For a while it looked like Chase Elliott was on his way to a win at the ROVAL and being a lock into the playoff field of eight going into Dover next week.
After Chevrolet dominance with pole sitter William Byron leading early, Kyle Larson winning stage one and Chase Elliott coming to the front in the final stages to take stage two, it looked like a Chevrolet kind of day for the Bowtie Brigade.
But for Elliott it almost ended in a lock; in the form of locked brakes and a skid straight into the infamous Heartburn Turn One, to put Elliott into the tire wall and possibly out of contention for his second road course win and locking him into the playoff field of twelve.
That event would put Ford driver Kevin Harvick back in the driver’s seat leading the pack in the third stage of the ROVAL race with 42 laps to go and leading Toyota driver Martin Truex, Jr., leaving Chase Elliott at the back of the pack and contemplating his next move.
Elliott’s next move was to use the incident in Heartburn Turn as motivation to put him on the course toward redemption.
With 33 to go, after the incident nine laps before, Elliott regained the lead with his Chevy Camaro adorned in 200 mile an hour duct tape on the left and right side of his hood to hold it in place. Elliott continued to pace the field with his Chevy Camaro back to the front before taking on four tires and fuel in a pit stop with 30 laps to go.
Last year’s winner, Ryan Blaney would go out of contention after a sway bar broke on his Penske Ford and the same would happen to former NASCAR champion Kyle Busch. Rookie Daniel Hemrick would take over the lead but would have to fight off a determined Kevin Harvick with 29 laps to go.
In turn 12, Harvick made his move as he passed Hemric on the entrance back to the oval’s turn three.
With 28 laps to go, Harvick would hold a 2.7 second advantage over Hemric and a nearly five second lead over third place Martin Truex, Jr., as Elliott moved up from 12th to ninth, gaining ground despite a 14 second lead by Harvick.
A spin with 26 laps to go involving Matt Tifft would fail to bring out the caution and Harvick would hold the lead over Truex in second, Hemric in third, WIlliam Byron in fourth and Austin Dillion in fifth. Byron would grab third from Hemric with under 23 laps to go while Elliott would pass Keselowski for seventh.
Elliott then picked off Austin Dillon and Clint Bowyer in rapid fire succession to take fifth before a caution came out involving Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. who spun completely around on the chicane at the backstretch. The top five would include Harvick, Truex, Byron, Hemrick and Elliott at 20 to go. On the subsequent restart, Harvick would hold the lead until Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman and Ryan Preece all would tangle and bring out another caution with 16 to go and setting up a shootout for the win with 16 laps to go.
With 15 to go, Elliott would pilot his NAPA Chevy into fourth behind Daniel Hemric in third and Harvick and Truex going at it up front for the top spot. Another caution would come out with 11 laps to go after Chris Buescher and Kurt Busch spun, dropping fluid on the backstretch, and bringing out the red flag to halt action in preparation of an old fashioned seven lap shootout, Saturday night racing style on a Carolina Sunday evening.
When the race resumed, Harvick would take the point and then battle with a hard charging Elliott for the lead before giving up the lead to Chase Elliott with four laps to go.
Alex Bowman, whose day had been filled with spins, taps and turns, took over the second spot behind Elliott with Harvick in third. Ryan Newman was charging to the front and for points and to earn his place in the chase playoffs but the Indiana native locked his brakes on the chicane to lose position to Aric Almirola to lose valuable points and lose his shot at the playoff field of 12.
A late spin involving Daniel Hemric and Daniel Suarez would not bring out a caution, and Chase Elliott would race to the checkered flag to pick up his third overall win on the season, the sixth career victory, his third road course win in four seasons and put the Dawsonville, GA native as a lock into the 2019 NASCAR Playoffs.
In response to the lockup that nearly cost Elliott the victory, Elliott drove his Chevy Camaro on the cool down lap to the spot where he hit in Turn One, did a burnout with the front end of his car against the wall. In his post race comments, Elliott told the crowd, “I nearly blew it.”
“Such a fast NAPA Camaro ZL-1, ” replied Elliott after the race. “Honestly, that was the only reason we were able to get back in it.”
Elliot added that he “pretty much blew it and got the cautions at the right time and brought it home. Thank you guys (to the fans). Y’all made a helluva lot of noise there.”
Alex Bowman with his second place finish and slid into the playoffs along with drivers. Missing the cut included Ryan Newman, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones. Newman was one point below the cut line and was also served with a pass through penalty.
The race had 11 cautions and one red flag event.
The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Playoffs resume next week at the Monster Mile in Dover, DL.
- Chase Elliott – Winner- Chevrolet
- Alex Bowman – Chevrolet
- Kevin Harvick – Ford
- Clint Bowyer – Ford
- Brad Keselowski – Ford
- William Byron. Chevrolet
- Martin Truex, Jr. – Toyota
- Ryan Blaney – Ford
- Jimmie Johnson – Chevrolet
- Joey Logano – Ford
There were 13 lead changes among nine drivers.
By Rod Mullins / Augusta Free Press