Six weeks ago, Chase Elliott was going for the victory at Bristol Motor Speedway when he screwed up with two laps to go.
In Wednesday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race at the same Bristol, Tenn., track, Elliott went screw-up free as he finished first in three of four stages and earned the $1 million that goes with winning the event.
“I can’t believe it,” Elliott said. “There’s nothing like Bristol. There’s nothing like the lights here. There’s nothing like racing here, never won here. What a race to do it.”
The victory was his first in five starts in the annual non-points-paying race, but it was the second for the Elliott family. His father, Bill, won it in 1986 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Chase Elliott, who has earned just one top-10 finish the past five official races, admitted to be struggling.
“Tried to hit the reset button this week and try to put on a great performance,” he said. “Great car.”
The race featured NASCAR’s largest fan gathering since the COVID-19 pandemic hiatus, with an estimated 20,000 people into the stands that can hold 140,000. They loved what they saw from the driver who has replaced Dale Earnhardt Jr. as No. 1 in their hearts.
“There’s no feeling like it,” he said of winning in front of a crowd. “Nothing like it.”
To get the victory and big paycheck, the Hendrick Motorsports driver had to hold off defending Cup Series champion Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing, who finished second, 0.418 seconds back.
“I think we inched up a little closer on him, but that was about it,” said Busch, who has yet to win a race this year. “The last couple of adjustments really helped us out. I got a good restart. I think I went from like 12th all the way up to fifth or something, so that was a huge bonus for us. I think that’s about four, five, six second-places for us this year. What do you do?”
In the May 31 race at the 0.533-mile oval, Elliott and Joey Logano made contact, and that allowed Brad Keselowski to scoot past and get the win. Elliott took the blame.
Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing came in third place Wednesday night. Rounding out the top five were Keselowski of Team Penske and Denny Hamlin of JGR.
“There were a couple of laps there where I had to spend a bit more time in traffic than I needed to to get back to the front,” Harvick said.
The race, which was run at a track other than Charlotte Motor Speedway for just the second time in its 36-year history and the first time at a short track, was divided into stages of 55, 35, 35 and 15 laps.
Also new for this year’s All-Star events were a system in which drivers could choose which line they would take on restarts, a new placement of car numbers and underbody glow lights.
The field was comprised of the 16 drivers who were points-race winners in 2019 or 2020, former All-Star Race winners, full-time drivers who have won Cup Series titles, three drivers who won stages in the All-Star Open -- which was held before the main event on Wednesday -- and the winner of a fan vote.
Stage winners in the Open were Aric Almirola of Stewart-Haas Racing, William Byron of Hendrick Motorsports and Matt DiBenedetto of Wood Brothers Racing. Stewart-Haas’ Clint Bowyer was voted in by fans.
Martin Truex Jr. of Joe Gibbs Racing was awarded the pole position after a random drawing. However, his car twice failed inspection so he was forced to start from the rear of the 20-car field. Truex wound up in 10th place.
--Field Level Media
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