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Chase Elliott Storms His Way to COTA Victory Lane

Overall, Chase Elliott emerges victorious in Sunday's EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at COTA. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

Overall, Chase Elliott emerges victorious in Sunday’s EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at COTA. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

All things considered, a win, no matter how they come, counts in the case of Chase Elliott and Hendrick Motorsports.

Ordinarily, Chase Elliott and his No. 9 Llumar Chevrolet Camaro approach any road course race as the prime favorite. Like Jeff Gordon at Martinsville or Jimmie Johnson at Dover, Elliott thrives on road courses.

However, Chase Elliott’s path to another road course win was not quite cookie cutter as in past instances. Sure, Elliott qualified eighth for Sunday’s EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas.

Then again, Elliott and his 39 challengers contended with soggy, less than ideal conditions in Austin, Texas. Namely, racing around the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course proved as challenging as navigating through I-35 traffic.

Still, despite placing 12th in stage 1, Elliott marched his way into contention in stage 2. Persevering through difficult conditions in which visibility proved challenging for the field, Elliott placed second in this leg of the race.

When it mattered, Elliott, in almost Formula 1 like fashion, undercut his rivals by pitting on lap 40 along with Kyle Busch, 29 laps from the finish. As a result, Busch and Elliott seemed set for a late race battle for the win.

Instead, Elliott decided to place matters into his own hands with 20 laps remaining. Immediately, Elliott drove past Busch for the second spot on lap 49. Consequently, Busch pitted four laps later for a hard charging run for the finish.

Meanwhile, Elliott rocketed his way into the lead on lap 50 when teammate Alex Bowman pitted for his final stop of the race. Moreover, Kyle Larson, who started second, worked his way into the picture for a possible win.

By all means, Elliott likely needed another pit stop while Larson loomed in position for the inaugural victory at COTA.

On the contrary, Elliott and crew chief Alan Gustafson remained in the lead even with a caution with standing water on the track.

Although sunset would not occur until 8:23 p.m. CT in Austin, NASCAR red flagged the race around 5:26 p.m. CT. Despite NASCAR’s efforts, the race ended 14 laps from the finish.

More importantly, Elliott scored his first win of the 2021 season and Chevrolet’s 800th NASCAR Cup Series victory. Indeed, Elliott scored consecutive inaugural race wins on road courses having triumphed at the Daytona road course last August.

In contrast to typical races, Chase Elliott carved his way to victory at a soggy COTA. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

In contrast to typical races, Chase Elliott carved his way to victory at a soggy COTA. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

“I couldn’t be more excited,” Elliott said in a Team Chevy press release. “I’ve never won a rain race before, so it’s kind of cool. And I’m just super proud of our team for just continuing to fight. We started the day, and we weren’t very good. I just kept pushing myself and we kept making some good changes throughout the day and got to where I thought we were on pace with those guys there at the end.

“So, I’m really proud of that. It’s not the greatest thing ever, for it to rain and to have a rain race win, if it’s your first one; but I think it’s okay if it’s down the road, so I’m pretty excited about that. I’m looking forward to next week and trying to keep it rolling.”

Impressively, Elliott’s first win of the season rung in an incredible milestone for Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“Obviously just a huge win on multiple fronts,” Elliott said after his rain shortened win. “Win number 800 for Chevrolet. They’re a great partner to me personally. They’ve played a massive role in the success of Hendrick Motorsports past and present. A great group to work with. So super proud of them.

“There’s a lot of guys, a lot more guys than me, that have contributed to that banner. Really proud and honored to be able to hold that up today. Then to tie Richard Petty Motorsports obviously is a big one. The boss has been on us heavy about that record. He wants that record. So super glad that we could help with that today.”

In terms of NASCAR’s decision with ending the race short 14 laps from the scheduled distance, Elliott offered his insights.

“I think where it got to there at the end was just there were puddles of standing water,” he observed. “I think that was where NASCAR got to and they’re like, ‘Hey, this is not good. Visibility is one thing, but when you hydroplane going however fast we’re going, that’s probably not good.’ I think that’s kind of the situation we found ourselves in there at the end.

“Obviously, I was on the good end of the call. So, I’m okay with the race ending. But actually, I think a lot of guys would say the standing water was getting pretty serious. It might have gotten better, might have not. Who knows.”

Conversely, Larson, who ultimately placed second, reflected on what might have been in Austin.

Impressively, Kyle Larson nabbed another strong, steady runner up finish. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

Impressively, Kyle Larson nabbed another strong, steady runner up finish. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

“Obviously, we’d like to be winning,” Larson opined. “I feel like we did everything we could last week to win. Came up one spot short. Same thing this week. We put ourselves, had the right strategy to win. Had the race gone green at the end of the race, Chase was going to have to pit for fuel. We did everything we could again and just came up one spot short.

“We’ve been there every weekend. We’ve been challenging. You got to be happy with that. Like I said, we want the wins. But if you can’t win, second’s better than third.”

Moreover, car owner Rick Hendrick offered his thoughts on his team’s fifth win of the season and fifth overall inaugural race win since 1994.

“It’s just been a great day,” Hendrick said. “It’s been a great ride. The season has been so good to us. Everybody’s won a race now. We got all four locked in to the Playoffs. Man, I don’t know. It would sure be nice to win another one in Charlotte. That would be the place to really break the record.”

Of course, like a traveling rock band, Hendrick Motorsports and their challengers prepare for another destination. In this case, the Cup series prepares for next Sunday evening’s (May 30) Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Ultimately, Elliott, who worked his way into Austin, Texas racing history, praised his No. 9 crew on their incredible feat.

Equally important, Chase Elliott completes Hendrick Motorsports' first four car winning season since 2014. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

Equally important, Chase Elliott completes Hendrick Motorsports’ first four car winning season since 2014. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

“I’m just proud of our team,” he said. “To come here and fight, it’s not the ideal way to win, but we’ll definitely take it and move on down the road.”

Stage 1 Top 10 finishers: Logano-McDowell-Kurt Busch-Larson-Cindric/Buescher-Briscoe-Chastain-Kyle Busch-DiBenedetto

Stage 2 Top 10 finishers: Kyle Busch-Elliott-Reddick-Cindric-LaJoie/Preece-Allmendinger-Briscoe-Bowman

Top-10 finishers: Elliott-Larson-Logano-Chastain-Allmendinger/Briscoe-McDowell-Bowman-Reddick-Kyle Busch

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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