CONCORD, N.C. — Chase Elliott continued his mastery on NASCAR road courses Sunday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, overcoming adversity to tame the tricky layout for the second consecutive season.
The last four road course races have been won by the Hendrick Motorsports driver, who rebounded from a loose wheel that necessitated an extra pit stop under green just before the halfway point of the 109-lap race.
Elliott rejoined the race in 36th, but the No. 9 Chevrolet driver quickly made up ground, just as he did last year after he crashed from the lead midway through this race.
He passed teammate Alex Bowman on Lap 92 and led the final 18 laps for his ninth career victory in NASCAR’s premier series. Five of those victories have been on road courses: twice at Watkins Glen International, twice at the Roval and the Daytona International Speedway road course in August.
“Just had another fast Camaro,” Elliott told NBC Sports pit reporter Dave Burns. “Road courses have been fortunate to us the last few trips, but we’ve just tried to get a little better every time and tweak on the small things.
“Just really proud of the effort and appreciate everybody at Hendrick and Chevrolet. It’s always special to win here at Charlotte with the shop across the street. Best way to get in the next round is to win. Hopefully we can do something with it.”
MORE: Race results
Defending series champion Kyle Busch’s tough 2020 season continued as he was eliminated with a 30th-place finish.
Busch, who is in danger of going winless for the first time in his 16th Cup season, suffered a left-front flat tire after a Lap 49 restart in which he made contact with Clint Bowyer, who also was eliminated in the Round of 12 finale. (Austin Dillon and Aric Almirola also fell out of playoff contention.)
Busch rallied into the top five and took the lead by staying on track during a yellow flag on Lap 86. But he was passed by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones (who was on fresh tires) a few laps after the final restart of a race that began with a damp 17-turn, 2.28-mile road course.
It was the first time in more than 60 years that a race in NASCAR’s premier series was run with rain tires. There have been multiple Xfinity races in which the tires have been used, and 22 drivers in Sunday’s race had experience with the rain tires in NASCAR.
In contrast to the Xfinity race a day earlier, the Cup race started without precipitation and a drying track, which made for much tamer racing than the standing water and puddles around the course Saturday.
But lap times until the first yellow still were more than 10 seconds slower than the pace of the first two Cup races held on the Roval in 2018-19 as the 38-car field was required to start on Goodyear’s grooved rain tires (which provide more traction but less speed).
Brad Keselowski went from third to first on the first lap Sunday, passing Elliott and Denny Hamlin as drivers tip-toed around a track that still had running water in many infield sections, particularly Turn 3.
By the Lap 10 competition caution, the track had dried enough that a couple of cars elected to pit for the faster slick tires. Over the next 10 laps under green in Stage 1, nearly the entire field had pitted for slicks except leader Bowyer, Truex and Kyle Busch.
All three stopped when John Hunter Nemechek brought out a caution flag on Lap 24, setting up a one-lap restart to end the first stage.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Ty Dillon
STAGE 2 WINNER: Ryan Blaney
WHO HAD A (MOSTLY) GOOD RACE: In the same week he announced he was leaving driving for a TV career, Clint Bowyer led nine laps and spent most of the first two stages at the front. But a problem on a Lap 72 restart dropped his No. 14 Ford off the pace and out of contention. … Ty Dillon started 17th but made his presence felt early after pitting for slick tires during the first yellow. Lapping 4 seconds quicker than drivers on rain tires, he zoomed forward from 22nd to take his first lead on Lap 21 and winning Stage 1. He was involved in an incident that dropped him off the lead lap with 45 laps to go, but Dillon (who is hunting a ride next season) still proved he is a battler.
NEXT: The Cup Series will open the Round of 8 at 2 p.m. ET on Oct. 18 at Kansas Speedway on NBC.