By David Morgan, Associate Editor
LEBANON, Tenn. – Just call him “Concrete Chase.”
Sunday’s Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway threw everything it could at Chase Elliott, but when the checkered flag flew, it was the No. 9 Chevrolet that was victorious for the second-time this season – both on concrete tracks.
“Just so proud of our team because we kind of had a setback there about halfway and we were able to get our NAPA Chevy dialed back in and get back in the mix,” Elliott said.
“It was a long day, a fun day. Thank you guys so much for hanging out. Just so proud of our team. We have had a pretty rough month and month-and-a-half, so just nice to get going back in the right direction. Getting a win is always huge, but to do it in a really cool city like Nashville is even better. Looking forward to that guitar.”
After starting the day in fourth-place, Elliott finished both the first and second stage in the top-10, but when heavy rain moved in just prior to the end of the second stage, it was anyone’s guess who would come out the other side as the favorite as what was a race in the heat of the afternoon shifted to a night race on the 1.333-mile oval.
While Joe Gibbs Racing seemed to be destined for the win, leading a combined 251 laps, Elliott’s car came to life in the latter stages of the race and he made his presence known as a contender down the stretch.
Elliott first took the lead on lap 245 just prior to green flag pit stops, but it was the restart after Chris Buescher lost a wheel to bring out the yellow in which Elliott showed he was the driver to beat for the win.
Powering past Kyle Busch to take the lead with 39 laps to go, it was shaping up to be a three on one battle to see who would come out on top – Elliott versus the JGR trio of Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Martin Truex, Jr.
As the laps clicked away, Elliott held a steady advantage over his challengers, but the racing gods didn’t make it easy on him as the yellow flag flew for the 10th and final time to set up a four-lap dash to the finish.
Now it all came down to strategy, keep the track position or dive down to pit road and gamble that fresher tires would be the winning ticket.
Elliott elected to keep his track position and the lead, but all three JGR cars behind him and a host of others decided otherwise and made the trip down pit road for new Goodyears. Along with Elliott, 10 cars remained out on track to provide a buffer between him and the drivers that pitted.
That’s all that Elliott needed as he held off Kurt Busch to claim the victory by a 0.551 second margin of victory.
“I got soft on him,” Kurt Busch said of the final restart. “I should have been throwing some fenders and moving some momentum around. I didn’t stick with our strength. We didn’t have many strengths tonight. We just executed really well. The restarts were so-so and long run speed was good. I just needed to stick with our strength and I messed up.
“I want to thank all my guys at 23XI. We have a great group of guys and girls. The way that we’re running, a second is cool, but we’re here for wins with the Playoff situation. Thanks to Monster Energy, Toyota and all of our associate sponsors. This Camry and all the TRD Camrys were awesome. I just hate it when we don’t get into victory lane and I was right there.”
Ryan Blaney rebounded from a spin on lap 206 to finish in third, followed by Kyle Larson in fourth, and Ross Chastain in fifth.
As far as the JGR trio, Denny Hamlin finished the night in sixth, but Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. weren’t as fortunate as the finished 21st and 22nd, respectively.