By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Chase Elliott was just two laps away from doing something his father Bill never accomplished in his NASCAR Hall of Fame career — winning the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Then his Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron happened.
Elliott’s No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE had his eye on a seventh career Cup Series triumph set in stone with a comfortable 1+ second lead over Brad Keselowski. That was until Byron’s left rear tire cut down and spun in Turn 2, bringing out the 9th caution.
“That’s gotta be a joke,” Elliott responded to the caution over the radio.
Byron described that his No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet shredded a left rear tire and felt bad for his teammate under those circumstances.
“We had a bit of a tire rub when we went green with almost 50 to go, so I don’t know why it gave out with only a couple laps left after making it that long,” said Byron. “I feel really bad though that it cost Chase Elliott and the No. 9 team. We had a fast Liberty Chevy up until that point.”
It not only forced the race to go into overtime, but the stressful situation of whether or not pitting was wise due to track position and clean air being the main theme of the two-day 607.5-mile race.
Despite questioning the idea of pitting, Elliott ducked down pit road but already the decision outraged him as Keselowski and teammate Jimmie Johnson stayed out. Once it was all set and done, Elliott restarted 11th as a shot of victory had ceased.
“I think you’re fucking kidding me,” Elliott exclaimed after several drivers stayed out for track position. “I have never in my life, man. Un-fucking-believable. Always fucking something.”
As Keselowski went on to score his 31st career win and Johnson crossed the line in second, many drivers bunched up behind them. As several drivers were jockeying for position and avoiding the mayhem, Elliott blasted through the field and took a surprising third in the two-lap shootout.
Johnson would be disqualified from his runner-up position following his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet failing post-race tech, promoting Elliott to the runner-up spot.
A very discouraged Elliott, who led 38 of 405 laps, was then consoled by Kyle Busch, four days removed from their incident at Darlington, to casually discuss about the finish. Nothing came of it as both have already chatted about last Wednesday’s race and have moved on from the ordeal
During the post-race video conference, Elliott simply said that Busch felt bad for him as it added much ire to his week.
“This week’s been pretty unfortunate,” said Elliott. “We’ve had some tough losses in my career, for however many years I’ve been doing this, five, six years, unfortunately. It is what it is.”
Elliott would then discuss with his crew chief Alan Gustafson about what boiled down as prior to everything going down on Lap 399, Elliott had the race under control. On Lap 363, Elliott had a strong run on the backstretch and went low to clear Keselowski’s No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Mustang in Turn 4.
However, with everything that transpired, there was no joy out of getting his third top-five of 2020 as he would’ve been the first driver to win at both the 1.5-mile oval and the Roval.
“I was just trying to make the best decision you can and those guys are going to do the opposite of whatever you do. That’s just part of it,” said Elliott. “You make decisions and live with them and it wasn’t the (winning) pit call.”
Elliott will start 19th in Wednesday’s Alsco Uniforms 500 at Charlotte. Live coverage of the 208-lap race begins at 8:00 pm EST on FS1 with Elliott’s teammate Byron slated to lead the field to the green flag.