When Chase Elliott took the checkered flag Sunday at Watkins Glen for his first Cup win, the car behind him was being driven by Martin Truex Jr., the defending Cup champion and the winner of the last two road course races.
“Just nice to win it straight up and it not be a fuel mileage race,” Elliott said afterward. “You can win these things a lot of different ways, but to actually go out there, run in the top 2 or 3 all day long and race the guy that’s won the past two road races straight up for a victory at the end is very satisfying.”
Elliott’s first win came in his 99th start. It occurred on an afternoon where he led a race-high 52 laps and won Stage 2 – his third consecutive race with a stage win. That stage win was over Kyle Busch, who like Truex, is one of the members of the season’s Big 3.
On NASCAR America, Landon Cassill and Parker Kligerman discussed what such a convincing performance does for the Hendrick Motorsports driver.
“If you’re Chase Elliott, how could you have had a better first win?” Cassill said. “He didn’t steal one from a superspeedway, he didn’t just have a dominate car on an intermediate track. … He beat the best in the business, he ran door-to-door with Kyle Busch at Watkins Glen earlier in the race. He had the speed. This is going to do so much for his confidence moving forward, so much more than any other race track he could have won at.”
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AJ Allmendinger, who won this race a year ago, will start on the pole for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas.
Allmendinger earned the pole with a lap of 92.173 mph Friday on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course.
He will be joined on the front row Sammy Smith (91.827 mph).
Ty Gibbs (91.665) will start third. Sheldon Creed (91.652) qualified fourth. Parker Kligerman (91.195) will start fifth.
Cup driver William Byron will start ninth. Byron’s time was disallowed for cutting the esses. Cole Custer, who will start 10th, didn’t make a lap in the final round of qualifying.
Cup driver Aric Almirola (91.269) qualified 13th. Truck Series racer Carson Hocevar (90.669) will start 17th. Alex Labbe (90.476) will start 23rd. He’s filling in for Josh Williams, who is serving a one-race suspension for parking his car at the start/finish line of last weekend’s race at Atlanta.
Ross Chastain will start on the pole for Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas.
Chastain earned the top starting spot in Friday’s qualifying with a lap of 91.877 mph. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch (91.490 mph).
Ty Majeski qualified third with a lap of 91.225 mph. Rookie Nick Sanchez (90.993) will start fourth, and Christian Eckes (90.937) will complete the top five.
Alex Bowman failed to make the race. Bowman had a flat right front on his qualifying lap.
Tyler Reddick posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Cup practice at Circuit of the Americas.
Reddick, who won two road course races last season, topped the field in his 23XI Racing Toyota with a lap of 92.989 mph. Kyle Larson was next, posting a lap of 92.618 mph around the 3.41-mile road course.
Ross Chastain, who won this race a year ago, was third on the speed chart in practice with a lap of 92.520 mph. He was followed by Kyle Busch (92.498 mph) and Daniel Suarez (92.461 mph).
Jordan Taylor, subbing for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, was 10th on the speed chart in practice after a lap of 92.404 mph.
Former world champion Jenson Button, driving for Rick Ware Racing, was 28th in practice with a lap of 91.759 mph. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, driving the Project 91 car for Trackhouse Racing, was 32nd in practice after a lap of 91.413 mph.
Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, driving in his first race for Legacy Motor Club since the Daytona 500, was 36th in practice after a lap of 91.072 mph. IndyCar driver Conor Daly was last among the 39 cars in practice with a lap of 90.095 mph.
Cup qualifying is Saturday. The series races Sunday.
Austin Hill, the dominant driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series through the early weeks of the season, will be looking for his first Xfinity road course win Saturday.
Hill has won three of the season’s first five races, scoring victories at Daytona, Las Vegas and Atlanta.
Hill has been close in previous road course runs. He has a second at COTA, a third at Portland, a fourth at Road America and a ninth at Indianapolis.
Kyle Busch and AJ Allmendinger own wins in the previous Xfinity races at COTA.
Allmendinger and three other Cup Series regulars — Aric Almirola, William Byron and Ty Gibbs — are scheduled to race in the Xfinity event.
Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas
(All times Eastern)
START: The command to start engines will be given at 5:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled at 5:19 p.m.
PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 2 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Jordan Thiessen of Pit Boss Grills at 5 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by recording artist Payton Keller at 5:01 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is 46 laps (156 miles) on the 3.41-mile track.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 14. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.
TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 5 p.m. … NASCAR RaceDay airs at 4 p.m. on FS1. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. and can be heard at goprn.com. …SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.
FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. Temperature of 82 at race time. No chance of rain.
LAST TIME: AJ Allmendinger won last March’s Xfinity race at COTA. Austin Hill was two seconds behind in second place. Cole Custer finished third.