El­liott’s mistake a mere speed bump

‘Stupid’ er­ror not fa­tal in play­off race vic­tory

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Jenna Fryer

CONCORD, N.C. — Chase El­liott over­came a costly mistake that nearly wrecked his car to win a sloppy race in scorch­ing tem­per­a­tures on The Roval at Char­lotte Mo­tor Speed­way.

The Sun­day show­case was the first elim­i­na­tion race in NASCAR’s play­offs and attention was fo­cused on which four driv­ers would be cut from 16-driver cham­pi­onship field. El­liott re­cov­ered from an ear­lier gaffe when he was lead­ing on a restart, locked his tires headed into the first turn and drove di­rectly into a tire bar­rier.

“I couldn’t be­lieve I did that. That was so stupid,” El­liott said. “I don’t know that you could have done any­thing more stupid lead­ing this race than what I did. Luck­ily our car wasn’t too bad fast enough to drive up through there, got the cau­tions at the right time, and just didn’t quit.

“If there’s ever a les­son to not quit, to­day was the ex­am­ple.”

Be­hind him, the race was for the fi­nal spot in the sec­ond round of the play­offs with El­liott’s team­mate, Alex Bow­man, des­per­ately try­ing to hang on to the 12th slot. He fin­ished sec­ond in the race — in a backup car be­cause he crashed in fi­nal prac­tice — but his fate was out of his con­trol be­cause he trailed Ryan New­man in the play­off stand­ings.

But New­man, rac­ing Aric Almirola over the fi­nal few laps for a shot at ad­vanc­ing, missed a chi­cane with two laps re­main­ing and the er­ror cost him his shot at ad­vanc­ing. The point dif­fer­ence swung to Bow­man, who slumped to the ground next to his car af­ter the race as med­i­cal at­ten­dants tried to help him re­cover from heat-re­lated is­sues.

As Bow­man was sit­ting there, Bubba Wal­lace ap­proached him for Bow­man de­lib­er­ately spin­ning him in the race. Bow­man had said when he spun Wal­lace that Wal­lace had been flip­ping him the mid­dle finger for sev­eral laps and the con­tact was his re­tal­i­a­tion.

They ex­changed brief words and Bow­man ap­peared to laugh at Wal­lace right be­fore Wal­lace an­grily splashed his bot­tle of wa­ter in Bow­man’s face. Bow­man was later taken to the in­field care cen­ter for fur­ther treat­ment.

It was that kind of messy day on the hy­brid road course/oval at Char­lotte, where the cham­pi­onship chances ended for New­man, Almirola, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones.

A late cau­tion led NASCAR to stop the race for a cleanup and the driv­ers had to sit in­side their cock­pits, where tem­per­a­tures hov­ered around 120 de­grees. NASCAR of­fi­cials went car-to-car hand­ing out wa­ter bot­tles, and New­man was among the many who ra­dioed their crew ask­ing for bags of ice to be wait­ing for him when the race ended.

Kyle Busch de­cided he wasn’t go­ing to sit in the heat and drove his car to the garage, call­ing it a race with seven laps left. He was three laps down at the time and al­ready locked into the sec­ond round of the play­offs.

Kevin Har­vick fin­ished third and was fol­lowed by Ste­wart-Haas Rac­ing team­mate Clint Bowyer, who was in dan­ger of be­ing elim­i­nated from the play­offs but ad­vanced with his fourth-place fin­ish.

Brad Ke­selowski was fifth and fol­lowed by pole-sit­ter Wil­liam By­ron, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney as play­off driv­ers claimed the top eight spots.

GERRY BROOME/AP

Chase El­liott cel­e­brates af­ter win­ning Sun­day’s NASCAR Cup play­off race.

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