Long: Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson share a moment in time


Awash in unparalleled joy at winning his first Cup championship, Chase Elliott’s mind raced back to Dawsonville, Georgia.

There in his parents’ office is a photo of Bill Elliott high-fiving Matt Kenseth from their cars after Kenseth won the 2003 championship and Elliott won the race that day at Rockingham in what would be his final Cup victory.

The photo came into focus when Chase Elliott saw Jimmie Johnson drive toward him Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, waving to fans after his final race as a full-time Cup competitor.

“Damn, that would be super, super cool to recreate that moment,” Elliott thought to himself of the photo with his father and Kenseth.

Soon the cars of Johnson and Elliott were positioned to do that.

They high-fived.

Some will view the moment as a proverbial passing of the torch from one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers to one of its burgeoning stars.

In that moment, though, what was exchanged was primal.

“We were just screaming, or I was screaming,” Elliott later said. “I don’t know what he said, but I know we high-fived each other, and that was really cool.”

Elliott’s victory is easy to view as a seminal moment for NASCAR, similar to how Jeff Gordon’s first Cup start came in Richard Petty’s last race.

The difference is Gordon and Petty had no relationship at the time. Johnson and Elliott were teammates. To stop there, though, ignores the bond Johnson and Elliott have. It was only fitting that Johnson was among the first to congratulate the new champ Sunday.

Because Johnson had seen the other side.

Elliott seemed poised for his first Cup win at Dover in October 2017 before Kyle Busch passed him coming to the white flag to win.

It was the fifth time Elliott had finished second in a Cup race as he sought his first series victory. He often beat himself up after such finishes but none more than that day. Johnson finished third. He quickly headed to Elliott after the race to console his teammate.

“I knew I couldn’t make him feel any better,” Johnson said that day. “I just wanted to check on him and turn him around where people couldn’t see his face and let him get those few first words and sentences out. I anticipated them being cuss words, and they were.

“I just know from my own experience it’s just nice to kind of vent and get through that.”

After winning at Watkins Glen in 2018 for his first Cup victory, Chase Elliott ran out of fuel. Jimmie Johnson pushed Elliott’s car back around the track. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Elliott endured three more runner-up finishes and 29 starts before he won his first Cup race in August 2018 at Watkins Glen. It came in his 99th career Cup start.

Elliott planned to drive to the section of the course where his father had been spotting to do a burnout in front of him. Instead, Elliott’s car ran out of fuel.

Johnson again was there.

He drove to Elliott’s motionless car and pushed it back around the track so Elliott could begin his first Cup victory celebration.

Elliott said that one of the “cool things” with the win that day was Johnson pushing his car because “he’s been a hero of mine for a long time, and he’s been a big supporter of mine, a guy I’ve leaned on a lot through some of those hard days.”

Johnson and Elliott might not have had the chance to form such a friendship and work together at Hendrick Motorsports had car owner Rick Hendrick not signed Elliott when he was 15 years old. 

“I won’t name any names at our company, but I think a lot of people thought I was nuts,” Hendrick said Sunday after Elliott gave his organization its 13th Cup title in the past 26 years.

Hendrick said former car owner James Finch told him to check out the young Elliott years ago. Hendrick started watching video of Elliott’s races, was impressed and called Bill Elliott.

A deal was quickly done.

Elliott won his first Xfinity race in his sixth start. He then won the next race. He finished 2014 as the Xfinity champion as a rookie.

When it came time for Jeff Gordon to step away from full-time racing, Elliott took over the No. 24 car. After two winless seasons, the car number was changed to No. 9 to honor Elliott’s father and Elliott started winning.

Nearly a decade after Hendrick signed Elliott, the driver won his first Cup title. And did it in Johnson’s last race as a full-time Cup driver.

After the celebration on the track, Elliott, Johnson and Hendrick shared a moment together on pit road.

“Jimmie is really special to us, like part of our family,” Hendrick said. “Chase is the new kid coming along … not a kid, but …  he’s a champion now.”

As they celebrated together, Elliott just kept saying: “Can you believe it?”

They could.

NASCAR Cup Series results: Ryan Blaney wins at Charlotte

NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600
Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

CONCORD, N.C. — Ryan Blaney outran William Byron over the final miles and through several restarts to win Monday’s 600-mile NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Blaney thus ended a 59-race winless streak and qualified for the Cup playoffs.

Following in the top five were Byron, Martin Truex Jr., Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick.

Charlotte Cup results

Ryan Blaney wins NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway

NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600
Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images
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CONCORD, N.C. — It was the longest wait for the longest race, and it ended on a very long day. And it marked the end of a long winless streak.

Ryan Blaney sprinted away from William Byron in the closing laps of Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and ended a 59-race winless streak.

Byron finished second and was followed by Martin Truex Jr., Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick.

Blaney pushed through several late-race restarts and held on to finally write finish to a frustrating losing string.

“You start to get to feel like you can’t win any more when you don’t win for a while,” an emotional Blaney said after the race.

Following the lead of his Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, who won Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 and went into the stands to celebrate with fans, Blaney ran into the CMS frontstretch grandstands after grabbing the checkered flag.

Contender Kyle Larson lost control of his car on a restart with 26 laps to go, starting a crash that also involved Joey Logano, Ty Gibbs and Christopher Bell.

He had maneuvered his way through a web of crashes and outran Byron, whose team kept him in or near the front with a string of fast pit stops.

The race was postponed by rain Sunday and was delayed by showers Monday. Rain had soaked the track most of the weekend, postponing the Cup and Xfinity Series races and cancelling Saturday night’s Cup practice and qualifying. Monday’s forecast was better, but the weather refused to cooperate. Rain interrupted the Xfinity race, which started at 11 a.m., and another shower stopped the Cup race during the second stage.

Charlotte Motor Speedway, which advertises itself as “America’s Home for Racing,” had become America’s home for raining.

Blaney, 29, scored the eighth win of his career. He last won at Daytona International Speedway in August 2021 and had posted four runnerup finishes during that span.

A mid-race collision between Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin left their cars seriously damaged and their feelings hurt. They were racing in close quarters on lap 186 when extended contact between the two cars sent Hamlin hard into the wall, resulting in major front-end damage. Elliott’s car sustained serious rear damage.

Hamlin said Elliott had a “tantrum” and that he should be suspended for the next race for what Hamlin called “a right rear hook.” Elliott denied intentionally wrecking Hamlin.

A few laps earlier, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski crashed.

The third-stage win went to Blaney. Following were Reddick, Truex, Byron and Ty Gibbs.

Chris Buescher won the second stage, leading Kevin Harvick, Keselowski, Joey Logano and Gibbs.

Byron won the first stage, leading a three-way battle with Christopher Bell and Blaney on the 100th lap. Bell was second, Blaney third, Reddick fourth and Truex Jr. fifth.

A crash involving Bubba Wallace and Aric Almirola resulted in the drivers having a tense red-flag discussion. Almirola shoved Wallace before the altercation was broken up.

Stage 1 winner: William Byron

Stage 2 winner: Chris Buescher

Stage 3 winner: Ryan Blaney

Who had a good race: Ryan Blaney had the day’s fastest car and held off a following herd over the final miles. … William Byron was strong throughout the race but couldn’t challenge Blaney at the end.

Who had a bad race: Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson had a tough day in his third race of the year. He lost control of his car in Turn 2 74 laps into the race and slapped the outside wall. He lost a lap in the pits and ultimately finished last. … Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin had top-10 cars but both left the race after a controversial collision near the halfway point.

Next: The series moves on to World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois for a June 4 race at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott involved in big crash at Charlotte


CONCORD, N.C. — Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott were involved in a big crash midway through Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and each blamed the other.

Elliott’s car slapped the outside wall near the start-finish line, and his car made contact with Hamlin’s Toyota, sending Hamlin slamming into the wall. The front end of Hamlin’s car was smashed. Elliott’s Chevrolet also was damaged.

Both drivers parked for the evening, and neither was happy.

Hamlin said Elliott had a “tantrum” and said he should be suspended from next week’s race.

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

Elliott had a different view.

“The 11 (Hamlin) put me in the fence, and once you take the right sides off these things it’s kind of over,” he said. “Once you hit the wall in these things, you can’t drive them any more.”

Elliott denied intentionally hitting Hamlin, saying the crash was “unfortunate circumstances.”

Brad Keselowski hit the rear of Elliott’s car after the initial contact between Hamlin and Elliott.

After the crash, Hamlin tweeted data in support of his contention that Elliott drove into him.




More rain postpones conclusion of Charlotte Xfinity race


CONCORD, N.C. — Despite an improving forecast, rain continued to plague NASCAR and its drivers Monday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The twice-rescheduled Xfinity Series race was stopped twice because of weather Monday after finally getting the green flag, and the conclusion of the 300-mile race was postponed until after the completion of Monday’s rescheduled 600-mile Cup Series race.

Forty-eight of the race’s scheduled 200 laps were completed before weather and the impending scheduled start of the Cup race intervened.

When (or if) the race resumes Monday night, it will be broadcast by FS2, the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

After 48 laps, Ty Gibbs, John Hunter Nemechek and Justin Allgaier are in the top three positions.

Gibbs won the first stage.