CONCORD, N.C.--Chase Elliott defended his Roval victory in winning fashion at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday—with his fourth-consecutive road course victory.
The driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet entered the Bank of America 400 comfortably third in the Playoff standings but left with his ninth-career Cup win and securely locked into the Round of 8.
Elliott passed Erik Jones for the lead with 18 circuits remaining. Despite a late-race caution, the 24-year-old remained in control and checked out over the final 10 laps with a 3.895-second advantage over Joey Logano at the line.
“I just had another really fast NAPA Camaro, and I really appreciate the effort,” Elliott said. “The road courses have been fortunate to us the last few trips, but I just feel like we’ve tried to get a little better every time. I tweaked on some small things and got a little better than what I was here last year which was good…The best way to get to the next round is to win, so hopefully, we can do something with it.”
Erik Jones, Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, William Byron, Martin Truex Jr., Alex Bowman, Cole Custer and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top 10. Bowyer was taken to the infield care center after the race, according to NASCAR. He ran the final 40 laps of the race without power steering.
Defending NASCAR Cup champion Kyle Busch failed to advance to the Championship 4 round after finishing for the first time since 2014—the first year of the new Playoff system.
"That 9 (Elliott) car is spectacular here and it was super fast," Busch said. "I followed him for a lot of laps trying to figure it out and he just gets smaller and smaller as he’s driving away. I don’t know, it’s not just this race. It’s a whole season and it’s a culmination of things that led to this and led to our elimination.
"We knew it coming into this round that this was going to be the hardest round for us to get through. Pretty much impossible and it was. We weren’t able to make up enough or get a win. We’ll just have to fight for a win here the rest of the year.”
Bowyer, Aric Almirola and Austin Dillon also failed to advance to the Round of 8.
NASCAR mandated that teams begin the race with wet weather equipment. Keselowski took the lead from polesitter Denny Hamlin coming through Turn 13. By Lap 7, Elliott passed the No. 2 Ford for the lead in Turn 2 as Keselowski started to fade. Over the next three laps—until the Lap 10 competition caution—Truex and Bowyer also moved by Keselowski.
Bowyer took the lead on the restart with Truex and Elliott in tow. Ty Dillon moved to the point on Lap 2. Denny Hamlin, who endured trouble throughout the 109-circuit race, spun for the first time on Lap 22 in Turn 3. But it was John Hunter Nemechek’s spin that triggered the second caution after the No. 38 Ford was mired in mud between Turns 5 and 6. Dillon led the field to the green-white-checkered flag on Lap 25 for his third stage win of the season.
Hamlin remained on pit road for an extended stop and restarted 34th when Christopher Bell led the field to green for Stage 2. Byron grabbed the lead on the Lap 30 restart. Keselowski, who was running fifth, saved his car following a 360 in Turn 4 but Erik Jones could not stop before running into the rear of the No. 2 Ford. Keselowski dropped to 16th.
Byron remained at the point until Blaney passed him on Lap 40. His progression was slowed when J.J. Yeley stalled in Turn 5 for Caution 4. Blaney retained the lead on the restart and held on for the Stage 2 win, but Kyle Busch experienced his first hiccup when his left front tire went flat following contact with Matt DiBenedetto. Kevin Harvick, who punted Denny Hamlin on the last lap of the stage, clinched a position in the Round of 8 during the second segment.
Christopher Bell led the field to the start of the second half but was quickly passed by Byron on the Lap 54 restart. Byron had extended his lead over Bell when the sixth yellow flew for Ty Dillon, who spun off of Turn 6. Byron retained the lead through the restart but Bowyer blew by Bell for second coming through Turn 2 on Lap 68. Kyle Busch triggered the seventh caution two laps later when he hit Austin Dillon coming into Turn 15.
Bowman complained that he was sick to his stomach, but didn’t feel as bad as Byron, who received a speeding penalty on Lap 71 and dropped from first to 33rd. Blaney took the lead on the restart with the JTG Daugherty Chevys behind. As the field entered Turn 1, Bubba Wallace sent Ricky Stenhouse Jr. into the spin cycle. Bowyer also made contact and radioed to the team, “Broke, damn it,” as the No. 14 Ford slowed. Still, Bowyer would rally despite the gremlins.
After one lap at the point, Blaney spun out of Turn 4, dropped to 33rd and turned the lead over to Ryan Preece. Preece led eight laps before Bowman passed for the lead entering Turn 5. Elliott and Logano followed. But Elliott was on a mission. He easily passed Bowman in Turn 5 on Lap 84 but NASCAR was forced to call a caution for debris with a chunk of sheet metal sitting in the middle of Turn 4 two laps later.
Kyle Busch remained on the track and assumed the lead—the No. 18 team’s attempt at a Hail Mary given the driver’s point position. Bell, Hamlin, Jones and Blaney also stayed on the track but with new tires, Elliott returned to the lead four laps after the race returned to green. Despite the ninth and final caution, Elliott passed Busch, then Jones. Logano quickly advanced to second but had nothing for Elliott at the finish.
“It’s freakin’ unbelievable how much faster he is,” Logano said of Elliott on the cool-down lap.
Elliott and Byron tied with most laps led--27. Harvick leads the reseeded Cup Playoff standings by 13 points over Hamlin.