CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Chase Elliott’s streak of bitter defeats in NASCAR’s frantic first push of rescheduled races finally ended with his first Cup victory of the season.
Elliott won Thursday night in the rain-delayed event at Charlotte Motor Speedway to close a brutal 12 days for NASCAR. The event, postponed Wednesday night, was the fourth Cup race since the series resumed racing May 17.
Elliott had two frustrating losses in that span, including defeat Sunday night in the Coca-Cola 600 when a caution flew two laps from the finish with Elliott leading.
“Man, it’s been a tough week for sure,” Elliott said. “We’ve had some tough losses but that deal on Sunday night was a heart-breaker.”
Elliott’s frustration began last week — three Cup races ago — when he was trying to race for the lead at Darlington Raceway and was wrecked by Kyle Busch.
Then he had the 600 checkered flag in site until a caution caused by his own teammate. Elliott pitted from the lead, took four tires and couldn’t get back to the front in the two-lap overtime sprint.
There was little suspense in this one. Elliott reeled in Kevin Harvick with 27 laps remaining and closed out the victory. Elliott also won the Truck Series race Tuesday night at Charlotte to give him a pair of victories in a four-race stretch at the track a few minutes away from Hendrick Motorsports headquarters.
“It’s not the Coke 600, but any win in the Cup series is really hard to get,” Elliott said. “I just really appreciate everybody at Hendrick Motorsports across the street here. Everybody’s been working really hard.”
Elliott was charging hard on Harvick with about 35 laps remaining when he asked if he had enough fuel to make it to the finish. Crew chief Alan Gustafson replied, “Yup. Go hard.”
Elliott did just that. But after passing Harvick, with nothing but clear track in front of him, Elliott couldn’t help but feel haunted by Sunday night.
“I was just waiting for the caution to come out,” he said. “If the caution didn’t come out, I was thinking I was probably going to break something or I was going to crash. After the last last couple weeks, surely it was going to go green until the end.
“Hopefully we’re back on the right path.”
Denny Hamlin finished second in a Toyota with three crew members sitting at home under suspension for an infraction Sunday night. His crew chief, car chief and engineer earned automatic four-race suspensions when a piece of tungsten fell off Hamlin’s car on a pace lap.