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Chase Elliott Triumphs at Texas, Ends 42-Race Winless Streak

Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott has always been back as seen in his win in Sunday’s Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas. (Photo: Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish)

FORT WORTH, Texas — The search is over for Chase Elliott in his pursuit of Victory Lane following Sunday’s Autotrader EchoPark 400 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Mired in a 42-race victory drought dating to the 2022 YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, the 28-year-old Dawsonville, Georgia, native has faced constant scrutiny about returning to his winning form. Following his return to racing after an injury in a snowboarding accident, the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion has endured every conceivable way to see his shot at victory fade away.

On Sunday afternoon at the 1.5-mile intermediate track north of the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area, Elliott proved he was more than back.

He was always here and finally had the winning cards in his hands in the ever unpredictable table called Cup racing.

Starting deep in the field from the 24th position, Elliott wasted little time working his way to the front. Thanks to pit strategy by crew chief Alan Gustafson in Stage 1, Elliott gained favorable track position and capitalized with a seventh place finish.

Meanwhile, for the third week in a row, Kyle Larson, Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, started from the pole. For the first half of the race, Larson looked like the man to beat, winning Stage 1 over Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin, Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe.

Then, things came undone for Larson, literally, on Lap 117 when his right rear wheel fell off his No. 5 car. Nursing his machine to pit road, the 2021 Cup champion was assessed with a two-lap penalty, derailing his efforts to capture his second Texas Cup win.

This opened the door for new contenders to emerge to the front of the field, with Ross Chastain, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, Brad Keselowski, Harrison Burton, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ty Gibbs to enter the fray. On this occasion, Chastain emerged victorious in Stage 2, garnering 10 stage points and a valuable Playoff point.

Once Stage 3 was underway, it was part-Survivor and Hunger Games. For some, the odds were ever in their favor while others saw better days before the bottom dropped out.

Namely, late race crashes derailed the efforts of Blaney, John Hunter Nemechek, Stenhouse, Larson, Denny Hamlin, Kaz Grala and Burton.

All of those incidents did not stop Elliott in his pursuit of returning to Victory Lane. Not even some hard racing with Hamlin deterred him from capturing a cowboy hat.

Going into double NASCAR Overtime, Elliott captured his long awaited win in a race that ended under caution. Mayhem ensued in Turn 2 when William Byron and Chastain tangled, sending the latter into the wall.

Tallying his 19th career Cup win, Elliott did not do a burnout. Instead, he paid homage to a forever champion in motorsports.

Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott picked a good time to finally win Sunday’s Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas. (Photo: Cody Porter | The Podium Finish)

“Oh, man, couldn’t feel any better, “Elliott said. “First off, thanks to everybody that came out today. You guys are unbelievable.

“Hooters has been a partner of ours for a number of years now. It’s been a dream of mine to pay respect to the late Alan Kulwicki. Driving this car to a victory and do a Polish victory lap – just really crazy how things came full circle there in that moment. It was pretty emotional for me. He beat dad [Bill] back in the day. Here we are sharing his sponsor and having an opportunity to win.”

Sunday’s victory by Elliott seemed apropos for his career and personal efforts. Considering all the ups and downs that tested the resolve of the mild mannered driver, he showcased some raw emotion on the frontstretch.

“Man, couldn’t be more grateful for this journey and kind of the path that hasn’t always been fun, but certainly have enjoyed working with our guys,” he said. “We’ve been working really hard and really well together. Like I said, hasn’t always been fun, but we’ve enjoyed the fight together.”

Despite placing runner-up at Texas, Keselowski felt it was a result that left a lot to be desired in terms of his car’s raw pace.

“We didn’t have a ton of speed,” Keselowski said. “Honestly, I’m more frustrated than anything because I feel like we have a great team and we don’t have the speed to go with it. We’re doing all we can do to overcome that.

“The driver in me is frustrated because I feel like these are races I’m good enough to win, and we don’t have the speed to do it. Only reason I am mad as hell is it’s my fault for not making the cars faster. Still proud of the team that we have, the pit stops, strategy, execution to put ourselves in position to get a finish we probably didn’t deserve but earned with some kind of never-give-up spirit.”

Initially scored in second, Byron was officially logged with a third-place result. While the 2023 race winner nabbed another podium finish, he was contrite about the contact that ended a promising result for Chastain.

“I just had a big run. Ross and I race really well, and I didn’t want to wreck him there, but he blocked me late, which is understood,” Byron said. “It’s racing at the end, but I was already there and unfortunately, we made enough contact to where it got him squirrelly and it happened.

“I hate that that happened, but it’s the last lap and I had the run so I am going to just take the run. I didn’t expect it, but I don’t want to do that to a fellow Chevy guy, and we always race really well.”

Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott finally raised his arms in victory after winning the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas. (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

Since returning to competition in the 2023 spring race at Martinsville, Elliott has been bombarded by questions about his abilities to win races and compete for championships. Inundated by the constant expectations by press and fans, Elliott’s victory ends those nearly two-year long discussions and debates.

For the sport’s most popular driver, it seemed fitting for Elliott’s 42-race winless streak to end in a memorable race.

“It was just crazy,” Elliott said. “This place is so sketchy. I haven’t seen a replay of Denny (Hamlin) and us. I didn’t feel like I did anything super crazy there any more than anybody’s ever done to me. Just had to run forward. I want to look at it. I didn’t feel like I did anything to crash him. I think just the circumstances. But nonetheless, apologies to him, if so.

“Couldn’t be more proud of our team. Thanks to our partners at NAPA, Chevrolet. Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. Had a big week last week. Boss [Rick Hendrick], thank you for sticking with me. Really, really proud of this. Appreciate all the folks back home that have stuck with me and helped us get back on track.”

Stage 1 Top 10 Results
  1. Kyle Larson
  2. Christopher Bell
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Tyler Reddick
  5. Chase Briscoe
  6. Ryan Blaney
  7. Chase Elliott
  8. Michael McDowell
  9. William Byron
  10. Bubba Wallace
Stage 2 Top 10 Results
  1. Ross Chastain
  2. Bubba Wallace
  3. Ryan Blaney
  4. Erik Jones
  5. Chase Briscoe
  6. Brad Keselowski
  7. Harrison Burton
  8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  9. Ty Gibbs
  10. Chase Elliott
Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas Motor Speedway Race Results
Finish Start Car No. Driver Sponsor/Make Status
1 24 9 Chase Elliott Hooters Chevrolet Running
2 22 6 Brad Keselowski Ford Running
3 6 24 William Byron Liberty University Chevrolet Running
4 4 45 Tyler Reddick The Beast Unleashed Toyota Running
5 17 99 Daniel Suárez Kubota Chevrolet Running
6 5 14 Chase Briscoe Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Ford Running
7 10 23 Bubba Wallace Columbia Sportswear Company Toyota Running
8 15 3 Austin Dillon Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Running
9 35 8 Kyle Busch zone Chevrolet Running
10 16 77 Carson Hocevar (R) Premier Security Chevrolet Running
11 20 22 Joey Logano AAA Insurance Ford Running
12 26 41 Ryan Preece Ford Running
13 2 54 Ty Gibbs Interstate Batteries Toyota Running
14 9 19 Martin Truex Jr. Bass Pro Shops Toyota Running
15 19 17 Chris Buescher Fifth Third Bank Running
16 36 16 Ty Dillon (i) Sea Best Seafood Chevrolet Running
17 3 20 Christopher Bell Rheem Toyota Running
18 21 10 Noah Gragson Ford Running
19 27 43 Erik Jones Dollar Tree Toyota Running
20 38 31 Daniel Hemric South Point Hotel and Casino Chevrolet Running
21 1 5 Kyle Larson Chevrolet Running
22 23 7 Corey LaJoie Schulter Systems Chevrolet Running
23 31 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Boost by Kroger/Blue Buffalo Chevrolet Running
24 32 51 Justin Haley Jacob Construction Ford Running
25 8 2 Austin Cindric Discount Tire Ford Running
26 18 71 Zane Smith (R) Ambetter Health Chevrolet Running
27 33 15 Kaz Grala (R) N29 Capital Partners Ford Running
28 29 21 Harrison Burton Freightliner Ford Running
29 37 84 Jimmie Johnson AdventHealth Toyota Running
30 11 11 Denny Hamlin Yahoo! Toyota Running
31 28 38 Todd Gilliland Long John Silver’s Ford Running
32 12 1 Ross Chastain Worldwide Express Chevrolet Accident
33 7 12 Ryan Blaney Menards/Knauf Insulation Ford Running
34 30 42 John Hunter Nemechek Romco Equipment Co. Toyota Accident
35 13 34 Michael McDowell Love’s/Fleetguard Ford Accident
36 25 4 Josh Berry (R) Miner DOCKS DOORS AND MORE Ford Accident
37 14 48 Alex Bowman Ally Chevrolet Accident
38 34 33 Austin Hill (i) United Rentals Chevrolet Steering

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson 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 is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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