Chase Elliott and Hendrick Motorsports are heartbroken no more, having closed the deal Thursday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway by grabbing the win in the Alsco Uniforms 500.
With 28 laps to go, Elliott took the lead for the first and only time and then drove away from the field. His margin of victory was 2.2 seconds over Denny Hamlin, and 2.6 seconds on Ryan Blaney. The win is the first for Elliott this season, and comes after painful defeats in the previous two races in which he was spun from second place inside 30 laps to go at Darlington, and then pitted from the lead before an overtime restart in the Coca-Cola 600.
“It feels awesome,” said Elliott. “Man, it was a tough week, for sure. We’ve had some tough losses, but that deal on Sunday night was a heart-breaker. It’s not the Coca-Cola 600, but any win in the Cup Series is really hard to get, and I really appreciate everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet, and everybody at the shop have been working really hard.
“I appreciate my team. Alan [Gustafson] made a great call there at the end to get it tuned up, and, luckily, the run went long, and I think that fell in our favor.”
Thursday gives Elliott two wins at Charlotte on different two different configurations after he won on the Roval last fall. He now has seven career wins in the NASCAR Cup Series in 157 starts.
Hendrick Motorsports leads the competition in the Cup Series with 20 wins at Charlotte.
Hamlin finished second with an interim crew chief, car chief, and engineer. Those three members of Hamlin’s team were suspended after the Coca-Cola 600 because ballast fell off the No. 11 Toyota. The final segment of Thursday’s race is where Hamlin started gaining ground to challenge inside the top five.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished fourth, and Kurt Busch completed the top five. Joey Logano, who won the first stage, finished sixth after leading 42 laps. Brad Keselowski rebounded from blowing a right-front tire to finish seventh.
Austin Dillon had another strong showing for Richard Childress Racing by finishing eighth. Martin Truex Jr. wound up ninth, and Harvick faded after losing the handling on his Ford and finished 10th. Harvick led a race-high 63 laps.
The final run to the finish was 59 laps after Timmy Hill brought out the seventh and final caution on lap 145. All the lead-lap cars came to pit road for the last time, with Harvick and Hamlin beating everyone back on track. Elliott came off pit road fifth.
Elliott took the lead when Harvick washed up in Turn 2 and lost his momentum. Harvick told his team he was losing grip as he lost position after position. For Elliott, it was a clean and uneventful run to the finish.
“I was just waiting for the caution to come out, to be honest with you,” said Elliott. “I thought either the caution was going to come out, I was going to break something, or I was going to crash. Just after the last couple of weeks, I just thought surely it wasn’t going to go green until the end. Just glad it did, and glad we’re hopefully back on the right path.”
William Byron finished 12th after starting from the pole. He led 11 laps early but suffered significant damage to the right side of his Chevrolet when he collided with Corey LaJoie on pit road during the race’s first pit stop. Byron spent the rest of the night recovering.
After winning the second stage, Alex Bowman got loose on lap 136 and bounced off the Turn 4 wall while running second. Bowman had to make multiple pit stops for repairs and fell from contention, finishing 31st after leading 51 laps.