front, followed by Truex, Chastain and Elliott.
Elliott claimed the Stage 2 win under caution as his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Alex Bowman, wrecked with a flat tire with one lap remaining.
Reddick ended up second, Keselowski third, Blaney fourth and Kurt Busch ended up fifth.
During the break between Stages 1 and 2, all the lead-lap cars pit with Reddick first off pit road thanks to a two-tire stop.
On the restart on Lap 67, Reddick was followed by Chastain (two tires), Truex (two tires) and Elliott (four tires).
Truex went to the inside of Reddick in Turn 1 on Lap 70 to move into the lead for the first time in the race.
On Lap 78, Ty Dillon got loose in Turn 2 and B.J. McLeod and Chris Buescher wrecked in the aftermath to bring out the caution.
Several lead-lap cars elected to pit but Truex was among those who stayed out and remained in the lead.
When the race restarted on Lap 84, Truex was followed by Blaney and Bell.
Elliott, with a push from Reddick, dropped to the inside of Truex on Lap 87 and move back into the lead.
On Lap 91, Truex got loose in Turn 2 and spun in front of Chastain which triggered a multi-car wreck that also collected Austin Dillon, McDowell, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch and Logano, among others.
Several of the lead-lap cars pit with Byron the first off pit road. Harrison Burton stayed out and inherited the lead.
Burton led the way on the restart on Lap 99 followed by Gilliland, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Byron, who was the first off pit road.
Stenhouse quickly powered to the lead on the restart.
Burton, with a shove from Byron, moved back into the lead on Lap 101 as Gilliland moved into second.
On Lap 106, Byron got a push from Stenhouse to grab the lead for the first time in the race.
Buescher, involved in the earlier wreck, hit the wall in Turn 4 on Lap 107 after having a tire go down, which brought out the fifth caution of the race.
A handful of cars elected to pit but Byron remained on the track and in the lead when the race resumed on Lap 113.
NASCAR ordered Kyle Busch to return to pit road because to remove “unapproved equipment” added to the No. 18 during his stop.
On Lap 137, Chase Briscoe spun off Turn 2, which put the race back under caution. A handful of drivers pit but Byron stayed out and remained in the lead on the restart on Lap 143.
With a shove from Blaney, Reddick worked his way around Byron on Lap 147 to reclaim the lead.
Elliott went inside of Reddick on Lap 154 to move back to the lead as Blaney moved to second.
Elliott and Bowman raced side-by-side to the flag with Elliott edging him by 0.095 seconds to claim the Stage 1 win.
Chastain was third, Blaney fourth and Byron rounded out the top-five.
Elliott started on the pole but Chastain quickly powered ahead to lead Lap 1. Elliott worked his way back around Chastain to lead Lap 2 only to see Chastain reclaim it on Lap 3.
On Lap 22, Hamlin went to the outside of Chastain to take the lead for the first time. Blaney worked his way past Hamlin to take the lead on Lap 24 only to see Elliott move to the point on Lap 25.
NASCAR displayed a competition caution on Lap 26 to allow teams to check tire wear. Most lead-lap cars elected to pit but Elliott and nine others stayed out.
Truex was penalized for speeding on pit road and had to restart from the rear of the field. Larson had an extended stop with his team checking under his hood to address an issue.
The race resumed on Lap 31 with Elliott out front followed by Blaney, Bowman and Hamlin.
With 15 laps remaining in the stage, Elliott held a small lead over Blaney with Bowman third and Hamlin fourth.
Blaney got around Elliott on Lap 51 for the lead only to see Elliott reclaim it on Lap 52.
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