Elliott’s mistake a mere speed bump
‘Stupid’ error not fatal in playoff race victory
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.
Chase Elliott celebrates after winning Sunday’s NASCAR Cup playoff race.