Elliott wins inaugural Daytona Road Course event

In the inaugural running of the Go Bowling 235 at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course on a humid afternoon, Chase Elliott extended his dominance on road courses after holding off Denny Hamlin in a three-lap dash to grab a thrilling win at the world center of racing.

Throughout the race, Elliott dominated as he led a race-high 34 of the event’s 65-scheduled laps and won the first stage. Despite having a huge advantage erased in the closing laps due to a single-car incident, he withstood a challenge from his fellow competitors, including Hamlin, and navigated his way through the turns to cross the finish line in first place. The victory was Elliott’s second of the season, his fourth on a road course event and the eighth of his overall Cup career.

The starting lineup was determined using a new formula based on three statistical categories: current owner points position, the results from the previous race and the fastest lap from the previous race. As a result, Kevin Harvick started on pole position and was joined on the front row with Denny Hamlin. 


American Muscle

Stanton Barrett, a racer who is also a Hollywood stuntman, and Kaz Grala, who filled in as a relief competitor for Austin Dillon in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 3 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE due to Dillon suffering COVID-19 symptoms, started at the rear of the field due to driver changes. Corey LaJoie also started at the rear of the field due to failing pre-race inspection twice along with Timmy Hill, who dropped to the back due to unapproved adjustments.

When the green flag waved and the race started, the entire field made it through the first three turns inside Daytona’s infield without any issues nor early drama. At the front, Hamlin took the lead and was followed by teammate Kyle Busch. Meanwhile, Harvick dropped back to third in front of Martin Truex Jr. and just as the field made its way through Turn 6, exiting the infield and towards the speedway banking in Turn 7. When the entire field returned back to the start/finish line following two chicanes and no early incidents occurring, Hamlin led the first lap with Kyle Busch trailing behind him. 

The following lap, Kyle Busch made a move underneath teammate Hamlin at the chicane turn near the backstretch to take the lead and lead a lap for himself. Shortly after, Hamlin reassumed the lead and started to pull away from his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, who had locked up his front tires and front brakes. Behind. Truex moved up to third place followed by Harvick, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Matt DiBenedetto. 

On the fourth lap, Kyle Busch made an unscheduled pit stop for four fresh tires after locking up and flat spotting his tires. By the time he returned on the track, he was back in 34th place.

At the front and with the first five laps of the race complete, Hamlin was ahead by three seconds over teammate Truex followed by Harvick, Elliott and Logano. DiBenedetto was in sixth place ahead of Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and rookie Christopher Bell. Behind, Aric Almirola was in 11th ahead of William Byron and Erik Jones while Ryan Blaney was in 14th ahead of teammate Brad Keselowski. Bubba Wallace was in 19th ahead of rookie Cole Custer, Ryan Newman was in 21st, Alex Bowman was in 23rd ahead of Chris Buescher and Kaz Grala was in 27th behind Daniel Suarez. Rookie Tyler Reddick was in 29th while veterean Brendan Gaughan was scored in 37th.

While the field continued to smoothly navigate the turns and corners of Daytona’s road course layout, Truex emerged with the lead after passing teammate Hamlin on the ninth lap. Following the second chicane through Turns 13 and 14, however, Hamlin made an unscheduled pit stop for four fresh tires and to address smoke, a tire rub and minimal damage near the left front fender, all a result of getting into the back of Truex after Truex took the lead from Hamlin. Earlier, J.J. Yeley spun at the chicane/bus stop area near Turns 9 and 10, but he proceeded without sustaining any damage and with the race proceeding under green.

With Hamlin dropping to the back, Truex was ahead by more than three seconds over Elliott while Logano, Harvick and Johnson were running inside the top five. Shortly after, Harvick made a planned pit stop for four tires under green. 

As the laps in the first stage continued to dwindle, a multitude of competitors that included Kurt Busch, Bell, Blaney, Bowman, Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth pitted as part of a strategic plan. 

With two laps remaining in the second stage, Truex made a pit stop just as the entrance to pit road closed. At the front, Elliott assumed the lead followed by Logano. For one final lap, Elliott was able to stabilize his large advantage to win the first stage on Lap 15 and for his sixth stage victory of the season. Logano settled in the runner-up spot followed by Johnson, Bowyer and DiBenedetto. Jones, Byron, Truex, Custer and Ryan Preece settled in the top 10. Behind, Bowman limped back to pit road in a cautious pace after he suffered a flat left rear tire to his No. 88 AXALTA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE.

Under the stage break, some that included Elliott, Johnson, Clint Bowyer, DiBenedetto, Jones, Custer, Suarez, Preece, Byron and Stenhouse pitted while the rest led by Logano, Hamlin and Harvick remained on track.

The second stage proceeded under green on Lap 17, and Logano maintained the advantage through the first two turns until Hamlin mounted a challenge in Turn 3. Through the Turn 4 dogleg area, Hamlin emerged with the lead followed by Harvick and Kurt Busch while Logano was locked into a battle for fourth place with Truex. 

By the time the field returned to the start/finish line, Logano had fallen back to sixth place while Truex moved up to third place. Harvick and Blaney were behind Truex while Hamlin was leading by more than a second. Behind the leaders, Kyle Busch was in 11th place behind Michael McDowell, Bell and Ty Dillon.

On Lap 20, Hamlin was still leading over teammate Truex, who continued to intimidate his teammate for the lead. Harvick stabilized himself in third place followed by a bevy of competitors led by Kurt Busch, Blaney and Keselowski. By then, Elliott was in ninth while Kyle Busch was in eighth. Behind, Logano dropped back to 15th while racing on old tires. Shortly after, Logano made a pit stop under green for fresh tires, a move that cost him track position and time from the leaders.

On Lap 22, Truex and his No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry reassumed the lead after passing teammate Hamlin through the chicane/bus stop the previous lap. By then, Kyle Busch and Elliott moved up to sixth and seventh behind Blaney.

Two laps later, Kyle Busch, who was in seventh place behind Blaney, locked up his front tires entering Turn 6 after entering the corner with rapid speed and spun his No. 18 Snickers Toyota Camry. He proceeded without any damage, but was back in 13th. By then, Truex was still ahead by more than two seconds over teammate Hamlin followed by Elliott, who was the fastest car on the circuit.

With the laps in the second stage dwindling, Johnson made a pit stop under green along with Suarez, McDowell, Bell, Almirola, DiBenedetto, Keselowski, Wallace, Ty Dillon, rookie John Hunter Nemechek, Jones, Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Buescher, Grala, Harvick and Elliott. Shortly after, Truex surrendered the lead to also pit with teammate Hamlin back atop the leaderboard. Following his stop, however, Truex was issued a speeding penalty and was directed to start at the rear of the field for the stage of the final stage.

Thanks to a huge advantage and with no late challenges mounted behind his No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, Hamlin cruised to the second stage win on Lap 30 and for his fifth stage victory of the season. Bowyer settled in second followed by Blaney, Byron and Stenhouse. Preece, Elliott, Harvick, Kurt Busch and LaJoie settled in the top 10. Truex crossed the start/finish line in seventh, but was penalized due to his pit road speeding penalty and was not awarded any stage points as a result.

Prior to the conclusion of the second stage, Bayley Currey relieved J.J. Yeley for the remainder of the race after the cooling system in Yeley’s car failed, resulting in Yeley collapsing from exhaustion and from the heat after exiting his car, and making a trip to the infield care center.

Under the stage break, some of the lead lap competitors led by Hamlin, Bowyer and Blaney pitted while others led by Elliott, Harvick and Kurt Busch remained on track and with the lead for the start of the final stage.

With dark clouds hovering above the skies and the track, the final stage commenced with 33 laps remaining and with Elliott and Harvick leading the field. At the start, Elliott rocketed with the lead followed by Kurt Busch and McDowell. Through Turns 2 and 3, Harvick, who dropped back to fourth, was bumped by Bell and spun through the grass and back across the racing surface in Turn 3. Fortunately, the entire field dodged him and Harvick continued without sustaining any serious damage.

Three laps later, Elliott was still leading by more than three seconds over Kurt Busch and nearly five seconds over McDowell. Johnson was in fourth place followed by Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Logano. Hamlin was in 11th, Byron was in 16th. Blaney was in 19th, Truex was in 21st and Harvick was all the way back in 37th.

Shortly after, the caution flew due to lightning reports. After running a few laps under caution, the field made its way to pit road and the competitors parked the cars with the race entering a 30-minute hiatus under red flag.

When the weather cleared following a delay of more than 31 minutes, the competitors returned to their cars and returned to the track under cautious pace. Under caution, a number of competitors that included Jones, Byron, Stenhouse, Preece, Truex, Newman, Grala, Reddick, Suarez, Bowman, Custer, Ty Dillon, LaJoie, Gaughan, Timmy Hill, rookie Brennan Poole and Garrett Smithley pitted while the rest led by Elliott and Kurt Busch remained on the track.

With 26 laps remaining, the race resumed under green and Elliott cleared the field with the lead through Turns 1 and 2. Behind, Kurt Busch settled in second followed by McDowell. Johnson, who locked up the brakes entering Turn 3, withstood a challenge from Kyle Busch and Keselowski to retain fourth place. He would eventually take over third place through the superspeedway bankings in Turns 7 and 8 while Kyle Busch moved up to fourth place. 

A lap later, Elliott was ahead by more than two seconds over Kurt Busch with Johnson trailing behind. McDowell was still in fifth place, but was being pressured by Bowyer and Hamlin for more. Meanwhile, Keselowski was in eighth ahead of Bell and Logano, DiBenedetto was in 12th behind Jones, Grala was in 14th ahead of Wallace, Blaney was in 16th ahead of Almirola, Truex was in 20th, Byron was in 22nd and Harvick was in 27th behind Reddick.

With 22 laps remaining, Elliott extended his advantage to more than five seconds over Kyle Busch followed by Johnson and Kurt Busch. Way behind the leaders, Harvick, who was in 26th and trying to work his way back to the front, locked up his brakes behind Ty Dillon and spun in Turn 6, thus dropping him all the way back to the rear of the field by the time he re-fired his car and continued. 

A lap later, Keselowski, who was running in ninth, missed the turn in the backstretch chicane and made a pit stop under green for four fresh tires. Shortly after, with 20 laps remaining, a number of competitors that included Logano, Kenseth, Harvick, Kurt Busch, McDowell, Jones, Keselowski, DiBenedetto made a pit stop under green. Bell also made a trip to pit road after spinning in Turn 6. Another few laps later, Johnson, Bowyer, Reddick and Wallace made a trip to pit road.

With 17 laps remaining, Elliott made a pit stop under green followed by Hamlin and Buescher. During the pit stops, Kyle Busch, who missed the chicane through Turns 13 and 14 before he pitted, took his car to the garage due to a brake rotor failure. The late mechanical issue cost Busch another opportunity of notching his first victory of the season.

At the front, with 16 laps remaining, Truex was leading followed by Grala, Bowman, Stenhouse and Custer. Blaney, who was in sixth, pitted, but was assessed a pit road speeding penalty. A lap later, Truex made a pit stop under green, though the service was slow due to damage on the left front fender. Truex’s move to pit road moved Grala, a newcomer in the Cup Series and a relief competitor for Austin Dillon, to the lead followed by Bowman. Behind, Elliott, who was running on four fresh tires and full fuel to make it to the end, was in fourth while Johnson and Hamlin were battling for sixth place on the track.

With 12 laps remaining, Grala and Bowman pitted and Elliott moved back into the lead followed by Hamlin and Johnson, both of whom were trailing by nearly 11 seconds. Bowyer was in fourth place followed by Truex, McDowell, Byron and Logano, all of whom were trailing by 12 seconds or more.

With the laps of the overall race continuing to dwindle and with less than 10 laps remaining, Elliott and his No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE continued to lead by more than 10 seconds over Hamlin with Johnson trailing by nearly 12 seconds. Just when it seemed that Elliott could cruise to the win, the caution flew with five laps remaining. Behind the leaders, Kyle Busch, who returned on the track after his brakes were repaired and was multiple laps behind, broke loose and spun in Turn 8, exiting the first turn banking, before he made contact with the outside wall. With both of Busch’s rear tires flat and with more damage on his No. 18 Toyota, the caution evaporated the big advantage Elliott had over Hamlin. Following his recent incident, Busch limped his car back to the garage and retired for the remainder of the race.

Under caution, some competitors that included Logano, McDowell, Bell, Almirola, Preece, Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Jones, Reddick and Keselowski pitted while the rest led by Elliott, Hamlin and Johnson remained on track.

With three laps remaining, the race restarted and Elliott cleared the field with the lead through the first turn. Hamlin settled in second followed by Johnson while Buescher made a late charge through the first three turns for a top-five spot over Truex, Byron and Bowyer. When the field made its way through the chicane/bus stop in Turns 9 and 10, LaJoie spun from behind, but he proceeded with no caution flying.

With two laps remaining and with more battling around the track ensuing, Elliott was still leading by half a second over Hamlin with Johnson and Truex trailing by two seconds. When Elliott started the final lap, he was still leading by nearly four-tenths of a second over Hamlin, who continued to pressure Elliott for the lead. Behind, Wallace, who was in position for a top-10 spot, spun in Turn 1, but the race proceeded under green.

Through the infield turns and entering the first chicane on the backstretch, Hamlin was still trailing Elliott by two car lengths and continued to close in to the rear bumper of Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet. Entering the final chicane in Turns 13 and 14, Hamlin drew himself right to the rear bumper of Elliott, but the run was not enough for him to navigate his way around Elliott as Elliot managed to beat Hamlin by two-tenths of a second to grab the win and his first checkered flag since Charlotte Motor Speedway in May.

Elliott’s victory was the third of the season for Hendrick Motorsports and the fourth for Chevrolet as he also became the fifth multi-time winner of this year’s Cup season. In addition, Hendrick Motorsports notched its 19th road-course victory (the most of all Cup teams). With the win, Elliott has won the last three Cup road course races and the last four of six road course races dating back to August 2018, and he became the first competitor to win three consecutive road course races since Tony Stewart made the last accomplishment in 2004 and 2005.

“What a NAPA Camaro,” Elliott said on the frontstretch in front of a select number of fans in attendance. “Our guys did a phenomenal job. [I] Had a phenomenal car. I don’t think I did anything very special today. I think [crew chief] Alan [Gustafson], [lead engineer] Tom [Gray] and all of our guys did a really good job of hitting it there at the start. [They] Made a couple of really small adjustments, I felt like there, that first stop and was able to leave it after that. Appreciate everybody that makes this happen and thanks to the fans. Good to see you guys back. Thanks to all of our partners. Big special thanks to [road racers] Jordan Taylor and Boris Said for reaching out and being willing to help this weekend. Some road-course ringers. So, I tried to lean on them. Luckily, everything worked out.”

Though Elliott was thrilled with his historic win at Daytona, he acknowledged that there was still work needed for him and his team to be more competitive and contend for more wins, points and positions on track with the 2020 Cup Playoffs approaching.

“We’ve been struggling these past few weeks,” Elliott added. “We really struggled at Michigan. [I] Didn’t know, for sure, if we were gonna be good here, but felt like if we were, we really needed to capitalize. Running eighth or seventh or whatever we did at Michigan, an extra five bonus points could be the difference in you making it to the next round once this deal starts. We’ll keep the pedal down and try to keep pushing. Looking forward to getting on down the road.”

Hamlin settled in the runner-up spot for his 13th top-five result of the season followed by teammate Truex, who claimed his eighth top-five finish of this season. Johnson finished fourth in his penultimate run at Daytona while Buescher made a late rally to achieve a fifth-place result.

“I kept [Elliott] honest there,” Hamlin said. “He had such good drive off [the corners] I couldn’t do anything with him. I just would have liked to have stayed closer to him to put a little pressure on entries. My entries were the strong point against him, but I was giving him four car lengths so he could kind of drive the entries the way he wanted to make sure he got a good exit. I wasn’t quite clean enough the last few laps, but I definitely gave myself a chance. Those last couple corners, I felt like I did as much as I could to get to him and tried to do it the right way.”

“It was a lot of fun out there today,” Truex added. “This track was a lot more fun than I anticipated it being. No question we had the speed to be a challenger there. Thought we had a chance to win, no doubt about it. Just got caught speeding on pit road. That stinks. Had to go to the rear and then got damage so we had to go to the rear again. We passed a lot of cars that last run. I know we had the speed at the end there, we were faster than anyone. Just ran out of time, but that’s how it goes. Proud of everybody on the team and still feeling really good about these road courses. I had a lot of fun and did what we needed to do to come back, so it’s always good.”

Bowyer, Grala, Byron, Logano and McDowell rounded out the top 10. Jones, Bowman, Keselowski, Kurt Busch and DiBenedetto ended their runs in the top 15. Harvick ended his run in 17th, Newman finished 19th in his first race at Daytona since his harrowing accident in the Daytona 500 in February and Wallace dropped all the way back to 25th behind Almirola.

There were 13 lead changes for six different leaders. The race featured four cautions for seven laps.

Despite his 17th-place result, Harvick continues to lead the regular-season series standings by 118 points over Hamlin and 136 points over Keselowski.

Results.

1. Chase Elliott, 34 laps led, Stage 1 winner

2. Denny Hamlin, 16 laps led, Stage 2 winner

3. Martin Truex Jr., 10 laps led

4. Jimmie Johnson

5. Chris Buescher

6. Clint Bowyer

7. Kaz Grala, three laps led

8. William Byron

9. Joey Logano, one lap led

10. Michael McDowell

11. Erik Jones

12. Alex Bowman

13. Brad Keselowski

14. Kurt Busch

15. Matt DiBenedetto

16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

17. Kevin Harvick

18. Tyler Reddick

19. Ryan Newman

20. Ty Dillon

21. Christopher Bell

22. Cole Custer

23. Ryan Preece

24. Aric Almirola

25. Bubba Wallace

26. Matt Kenseth

27. Daniel Suarez

28. Brennan Poole

29. Timmy Hill

30. James Davison

31. Ryan Blaney

32. Corey LaJoie

33. Quin Houff, one lap down

34. J.J. Yeley, one lap down

35. John Hunter Nemechek – OUT, Accident

36. Garrett Smithley – OUT, Battery

37. Kyle Busch – OUT, Accident, one lap led

38. Stanton Barrett, 16 laps down

39. Brendan Gaughan – OUT, Transmission

Next weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series will run a pair of races on back-to-back dates at Dover International Speedway. The first Dover race will commence on Saturday, August 22, at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN while the second will occur the following day on Sunday, August 23, at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN.


Get 2 FREE stocks valued between $2.50-$1,400 when you open and fund a Webull brokerage account or earn 5% annual interest rate at Worthy.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here