Chase Elliott tops Kurt Busch in marathon Nashville Cup race
Chase Elliott cleared Kurt Busch on a restart with four laps to go and won Sunday’s twice-delayed NASCAR Cup Series race at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway.
A late caution set up a pit strategy decision as several of those contending for the win elected to pit for new tires while Elliott and nine others remained on the track.
On the restart with four of 300 laps to go, Elliott easily cleared Kurt Busch for the lead with a push from Ryan Blaney and held on to earn the victory in Sunday’s race that featured more than three hours of delays for lightning and rain.
Denny Hamlin finished best among the drivers who pit, ending up sixth.
The win is Elliott’s second of the 2022 season and both have come on concrete ovals. His previous victory was at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway. It’s also the 15th win of his career.
“I figured (the last caution) was coming but I was hoping not,” Elliott said. “Ryan (Blaney) gave me a great shove. I appreciate him doing me a solid there and getting us out front. So proud of our team.
“We had a setback there about halfway (he had to pit twice under caution for a loose wheel). But we able to get our Chevy dialed back in and get back in the mix. It was a long day, a fun day. Thanks to the fans for hanging out.
“We’ve had a pretty rough month, month-and-a-half. So, it’s nice to get back going in the right direction and getting a win is huge. To do it in a really cool city like Nashville is even better.
“Looking forward to that guitar (trophy).”
Blaney finished third, Kyle Larson fourth and Ross Chastain rounded out the top-five.
Completing the top-10 were Hamlin, Austin Cindric, Christopher Bell, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick.
The late caution and subsequent pit strategy calls spoiled what had been a tremendous race by Joe Gibbs Racing drivers, who led 250 of the 300 laps. Hamlin led the most with 114.
During the break between Stages 2 and 3, the lead-lap cars all pit with Truex the first off pit road.
On the restart on Lap 193, Truex was followed by Kyle Busch, Elliott and Chastain. Hamlin had a slow stop and lined up eighth.
After battling side-by-side, Kyle Busch emerged as the leader on Lap 194 for the first time in the race.
Blaney spun off Turn 4 on Lap 205 to bring out the eighth caution of the race. The damage to Blaney’s No. 12 Ford did not appear to be serious.
Several lead-lap cars pit with Michael McDowell the first off pit road. Kyle Busch remained on the track and in the lead when the race resumed on Lap 210.
With 60 laps remaining in the race, Kyle Busch remained out front with a 1.1-second advantage over Elliott with Truex in third.
On Lap 245, Elliott – who pit for new tires on the most recent caution – ran down Kyle Busch and moved into the lead for the first time in the race.
Kyle Busch, Truex and Harvick kicked off a final round of green-flag pit stops on Lap 248 for new tires and fuel to make it to the finish.
NASCAR displayed a caution on Lap 256 in the middle of green-flag stops after Chris Buescher’s No. 17 lost a wheel and hit the wall.
Those cars who had not yet made their final stop did so under the caution. Kyle Busch stayed out and inherited the lead.
On the restart on Lap 262, Kyle Busch was followed by Elliott, Truex, Hamlin and Chastain.
Elliott powered around Kyle Busch on the restart on the inside to reclaim the lead.
With 10 laps remaining, Elliott maintained a 1.2-second lead over Kyle Busch as Hamlin ran in third.
On Lap 292, NASCAR displayed a caution for possible fluid on the track as Josh Bilicki’s No. 77 blew an engine.
Several of the lead-lap cars pit but Elliott remained on the track and in the lead. Kyle Busch was first off pit road among those who pit thanks to a two-tire stop.
When the race resumed on Lap 297, Elliott was followed by Kurt Busch, Blaney, Larson and Cindric. Kyle Busch lined up 11th.
Truex again had to hold off a late charge from Hamlin to take the Stage 2 victory, his fifth of the 2022 season.
Kyle Busch was third, Elliott fourth and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five.
During the break between Stages 1 and 2, the lead-lap cars all pit with Logano first off pit road thanks to a two-tire pit stop. Almirola was penalized for speeding on pit road and had to restart from the rear of the field.
On the restart on Lap 97, Logano led the way followed by Truex, Blaney, Harvick and Bell.
Truex quickly powered back to the lead on the restart as Blaney moved to second.
Cindric was forced to pit under green on Lap 101 with what he thought was a loose wheel.
On Lap 188, NASCAR displayed a caution as light rain was reported around the track.
All the lead-lap cars elected to pit with Truex first off pit road. Larson was penalized for speeding and had to restart from the rear of the field. Wallace had to pit twice for a loose left-rear wheel.
The race resumed on Lap 125 with Truex out front followed by Blaney and Kyle Busch.
On Lap 127, using a three-wide move, Hamlin got around Truex and Blaney to reclaim the lead.
NASCAR was forced to throw the caution on Lap 139 then place the race under a red flag as lightning again in the area of the race track. The race was 11 laps shy of the halfway mark (which would make it official) when it was halted.
After a more than 2-hour delay, the race returned to yellow and most of the lead-lap cars pit. Hamlin stayed out and remained in the lead on the restart on Lap 151.
Hamlin and Truex battled side-by-side for nearly two laps before Hamlin finally cleared for the lead.
With 15 laps remaining in the stage, Truex went to the outside of Hamlin and move back into the top spot.
Truex edged his JGR teammate Hamlin by 0.166 seconds to take the Stage 1 win, his fourth of the season.
Blaney was third, Bell fourth and Harvick rounded out the top-five.
Hamlin started on the pole and took command of the race early, rolling out two a more than 2-second lead over Larson after 10 laps.
On Lap 25, Daniel Suarez went to the inside of Larson and moved into second place, almost 3 seconds behind Hamlin.
With 60 laps remaining in the stage, Hamlin maintained a 3.6-second lead over Suarez as Larson ran third. Kyle Busch, who started from the rear, had moved up to 15th.
NASCAR displayed a caution on Lap 41 for possible debris on the track from the No. 77 of Bilicki, who appeared to have a power issue.
Just after the caution was displayed the race was red-flagged for just over an hour for multiple lightning strikes near the track.
Once back under caution, the lead-lap cars all pit with Hamlin first off pit road. Chastain was forced to pit twice with a loose wheel.
On the restart on Lap 48, Hamlin was followed by Suarez and Blaney.
Shortly after the restart, William Byron fell off the pace with a mechanical issue and had to take his No. 24 Chevrolet to the garage.
Just as Byron reached pit road, his Hendrick teammate, Alex Bowman, wrecked in Turns 1 and 2 on Lap 50 following contact with Corey LaJoie to place the race back under caution.
The race resumed on Lap 56 with Hamlin out front followed by Suarez, Harvick and Blaney.
On Lap 61, Chase Briscoe got into Ty Dillon and both wrecked in Turn 2 to bring out the third caution of the race.
A handful of cars elected to pit under the caution. Hamlin led the way on the restart on Lap 66 followed by Truex, Suarez and Blaney.
Truex got a big push from Blaney on the restart to power past Hamlin on the outside and take the lead for the first time in the race.
Kyle Busch had to start the race from the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments made to his No. 18 Toyota after he wrecked in qualifying on Saturday.
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