Chase Elliott wins rain-shortened inaugural COTA Cup race
Chase Elliott made history in three ways Sunday at Circuit of the Americas.
Elliott became the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series winner at the state-of-the-art road course in Austin, Texas. Poor weather conditions and visibility led to the race being red-flagged and then ended at Lap 55 of a scheduled 68.
With Elliott’s triumph, Hendrick Motorsports earned its 268th win in NASCAR’s premier division. The organization is now tied with Petty Enterprises for most all-time.
Finally, Elliott gave Chevrolet its 800th win as a Cup manufacturer.
“I couldn’t be more excited - I’ve never won a rain race before, so that’s kinda cool,” Elliott told FS1. “Just super proud of our team for just continuing to fight. Kinda starting the day, we weren’t very good and just kept pushing myself, kept making some good changes throughout the day, and got to where I thought we were on pace with those guys at the end. So, really proud of that.
“It’s not the greatest thing ever to have a rain race win if it’s your first one, but I think it’s okay if it’s down the road (later in your career), so I’m pretty excited about that. Looking forward to next week and trying to keep it rolling.”
Elliott took the lead for the first time at Lap 50 following a green-flag pit cycle. Informed by his team to push the pace since he couldn’t make it to the finish on fuel, Elliott opened a gap north of 15 seconds on teammate Kyle Larson before the final red flag.
“I just kept pushing myself harder and harder in those areas on track where it was getting actually really treacherous, I felt like,” Elliott said. “The back straightaway was puddling up. You were starting to hydroplane and do some weird stuff, so my only option was to kind of send it through those spots and hope for the best.”
Larson finished second, followed by Joey Logano, Ross Chastain, and Xfinity Series full-timer AJ Allmendinger to complete the top five finishers.
The back straightaway between Turns 11 and 12 was the site of two heavy accidents that were brought on by the steady rains and poor visibility.
Off the Lap 19 restart, Christopher Bell ran into the back of Ryan Blaney on the backstretch, which sent Blaney off at Turn 12. Trailing behind, Kevin Harvick was told to check up, only for Bubba Wallace to hit him from behind. Bell, Wallace, and Harvick were eliminated from the race, but no one was injured.
“We don’t have any business being out in the rain, period,” he said. “All I can say is this is the worst decision that we’ve ever made in our sport that I’ve been a part of, and I’ve never felt more unsafe in my whole racing career, period.”
Off the next restart at Lap 25, Michael McDowell had to check up on the backstretch, which led to Martin Truex Jr. running into him. Cole Custer then hit Truex and sent him briefly airborne before slamming into a barrier himself. Both drivers were eliminated from the race, but no one was injured.
The incident red-flagged the race for 20 minutes, 53 seconds. Following the red flag, NASCAR allowed teams to clean their cars’ windshields on pit road. Additionally, all restarts were single-file for the race’s remainder.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Joey Logano
STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Busch
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Chastain’s fourth-place finish is a career-best for him in Cup. ... Chase Briscoe’s sixth-place finish is his first top 10 in Cup ... Allmendinger’s top five completed a solid “Double Duty” weekend that included a second-place finish in Saturday’s Xfinity race. ... Pole sitter Tyler Reddick recovered from a spin at Lap 39 to finish ninth.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Daniel Suarez had to go to the rear for unapproved adjustments (transmission change) and then stalled on track due to a transmission issue at Lap 8. He never recovered and finished 33rd.
NOTABLE: William Byron finished 11th to end his streak of consecutive top-10 finishes at 11.
NEXT: Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway - 6 p.m. ET, Sunday, May 30 on FOX