By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
Amid the doom and gloom talks around the NASCAR garage area this year and three drivers dominating week in and week out, the sport needed an energizing moment to get out of the current rut it finds itself in.
Enter Chase Elliott’s win Sunday at Watkins Glen and they got exactly what they were looking for.
Elliott, the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, has been a fan favorite since he first entered the sport and in his three seasons in the Cup Series has come agonizingly close to his first win only to fall short one way or another.
Coming into the Go Bowling at The Glen, Elliott had eight runner-up finishes, same as his famous father when he finally broke through and scored his first career Cup Series win – on a road course, no less.
His shortfalls in reaching Victory Lane in 98 previous starts have only amplified the fan reaction to seeing Elliott’s Chevrolet at the front of the field as illustrated throughout the race on the seven-turn, 2.45-mile road course. The crowd went wild when Elliott took the lead and scored the Stage 2 win and as the laps wound down on Sunday, they seemed to be willing him to victory.
As Martin Truex, Jr. fell by the wayside on the final lap, the crowd erupted just as much as Elliott and his team as they finally got the monkey off their back and claimed their first win on NASCAR’s highest level.
Elliott himself noted how much he appreciated the fan response in his post-race comments on the frontstretch.
“Thanks to all the fans. You guys were rowdy after that checkered flag,” Elliott said. “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen and I just want you all to know that. And, I am very grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Let’s go get some more.”
The fans and his team weren’t the only ones losing their minds over the win, the majority of the Cup Series field made their way to Victory Lane after the race to congratulate the newest winner on the circuit. Elliott’s teammate, Jimmie Johnson, also went one step further, pushing Elliott’s car back around to the frontstretch after he ran out of gas on the cool-down lap.
— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) August 5, 2018
The moment was like a symbolic passing of the torch as the seven-time champion is on the back side of his career and Sunday’s win seems like it will be a shot in the arm for Elliott and his team to go on a tear in the weeks to come.
“I just appreciate the support and the respect on the race track,” said Elliott. “Jimmie (Johnson) has been one of my heroes for a long, long time. I leaned on him a lot over this past off season and I always lean on him, but certainly a lot throughout this off season just about the opportunities I’ve had in the past and not closing them out. He has been a big supporter of mine and that was one of the coolest things ever and I will never forget it.”
Now that Elliott has his first win, he becomes the eighth different driver eligible for the postseason, as he will turn his attention to making a run through the playoffs and giving the big three a run for their money – after the celebrating and the post-race party is over.