Chase Elliott recorded his first career win at road-course Watkins Glen in New York punching his ticket to the playoffs in his 99th career start in the Cup Series. Like his Hall of Fame father Bill recording his first win at Riverside, Elliott has finally earned his first career win after countless runner-up results through his first three seasons at NASCAR’s highest level of competition.
One of NASCAR’s most popular drivers Chase Elliott was rewarded for all his hard work and excellent driving to break through for his first career win in the No. 9 car at the tricky road course. Elliott earns the first win of the season for the staple that is Hendrick Motorsports and just the second for Chevrolet, the first since restrictor-plate Daytona 500 when Austin Dillon won. He’s now locked into the playoffs and with the speed we saw out of the Chevy’s this week, one has to wonder if this is the beginning of a run for the No. 9 team now that they finally have that 800-pound gorilla off their back with that first career win for Chase.
“Holy cow, I don’t know what to say, just so thrilled, so emotional, so much relief. Working on three years, I hadn’t won one. I came here with a great opportunity today, and I was able to get it done,” Elliott said in his post-race comments.
Elliott took the lead with some awesome, aggressive racing in stage two over a very game Kyle Busch who looked like he was the car to beat all weekend. Martin Truex Jr. opted to stay out and took stage one when many of the leaders pit on a two-stop strategy while Elliott was able to battle and pass Busch to win the second stage. Elliott got loose on the restart on the final stage with allowed Busch to re-take the lead at the half-way point to the race.
With 33 laps to go on the final pit stop, the No. 18 team had a critical issue on pit road as the probe on the fuel can did not get unsealed, which did not allow Busch’s car to be fully fueled and caused the 18 to come back down pit road and fuel it up, costing them the race. With the tight windows on fuel, there was no way they could stretch it to the end and the error at that point spelled doom for the 18 and Kyle Busch who looked to be on his way to an 8th win of the season. Busch battled back to somehow work through traffic and finish 3rd, but there weren’t enough laps to catch Elliott or Truex who saved just enough fuel to stretch it to the checkered flag.
Chase assumed the lead on the final restart led a total of 52 of 90 laps on the afternoon in his win. MTJ made it interesting over the last twenty or so laps catching up to the No. 9 and making him run every lap to near perfection in order to hold off the defending champion and the guy that has won the last three road course races. It was the race of Chase Eliott’s life holding off the hard-charging 78 through the last ten laps when we was within two or three car lengths. Truex missed the exit of the inner-loop with two to go and that was all she wrote as Eliott had enough left in the tank to win it with the 78 out of fuel before the final turn.
It was a symbolic passing of the torch almost as Elliott, who ran out of gas coming back to the start/finish and victory lane was escorted by teammate and mentor Jimmie Johnson who gave the No. 9 a push back to the line. Jimmie finished 30th after getting spun late in the race and into the wall, but collected stage points to stay ahead of the playoff cut-line. Johnson was exited for his teammate with the post-race tweet seen below. The 250th win for Hendrick Motorsports and it was a seven-time champ who pushed the youngster to his celebration.
A special day for Chase, his father Bill who was spotting him up on the inner-loop and the entire Hendrick organization as the next young superstar in the sport finally checked off that first win in the record books. What a day, what a race.