‘What a thrill’: Chase Elliott breaks through with first career Cup win

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Chase Elliott held off NASCAR’s defending Cup champion for the last 31 laps to earn his first career Cup Series win Sunday at Watkins Glen International.

Elliott took the checkered flag over Martin Truex Jr. after Truex ran out of gas on the last lap.

The win comes in Elliott’s 99th start, just like Kyle Larson’s first victory two years ago. It is the 250th win for Hendrick Motorsports in Cup and snaps a 37-race winless streak.

The top five was completed by Kyle Busch, Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones.

“Holy cow, what a thrill,” Elliott told NBCSN. “I don’t know what to say. Just so thrilled, just so emotional. So much relief. Working all three years and hadn’t won one. Came here with a great opportunity today and I was able to get it done. … I hope my buddies back home are ready to get rowdy tonight because it’s going to be a good one.”

The victory for Elliott, 22, echoes the first win for his father, Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, who won on a road course in 1983 at Riverside International Speedway. The elder Elliott never won at Watkins Glen in Cup, but he claimed his only Xfinity win on the road course.

Bill Elliott served as a spotter for his son Sunday.

Just like his father, Chase Elliott broke through for his first win after having finished second eight times before visiting victory lane. He placed second earlier this year at Richmond.

“It took us some kind of hard times to get here,” Elliott said. “I had to have a good group around me to keep pushing me and keep making me realize that we weren’t in those positions by accident. And, it was funny this morning. I woke up and I watched the video. (University of Georgia football coach) Kirby Smart had a speech about having pressure is a privilege. And, I had that on repeat this morning in the bus, just thinking about it. I thought we had a chance today and wanted to make sure that if we were in a position to try to capitalize, and we did. What a day. … This is one hell of a day.”

It is the first win for Chevrolet since Austin Dillon won the Daytona 500 in February.

The victory came on the 43rd birthday of Elliott’s crew chief, Alan Gustafson.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Martin Truex Jr.

STAGE 2 WINNER: Chase Elliott claimed a stage win for the third straight race.

MORE: Race results

MORE: Point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Kyle Busch placed third after a pit fueling issue during the last caution forced him to pit again from the lead and restart in 31st … Daniel Suarez earned consecutive top fives for the first time in his career … William Byron placed eighth, giving him consecutive top 10s for the first time in his career.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Joey Logano was eliminated after being involved in a Lap 2 incident that damaged an oil cooler on his car … AJ Allmendinger placed 15th after he had to pit to repair damage sustained when he ran into the back of Logano on Lap 2 … Jimmie Johnson placed 30th after receiving a pit penalty during the Stage 2 caution, driving most of the race with a broken rear-view mirror, and being involved in a wreck with 11 laps to go.

NOTABLE: Chase Elliott is the youngest Cup driver to win on a road course … He joins Steve Park, AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose as drivers to earn their first Cup wins at WGI.

WHAT’S NEXT: Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway at 2:30 p.m. ET on Aug. 12 on NBCSN.