Chase Elliott draws high praise from Rick Hendrick in second career Sprint Cup start

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Even though he won’t be promoted full time until next season, Chase Elliott is proving to be a quick study in the Sprint Cup Series.

In only his second career Cup start, the defending Xfinity Series champion had an impressive 16th-place finish in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

But don’t take our word for it. Just listen to team owner Rick Hendrick.

“Chase drove such a good race,” Hendrick said. “I think he drove up to 11th on the green, stayed out of trouble, great feedback.

“He sounds just like a 10-year veteran, never gets rattled, good feedback, and the car was never off. For him to come out here and finish 16th, I’m really proud of him. That just shows how mature he is.”

Elliott, 19, is set to replace Jeff Gordon in the legendary No. 24 car next season.

Elliott finished a disappointing 38th in his Cup debut at Martinsville a few weeks ago.

“I have no idea, I wish I had an answer for you, I don’t really know,” he said when asked the difference between his race at Martinsville and Sunday at Richmond. “I felt like at Martinsville, too, we had a good car.  I didn’t do my job like I needed to there, and got us in a wreck 60 laps into the race, and that’s not the thing to do.”

But he was spot-on in Sunday’s race, completing all 400 laps in the No. 25 Chevrolet and staying out of trouble.

“Fortunately we were able to run laps today, able to stay on the lead lap and battle really hard, especially towards the end of those long runs, and to race with some good cars,” Elliott said. “I think that’s something our team should be proud of.”

Prior to the start of the race, crew chief Kenny Francis told Elliott a goal would be to finish all 400 laps and to earn a top-20 finish.

Mission accomplished.

“I felt like we had a really solid day overall,” Elliott said. “I was a little disappointed though there at the end that I fell back and then couldn’t get going at the restart.

“But overall, everybody on our NAPA team did great this weekend. I thought we had a fast car, especially in race trim. The guys made good adjustments to qualify where we did. We had a great car on the long run.

“We could really run well and run some guys down late in the run. Unfortunately, it always comes down to the short runs in these things. So, we’ll try to get better and hopefully try to have a better effort at Charlotte (Motor Speedway for next month’s Coca-Cola 600).”

And what will be on his mind come Charlotte?

“Expectations are we still just want to put together solid races and try and stay on the lead lap of those things,” Elliott said. “You try to race with some competitive cars, and I thought we did that today.”

Hendrick paid Elliott a big compliment by comparing his radio demeanor with six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.

“He amazes me,” Hendrick said of Elliott. “What amazes me most about him is how calm he is, and the feedback he gives, and he’s right on the money. He never gets excited. The tone in his voice never changes, kind of like Jimmie (Johnson).’’

(Contributing: Dustin Long)

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NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin

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NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Elliott’s car slapped the outside wall. Elliott’s car then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway

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A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:

WINNERS

Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.

LOSERS

Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series results: Justin Allgaier wins at Charlotte

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CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier finally broke through for his first win of the NASCAR Xfinity Series season Monday night.

Allgaier stretched his last fuel load over the final laps to finish in front of John Hunter Nemechek. Cole Custer was third, Austin Hill fourth and Ty Gibbs fifth. Gibbs ran both races Monday, completing 900 miles.

The win also was the first of the season for JR Motorsports.

Charlotte Xfinity results

Xfinity points after Charlotte

Justin Allgaier wins NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway

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CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier won a fuel-mileage gamble to win Monday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Allgaier stretched his fuel to outlast second-place John Hunter Nemechek. Following in the top five were Cole Custer, Austin Hill and Ty Gibbs.

The victory was Allgaier’s first of the year and the first of the season for JR Motorsports. He has 20 career wins.

MORE: Charlotte Xfinity results

After a long day at CMS, the race ended at 11:25 p.m. The race started Monday morning but was stopped twice because of weather before it was halted with 48 of 200 laps completed so that the Coca-Cola 600 Cup Series race could be run.

When the race was stopped, Gibbs, Nemechek and Allgaier were in the top three positions.

Gibbs won the first two stages.

Stage 1 winner: Ty Gibbs

Stage 2 winner: Ty Gibbs

Who had a good race: Justin Allgaier has had good cars in previous races but finally cashed in with a win Monday. He led 83 laps. … John Hunter Nemechek, in second, scored his fifth top-two run of the season. … Cole Custer scored his sixth straight top-10 finish. … Ty Gibbs lasted 900 miles for the day and led 52 laps in the Xfinity race.

Who had a bad race: Sam Mayer was running 10th when he spun off Turn 2. He finished 35th. … Sheldon Creed finished three laps down in 28th.

Next: The series moves on to Portland International Raceway in Oregon for a 4:30 p.m. ET race June 3.