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Chase Elliott scores Talladega win in wild finish

By Brandon Reed Reporter
  Contact Editor

With cars crashing behind him on the final lap, Chase Elliott was locked into his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series superspeedway victory Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

The Dawsonville, Georgia speedster took the lead when Joey Logano and Kurt Busch pushed up the track while battling for the top spot ahead of him.

Elliott powered by, with teammate Alex Bowman pushing from behind. Elliott held the spot as the white flag came out. Behind him, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. spun into the outside wall just past the tri-oval, but the race remained under green.

As the field thundered down the backstretch, William Byron’s car spun in the pack after contact with David Ragan. That turned Byron’s Chevrolet down into the cars Jeffery Earnhardt and Kyle Larson. Earnhardt and Larson’s cars slid down into the inside wall, with Larson’s car tumbling side-over-side several times.

That drew the caution, freezing the field and ending the race with Elliott as the leader, giving him his fourth career MENCS victory.

“That was huge. We just had a plan and executed really well,” Elliott said. “Obviously it could have gone both ways but fortunately everybody stayed together and stayed the course and had some help on that last lap with the caution.

“I just appreciate all the support. This is unbelievable. This is special. This is close to home for me. It feels a little bit like a home race.”

Elliott led 44 laps on the day, and he also won the second segment of the race.

The win also Elliott a victory at a track that his Hall of Fame father, Bill Elliott, scored wins and set all-time speed records at in the 1980s.

More importantly, it locks the 23-year-old into the MENCS post-season later this year, no to mention giving Chevrolet its first points paying win of the season.

“What a day,” Elliott said. “Just a huge thanks to all of our partners, my team, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet. There was obviously a lot of teamwork done today.”

For Bowman, it marks his best career finish Cup Series finish, with his previous best being a third last year at Pocono.

“Yeah, there was no plan coming off turn 4, but unfortunately we didn’t get there before the caution came out,” Bowman said. “Big props to Chevrolet and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. They brought great race cars here.”

Rookie Ryan Preece came home in third , while Logano, who led 37 laps on the day, had to settle for a fourth place finish.

“At the end the 1 (Kurt Busch) had a big run and I felt like I had to block that,” Logano said. “When I blocked that I can’t block both and the 9 (Elliott) got underneath me. If I chose the bottom and block the 9 I had the 88 (Bowman) there and they were going to go by me as soon as they formed a run. I was not in a very good spot.”

Rookie Daniel Hemric finished in fifth.

Sunday’s race was the first run without a restrictor plate at the 2.66 mile superspeedway since 1987. Competition saw cars able to close on each other in the pack, and mount charges on each other. In all, there were 38 lead changes among 16 drivers on the day.

The race saw several multi-car crashes. The first came 10 laps into the 188 lap event, when Darrell Wallace, Jr. spun after trying to draft with Ryan Blaney. That gathered up several other cars, including pre-race favorites Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin, along with Ryan Newman, Michael McDowell and Matt Tifft.

Much of the middle portion of the race ran without incident. Ty Dillon won the first segment of the race, while Elliott won the second segment.

With cars jockeying for position and pushing and shoving as the laps wound down, it was inevitable that there would be trouble in the closing laps. Things finally boiled over with seven laps to go when the Chevrolet of Chris Buescher spun in the middle of the pack after contact with another car. That left Matt DiBenedetto with nowhere to go, making hard contact with Buescher’s car, sending it airborne momentarily. Martin Truex, Jr. and Justin Haley were also gathered up.

Fortunately, no one was injured, but that led to a red flag condition to allow track crews to clean up the scene.

That set up the final four lap dash to the finish, which ended before the checkered flag when Byron, Earnhardt and Larson crashed on the backstretch.

Larson’s car tumbled several times down the backstretch. Fortunately, no one was injured in that crash either.

Larson said it was the longest flip of his career.

“Initially, I thought I was going to hit the inside wall pretty hard, Larson said. “And then right before I got to it, I felt it lift and was just hoping it would set down, and then it just started tumbling. That was probably the longest flip I’ve ever had. I haven’t seen a replay of it. I didn’t know if it would ever stop. I knew I was flipping and was just hoping that I wasn’t going to get any closer to the catch fence, so it was a little bit scary, but thankfully I’m all right.”

Kurt Busch, Newman, Brendan Gaughan, Aric Almirola and Kyle Busch rounded out the top ten.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Talladega Superspeedway – Talladega, AL
GEICO 500 – April 28, 2019

1. (11) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 188.
2. (9) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 188.
3. (30) Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 188.
4. (8) Joey Logano, Ford, 188.
5. (5) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 188.
6. (14) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 188.
7. (24) Ryan Newman, Ford, 188.
8. (29) Brendan Gaughan(i), Chevrolet, 188.
9. (2) Aric Almirola, Ford, 188.
10. (22) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 188.
11. (36) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 188.
12. (16) Daniel Suarez, Ford, 188.
13. (4) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 188.
14. (1) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 188.
15. (7) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 188.
16. (17) Paul Menard, Ford, 188.
17. (13) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 188.
18. (37) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 188.
19. (27) Erik Jones, Toyota, 188.
20. (20) Martin Truex, Jr., Toyota, 188.
21. (25) William Byron, Chevrolet, 188.
22. (33) Jeffrey Earnhardt(i), Toyota, Accident, 187.
23. (15) David Ragan, Ford, Accident, 187.
24. (10) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 187.
25. (6) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ford, Accident, 187.
26. (34) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 187.
27. (35) Parker Kligerman(i), Toyota, 186.
28. (40) Cody Ware(i), Ford, 184.
29. (3) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 182.
30. (31) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, Accident, 181.
31. (26) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, Accident, 181.
32. (38) Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 180.
33. (21) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 178.
34. (32) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 154.
35. (39) Stanton Barrett, Chevrolet, Suspension, 132.
36. (23) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, Accident, 80.
37. (18) Matt Tifft #, Ford, Accident, 11.
38. (19) Kevin Harvick, Ford, Accident, 11.
39. (28) Darrell Wallace, Jr., Chevrolet, Accident, 10.
40. (12) Michael McDowell, Ford, Accident, 10.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 161.331 mph.

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 5 Mins, 59 Secs. Margin of Victory: Under Caution.

Caution Flags: 6 for 21 laps.

Lead Changes: 38 among 16 drivers.

Lap Leaders: A. Dillon 0;B. Keselowski 1-7;J. Logano 8;R. Blaney 9;J. Logano 10-13;*. Gaughan(i) 14;J. Logano 15-16;A. Almirola 17-30;J. Logano 31-32;A. Almirola 33;K. Larson 34;A. Almirola 35-46;M. Truex Jr 47-49;T. Dillon 50-56;C. Elliott 57-60;A. Bowman 61-67;B. Keselowski 68-70;J. Logano 71-73;R. Blaney 74-75;K. Busch 76;R. Blaney 77;R. Stenhouse Jr 78-90;K. Busch 91-92;R. Stenhouse Jr 93;C. Elliott 94-112;*. Gaughan(i) 113-114;C. Elliott 115-132;*. Gaughan(i) 133-134;E. Jones 135-138;J. Logano 139-143;M. Truex Jr 144-151;J. Logano 152-154;M. DiBenedetto 155;R. Chastain(i) 156-164;R. Stenhouse Jr 165-166;J. Logano 167-173;K. Busch 174;J. Logano 175-184;C. Elliott 185-188.

Leaders Summary: (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led) Chase Elliott 4 times for 45 laps; Joey Logano 9 times for 37 laps; Aric Almirola 3 times for 27 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr 3 times for 16 laps; Martin Truex Jr 2 times for 11 laps; Brad Keselowski 2 times for 10 laps; Ross Chastain(i) 1 time for 9 laps; Ty Dillon 1 time for 7 laps; Alex Bowman 1 time for 7 laps; * Brendan Gaughan(i) 3 times for 5 laps; Ryan Blaney 3 times for 4 laps; Erik Jones 1 time for 4 laps; Kyle Busch 3 times for 4 laps; Kyle Larson 1 time for 1 lap; Matt DiBenedetto 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 13,88,3,9,41,6,24,17,18,95

Stage #2 Top Ten: 9,88,24,12,3,1,42,8,22,18

Top 10 in Points: 1. Kyle Busch – 430 (3 Wins); 2. Joey Logano – 415 (1 Win); 3. Denny Hamlin – 367 (2 Wins); 4. Kevin Harvick – 350; 5. Brad Keselowski – 337 (2 Wins); 6. Martin Truex, Jr. – 328 (1 Win); 7. Chase Elliott – 324 (1 Win); 8. Kurt Busch – 323; 9. Ryan Blaney – 306; 10. Clint Bowyer – 288.

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