After wrecking while in the lead and then falling back to 37th with 44 laps to go, Chase Elliott roared back to win Sunday’s Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, ending the first round of the NASCAR Cup playoffs with the elimination of four drivers from further advancement.
It was Elliott’s third win of the season and sixth of his Cup career.
“Did you all like that?” Elliott asked to fans, who responded with a big round of cheers, while being interviewed on NBC Sports.
While leading on a restart with 45 laps left and shortly after winning Stage 2, Elliott came into Turn 1 and drove straight into the wall. It appeared Elliott was carrying too much speed into the turn and also applied the brakes too late, missing the turn and going straight ahead into the tire wall.
“What a mistake,” Elliott told NBC Sports. “Talk about messing something up. … I pretty well blew it and had the cautions fall at the right time and we were able to bring it back home.”
Elliott’s tangle with the tire wall was very similar to how Brad Keselowski, also while in the lead, went into the wall in last year’s Roval race. However, several other drivers were collected in that wreck, while Elliott’s crash Sunday was a solo incident.
After repairs on pit road, Elliott returned to the race in 37th place, but flew back up to 14th 10 laps later, up to eighth on Lap 85, fourth on Lap 95, third with nine laps to go and second with five laps to go before overtaking Kevin Harvick in the closing laps to take the checkered flag.
Seven races now remain in the playoffs. Things now move on to the Round of 12 but will do so without Erik Jones, Ryan Newman, Aric Almirola and Kurt Busch, who were all eliminated after being the lowest-scoring drivers in the opening round.
The eliminations began with three laps to go in Stage 1 when several drivers made contact going into Turn 1, including Kurt Busch, Chris Buescher, Erik Jones, Alex Bowman, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson. All but Jones’ car were able to continue. Jones took his car to the garage with a punctured radiator, ending his hopes of advancing to the second round of the playoffs.
“It’s unfortunate,” Jones told NBC Sports. “We just had three really bad weeks, some of our own doing, today not really of our own doing. … I’d love to be moving forward and challenging for the championship … It’s just the nature of the playoffs. We’ll keep racing all year and next year come back and improve all we can.”
STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Larson.
STAGE 2 WINNER: Chase Elliott (by winning the stage, locked himself into Round of 12 on points).
WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: William Byron led 24 laps and finished sixth. … Martin Truex Jr., who won the first two races of the opening round of the playoffs, started from the back of the field due to an engine change but roared back to finish seventh.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: With 19 laps to go, Ryan Newman stalled his car after a pit stop, losing several positions and dropping below the cutline in the running points chart. … Being three laps down to the leaders and sitting in 37th place, Kyle Busch took his car out of the race during the red flag stoppage with seven laps to go. It’s the second time Busch has finished 37th in the last four races and the regular season champion has now dropped to seventh in the standings after the first three playoff races.
NOTABLE: Alex Bowman was taken to the infield medical center after the race, reportedly for exhaustion. … Ryan Blaney limped his car around the track for much of the second half of the race with a broken left rear strut. He was able to hold on to advance to the playoffs. … Two days after being hospitalized with a kidney stone, Michael McDowell had a strong race Sunday, including running in the top five at times before finishing 12th. … With seven laps to go, the race was red-flagged for 8 minutes, 22 seconds due to fluid that needed to be cleaned up on the race track.
WHAT’S NEXT: The second round of the NASCAR Cup playoffs – also known as the Round of 12 – will begin Sunday, Oct. 5 at Dover International Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).