LEBANON — Chase Elliott bounced back of a disappointing finish in the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400 Sunday night by winning the second annual race on Nashville Super Speedway for a crowd of 32,000.
Elliott, 26, the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion and four-time most popular driver, finished 13th in last year’s race before being disqualified in a post-race inspection for loose lug nuts.
On Sunday, Elliott took the lead from Kyle Busch on lap 264 of 300 and held on to his second win of the 2022 season.
“The main thing was we struggled here last year, so to be able to come back and be as competitive as we were in the second half of the race, I’m most proud of that piece of the puzzle,” said Elliott. “Just to reset and be able to re-evaluate and get back on track here.”
The race started at 4pm, was delayed twice, the second time over two hours due to lightning and rain. It was over at 11pm
“The delay was not too bad, we’ve kind of gotten used to that since they implemented lightning a few years ago,” Elliott said.
Elliott fell to the back of the pack after having problems in the pits mid-race.
He worked his way back up to the front and finally got into the fray when he passed three cars on a restart after the second delay. That put him in the top 10 and in a position to close in on Busch, who had taken the lead on lap 194.
Elliott was comfortably up front with nine laps to go when a warning came out after Josh Bilicki blew up an engine. Elliott and crew chief Alan Gustafson decided to stay out as those chasing him went into the pit lane and the gamble paid off.
“We were super optimistic when we came in; we had a pretty good car in practice on Friday and in qualifying on Saturday,” said Gustafson. “Then we didn’t start the race very well. We had a lot of work to do and started working on the car. From there it was a two-race story for us. When Chase passed so many cars after the restart, he said, ‘OK, we have a chance to be in the margins in this thing.” †
Kurt Busch, who finished secondsaid he should have been more aggressive after the late restart.
“I went soft on (Elliott),” said Busch. “I had to throw some fenders and move some momentum and I didn’t stick with our strength. We didn’t have a lot of strengths, we just performed really well. The restarts were so-so. The long run speed was good. I had to stick with our strengths and I screwed up.”
Ryan Blaney was third, 2021 winner Kyle Larson was fourth and Ross Chastian was fifth.
Denny Hamlin, who started on pole, won the first two stages and led the most laps (114), finished sixth
Kyle Busch finished 21st.
Elliott, who led 42 laps, won in May at Dover, which like Nashville Superspeedway is a concrete track. He overcame Chastain there on a restart with 53 laps to go.
Elliott has been critical of concrete surfaces in the past, claiming that they make it difficult for drivers to run side by side often or for long stretches. He once tweeted that the race at the Nashville Superspeedway would be a “snooze-fest”.
He changed his tone a bit after Sunday’s win.
“I didn’t think the race was terrible tonight,” Elliott said. “At least we were able to get off the bottom and walk around, which I found encouraging. I was even more surprised that we were still going up after the sun went down. I thought it would really be one lane at the time and that was it really not. You could still be in at least a few different lanes. It was a lot spicier than I thought it would be.”
It was the 15th career win for the NASCAR points standings leader, who got his start at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, where his NASCAR Hall of Fame father Bill raced his entire career.
“I wish we were at the fairgrounds for good measure,” Elliott said. “I’m glad we’re on the market anyway and this is a cool city. It’s a great place to be. It’s a great place to race. It’s a city that I think embraces us and we’re embracing the people who were here. I mean, they’ve held out. The crowd was still pretty good, I thought, because it was 11 PM and six or seven hours ago this thing had started.’
†Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Chase Elliott Wins NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway