Chase Elliott and concrete surfaces go hand-in-hand like Rocky and Adrian.
That’s because Elliott took the checkered flag in the weather-marred Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday.
In a race that was owned by Joe Gibbs Racing, who led a combined total 250 of 300 laps, it was Hendrick Motorsports’ senior driver who got the last laugh in Tennessee. Leading 43 laps, Elliott scored his second NASCAR Cup Series win of the season with the other being at Dover, another concrete circuit.
After two red flags due to lightning, halting the action for over three hours, Elliott’s No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet slowly progressed as the race winded down. When it counted most, Elliott found his way to navigate by the JGR trio of Kyle Busch, Martin Truex, Jr., and Denny Hamlin.
Elliott and Busch fought hard during the closing stages of the race, but Elliott had the upper hand. Coming to nine laps remaining, Elliott led Busch by over a second until an expired motor from Josh Bilicki brought out the 10th and final caution of the race.
With 30 green flag laps in their arsenal, it was decision time for the field: stay out or go for fresher tires.
Elliott, the race leader, stayed out while Busch, Hamlin, Truex and Ross Chastain were among the drivers who dove down to pit road, anticipating the strategy will pan out.
That wouldn’t come close to happening as a strong push from Ryan Blaney rocketed Elliott out in clean air.
Meanwhile, some of the drivers who stayed out got off slow, notably Brad Keselowski.
Consequently for those on fresh tires, Keswlowski bunched the pack up, which derailed any hopes of the Gibbs trio carving around the competition.
When optimism ran dry, Hamlin ended up finishing sixth while Busch and Truex frustratingly crossed the line in 21st and 22nd.
Coming to three laps to go, Keselowski got clipped by Cole Custer and went up towards the turn 3 wall. Keselowski tried bringing it to pit road but wasn’t able to do so and limped his No. 6 Ford Mustang at a snail’s pace the rest of the way.
This incident capped off a miserable outing for RFK Racing as his teammate Chris Buescher lost a right rear tire during green flag pit stops on Lap 256. Therefore, it’ll be a four-week suspension for a few crew members of the No. 17 Fastenal squad, including crew chief Scott Graves.
Following a disqualification from last year’s race, it was all smiles this time for Elliott after capturing his 15th career Cup win.
After getting out of his car in front the Nashville faithful who stuck around all day to see a full 300-lap race, Elliott credited Blaney and his No. 9 team for the victory.
“I was figuring that it was coming, but was hoping not. Ryan gave me a great shove and I appreciate him doing me a solid there in getting us out front. Just so proud of our team because we kind of had a setback there about halfway and we were able to get our NAPA Chevy dialed back in and get back in the mix,” said Elliott.
“It was a long day, a fun day. Thank you guys so much for hanging out. Just so proud of our team. We have had a pretty rough month and month-and-a-half, so just nice to get going back in the right direction. Getting a win is always huge, but to do it in a really cool city like Nashville is even better. Looking forward to that guitar.”
Behind Elliott was Kurt Busch, who scored his fifth top-five of the season. Like most of them, the elder Busch came from out of nowhere to accomplish the feat. Regardless of the situation, Busch said he would’ve stayed out and when he did for a shot at victory, aggression was amiss.
“I got soft on him. I should have been throwing some fenders and moving some momentum around. I didn’t stick with our strength. We didn’t have many strengths tonight,” said Kurt.
“We just executed really well. The restarts were so-so and long run speed was good. I just needed to stick with our strength and I messed up. I want to thank all my guys at 23XI. We have a great group of guys and girls. The way that we’re running, a second is cool, but we’re here for wins with the Playoff situation.
“Thanks to Monster Energy, Toyota and all of our associate sponsors. This Camry and all the TRD Camrys were awesome. I just hate it when we don’t get into victory lane and I was right there.”
Rounding out the top-three was Blaney, who overcame a spin during the second half of the race on Lap 205. Prior to the spin, Blaney ran competitively. But once the second red flag happened and washed the track, the dynamic of his race was altered.
“I’m not sure as the race kind of kept progressing later into the night I thought we lost some ground between some of the other cars. I thought hot and slick during the day we were pretty competitive and then something went down and I didn’t think we were as good. I had to go to the back and then spun out trying too hard,” Blaney explained.
“Jonathan (Hassler) made a good call to stay out the last stop. Why not, running ninth and was able to run third, so that was a good call by him. Overall, I wish it was in the hot and slick of the day because I thought we were a little bit more competitive, but not a bad finish.”
Defending race winner Kyle Larson ended up finishing fourth in his first race without crew chief Cliff Daniels on top of the pit box. Daniels is serving a four-race suspension after Larson lost a wheel at Sonoma Raceway two weeks ago.
As they leave the Music City behind, the next stop happens to be at a track Elliott has won at before. That being at Road America where he won the first race back after a 65-year absence.
Live coverage of the Kwik Trip 250 Presented by Jockey begins Sunday, July 3 at 3:00 p.m. ET on USA Network.
Stage 1 Results: Truex Jr., Hamlin, Blaney, Bell, Harvick, Larson, Wallace, Elliott, Ky. Busch, Ku. Busch
Stage 2 Results: Truex Jr., Hamlin, Ky. Busch, Elliott, Ku. Busch, Larson, Chastain, Harvick, Blaney, McDowell
Final Top 10 Results: Elliott, Ku. Busch, Blaney, Larson, Chastain, Hamlin, Cindric, Bell, Logano, Harvick
This article has been edited for clarity by Taylor Kitchen.