Chase Elliott Outruns Denny Hamlin To Win First NASCAR Cup Series Race At The Daytona Road Courseby Hunter Thomas August 16, 2020 0 comments
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Chase Elliott held off Denny Hamlin to win the first-ever NASCAR Cup Series race at the Daytona Road Course on Sunday.
In the final three laps of the Go Bowling 325, Elliott kept Hamlin at bay, but coming out the final chicane with the checkered flag in sight, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was able to challenge for the lead; however, Hamlin wasn’t able to attempt a pass on Elliott for the win. The victory marks the second for Elliott this season and the eighth of his career. Elliott led a race high of 34 laps throughout the afternoon in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet.
“Our guys did a phenomenal job,” Elliott said. “We just had a phenomenal car. I don’t think I did anything very special today. I think Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and all our guys did a really good job pitting there at the start. We made a couple really small adjustments, I felt like, there, at that first stop and I was really kind of able to leave it after that. So, I just appreciate everybody that makes this happen. Thanks to the fans. Good to see you guys back. Appreciate you all coming out. And, just thanks to all our partners and Chevrolet. I spent a lot of time with them this past week. A special thanks to Jordan Taylor and Boris Said for reaching out and being willing to help this weekend; some road course ringers. I tried to lean on them and luckily everything worked out.”
The runner-up finish is Hamlin’s fourth top-two finish in the last five races. The driver of the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota already has five wins this season. On Sunday, Hamlin led 16 laps, and in the final laps, Hamlin kept pace with Elliott, mimicking his line, but he wished that he could’ve kept more pressure on the Georgia native.
“I just would have liked to have stayed closer to him (Chase Elliott) to put a little pressure on entries,” Hamlin said. “My entries were the strong point against him, but I was giving him four car lengths so he could kind of drive the entries the way he wanted to make sure he got a good exit. I wasn’t quite clean enough the last few laps, but I definitely gave myself a chance. Those last couple corners, I felt like I did as much as I could to get to him and tried to do it the right way.”
Martin Truex Jr. finished third, while Jimmie Johnson, and Chris Buescher rounded out the top-five. Clint Bowyer finished sixth.
Kaz Grala who was making his series debut finished seventh. The 21-year-old was behind the wheel of the Richard Childress Racing No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet serving as the substitute driver for Austin Dillon who tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday.
“It’s unbelievable to be racing in the Cup Series under any circumstances, but to do it in the No. 3 car was just incredible,” Grala said. “I personally drove the No. 3 car in Bandoleros, Legend cars, Late Models. I took it even all the way up to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series because it was my dad’s number.
“The number three has held a really special place in my heart for my whole career. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought my Cup debut would come in it, but I’m so grateful to Richard and everybody at Richard Childress Racing for believing in me and trusting me behind the wheel of one of their Cup cars because that’s their main business right there, so it was an honor to know that they trust me behind the wheel.”
William Byron, Joey Logano and Michael McDowell rounded out the top-10.
Elliott won Stage 1, and Hamlin won Stage 2.
There were 13 lead changed among six drivers on Sunday.
The only caution for an accident occurred with only five laps to go. Kyle Busch had been battling brake issues late in the race, and with only a handful of laps to go, a mechanical failure blew out both rear tires as he exited the oval configuration’s Turn 2. Busch’s bad luck this season continued as he finished 37th.
Kevin Harvick leads Hamlin in the standings by 118 points.
The NASCAR Cup Series visit Dover International Speedway for a doubleheader weekend, August 22 – 23. Both races of the Drydene 311 weekend will broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Motor Racing Network at 4 p.m. ET each day.
Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images