Chase Elliott Ends 42-Race Winless Streak In Texas And Returns Hooters To Victory Lane

Chase Elliott Ends 42-Race Winless Streak In Texas And Returns Hooters To Victory Lane

by April 14, 2024 0 comments

FORT WORTH, Tex. – Chase Elliott ended a 42-race winless streak and placed Hooters back into Victory Lane for the first time in more than 30 years, when he won the AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400 in double NASCAR Overtime on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

The last time the 28-year-old Dawsonville, Ga. native was celebrating in Victory Lane was at Talladega in Oct. 2022. Since then, Elliott has only finished inside of the top-five on nine occasions. However, on Sunday, the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion was clutch as he had to survive two NASCAR Overtime restarts to win his 19th career race. The Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 team has now pieced together three consecutive top-five finishes.

“I just feel like we’re all in a really good place, and we have been,” Elliott said. “It’s nice to see all the hard work pay off. Those guys really deserve to win. They’ve been busting it for a while, have been doing a really good job. That’s what I’m most proud of, is the journey and all of us sticking together at the 9 team.”

Elliott’s primary sponsor on Sunday was Hooters, and the last time the restaurant chain was in Victory Late dates all the way back to June 14, 1992, when Alan Kulwicki outran Mark Martin to win at Pocono Raceway. Kulwicki went on to win the championship five months later. On Sunday, Elliott celebrated by doing a Polish victory lap to honor Kulwicki.

“Hooters has been a partner of ours for a number of years now,” Elliott said. “It’s been a dream of mine to pay respect to the late Alan Kulwicki. Driving this car to a victory and do a Polish victory lap, just really crazy how things came full circle there in that moment. It was pretty emotional for me. He beat dad back in the day. Here we are sharing his sponsor and having an opportunity to win today.”

While was strong all afternoon long, but the win certainly didn’t come easy for him. On the first NASCAR Overtime restart, Elliott had to hold Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin at bay. As the two drivers barreled into Turns 3 and 4, Hamlin lost control and crashed. Elliott then had to survive another restart and on the final lap, Elliott was declared the winner when contact from William Byron sent Ross Chastain crashing on the backstretch.

“It was just crazy,” Elliott said. “This place is so sketchy. I haven’t seen a replay of Denny and us. I didn’t feel like I did anything super crazy there any more than anybody’s ever done to me. Just had to run forward. I want to look at it. I didn’t feel like I did anything to crash him. I think just the circumstances. But nonetheless, apologies to him if so.”

Brad Keselowski, driver of the RFK Racing No. 6 Ford, made a huge charge in the final laps and was able to secure the runner-up position as he avoided the spinning car of Chastain on the final lap.

“We didn’t have a ton of speed,” Keselowski said. “Honestly, I’m more frustrated than anything because I feel like we have a great team and we don’t have the speed to go with it. We’re doing all we can do to overcome that.

“The driver in me is frustrated because I feel like these are races I’m good enough to win, and we don’t have the speed to do it. Only reason I am mad as hell is it’s my fault for not making the cars faster.”

Byron entered the weekend as the defending winner of last year’s lone race at Texas Motor Speedway. On the final lap of this year’s race, Byron had a huge run but was too far back to catch Elliott. When Byron exited Turn 2 for the final time, he got into the back of Chastain, who was running much slower. The crash brought out the final caution.

“I just had a big run,” Elliott said. “Ross and I race really well, and I didn’t want to wreck him there, but he blocked me late, which is understood. It’s racing at the end, but I was already there and unfortunately, we made enough contact to where it got him squirrelly and it happened. So, I hate that that happened, but it’s the last lap and I had the run so I am going to just take the run. I didn’t expect it, but I don’t want to do that to a fellow Chevy guy, and we always race really well.”

Tyler Reddick and Daniel Suarez finished fourth and fifth respectively. Chase Elliott finished sixth, followed by Bubba Wallace, Austin Hill, Kyle Busch and Carson Hocevar, who earned his first-ever top-10 finish in a NASCAR Cup Series race.

Kyle Larson won Stage 1 and Chastain won Stage 2.

Larson also led a race high of 77 laps; however, he had a rough day as he lost a right rear tire early in the race and was caught up in Lap 261 accident in Turn 1. Larson finished 21st despite starting from the pole.

There were 16 cautions for 72 laps, which ties the record for most in a 400-mile race on a 1.5-mile track.

Larson leads Martin Truex Jr. in the standings by 17 points.

The NASCAR Cup Series will visit Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, April 21. Live coverage of the Geico 500 will broadcast on FOX at 3 p.m. ET.

Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

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