Chase Elliott remains the benchmark for road course racers in the NASCAR Cup Series, but his winning streak came to an end Sunday afternoon.
Although he didn’t have the track position he did for most of the afternoon, Elliott was in contention for his fifth consecutive road course win late in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at Daytona. Then he spun in Turn 6 with six laps to go when trying to squeeze between Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin.
It was a disappointing and surprising ending after Elliott once again dominated the Daytona road course. He led a race-high 44 laps, won the first stage, and appeared headed to a victory before a caution for rain with 15 laps to go changed things. Elliott’s No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team was one of those that elected to get fresh tires, which buried him mid-pack.
“When you have those late-race cautions like that, and you have a mixed bag of who stays and who goes, it’s a bit of a gamble, either way, I felt like,” Elliott said after finishing 21st. “I thought tires was the right move. Tires won the race, so I think it was the right move.
“You get back in traffic, and it just gets to be so chaotic. Then just depending on who gets through and who doesn’t kind of determines how it’s going to shake out.”
Elliott’s road course win streak spanned from Watkins Glen in 2019 to Daytona in the summer of 2020. His last win was in the inaugural race on the Daytona road course last August.
It was a chaotic turn of events for Elliott after the caution for rain. Once back in traffic, Elliott was pushed off the track in Turn 4 by Corey LaJoie off a restart with 12 laps to go. It resulted in Elliott falling to 14th before a caution flew again.
On the ensuing restart, Elliott got into LaJoie in Turn 5, which brought out another caution. Now sitting 10th, Elliott was working his way through the field when he spun and ended his chances at contending for the victory.
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“I hate it,” Elliott said. “I made too many mistakes. We went off track, and it was just a bad deal. We had a fast NAPA Chevy, and I appreciate the effort. I hate it for Corey; he ran me off there, so I thought he was going to take the lane again, so I went to cross him over, and I think that time he was actually going to give me the lane. So, go figure. But we’ll try again next week.”