Chase Elliott turned the tables on the dominant Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas of Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch and won Sunday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway.
Hamlin and Truex spent much of the race at the front of the pack. Truex, who had won only three stages all season entering Nashville, won the first two stages Sunday. Over that stretch, Hamlin led 108 laps and Truex 73.
Elliott surged to the front in the third stage and left the JGR Toyotas in his wake. Elliott had a lead of almost one second through the final stage.
MORE: Nashville Cup results, points
Following in the top five were Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Ross Chastain as a late-race caution left those in the lead pack with different pit strategies. Elliott, the leader as the caution flew, stayed on track and protected the lead over the final four laps. He got a push from Blaney at the start of the final green-flag run and wasn’t challenged the rest of the way.
“Ryan gave me a great shove and I appreciate him doing me a solid there in getting us out front,” Elliott said. “Just so proud of our team because we kind of had a setback there (a long pit stop) about halfway and we were able to get our NAPA Chevy dialed back in and get back in the mix.”
Hamlin’s momentum suffered at the end of Stage 2 when his pit crew had issues with the right front tire, dropping Hamlin 10 positions, but he rallied to contend over the closing miles.
Weather toyed with the field much of the afternoon and evening. There were two delays because of lightning in the area and a two-hour, eight-minute red flag caused by rain. The race ended as midnight approached in the Eastern time zone.
The pace was slowed by several incidents.
Chase Briscoe and Ty Dillon crashed in Turn 2 on lap 62. Both continued in the race.
The field was slowed by a caution on lap 51 when Alex Bowman crashed in Turn 2. Bowman’s issue added to the pain for Hendrick Motorsports as William Byron, Bowman’s teammate, battled steering problems.
Hamlin led the first 41 laps of the race before the field was slowed by caution and parked by a red flag for a lightning delay. The cars were parked on pit road for an hour during the weather delay.
Hamlin retained the lead after green-flag racing resumed, but Truex jumped in front on a restart after Hamlin had led a total of 65 laps. The teammates raced each other side by side for lap after lap, occasionally turning back the challenge of pursuers.
There was tense three-wide racing in the final stage as Elliott chased down Hamlin and Busch.
Stage 1 winner: Martin Truex Jr.
Stage 2 winner: Martin Truex Jr.
Who had a good race: Chase Elliott scored his second win of the season by running away with the final stage and staying on track during a late round of pit stops. … Denny Hamlin was the boss for much of the night, leading 114 laps before finishing sixth. … Ryan Blaney recovered from a slide and a tap of the wall to finish third.
Who had a bad race: Chris Buescher lost a wheel, putting yet another team on the list of those losing suspended crew members for that infraction. … Bubba Wallace‘s tough season continued as a potentially potent run was stopped by a bad pit stop. … Fans in attendance at Nashville Superspeedway saw a good finish and some tight up-front racing but had to endure long delays caused by rain and lightning.
Next: The Cup Series moves on to the Road America road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisc. July 3 for a 250-mile race (3 p.m. ET, USA Network).