Chase Elliott holds off Truex for first career Cup win
The first was the siren atop the famed Dawsonville Pool Room screaming loudly to celebrate a race win by a native son.
The second was a huge exhalation of air from the residents, as hometown hero Chase Elliott held off defending series champion Martin Truex, Jr. over the closing laps to score his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win at Watkins Glen International.
"Holy cow! What a thrill," Elliott said after climbing out of his No. 9 Chevrolet in front of the front stretch grandstands. "I don't know what to say. I'm just so thrilled and so emotional. There's so much relief you know, it's been working on three years and I hadn't won a one and came here with a good opportunity today. I was able to get it done."
Over the final 12 laps, the 22-year-old speedster worked hard to keep Truex, Jr. behind him. Truex, Jr., the veteran, looked to the inside several times, trying to find the passing lane.
Moments after taking the white flag to begin the final lap, Elliott made a mistake – something rare on this day – as he overdrove turn one, allowing Truex, Jr. to move within inches of Elliott's back bumper.
"Yeah, I started wheel-hopping and I had two options: knock it out of gear, or spin out," Elliott said. "So, I chose to knock it out of gear and missed the corner, but luckily had a big enough gap where Martin wasn't next to me."
But with both drivers on a two pit stop strategy, fuel was a concern. For Truex, Jr., it would be his undoing.
Coming towards the final two turns, Truex, Jr.'s car slowed suddenly, his No. 78 Toyota out of gas.
"It took us some kind of hard times to get here," Elliott said. "I had to have a good group around me to keep pushing me and keep making me realize that we weren't in those positions by accident. And, it was funny this morning. I woke up and I watched the video. (University of Georgia head football coach) Kirby Smart had a speech about having pressure is a privilege. And, I had that on repeat this morning in the bus, just thinking about it. I thought we had a chance today and wanted to make sure that if we were in a position to try to capitalize, and we did. What a day."
Elliott's Chevy Camaro ran out of gas half a lap after taking the checkered flag, showing how close he was to losing the race himself. He was pushed back to the frontstretch by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson.
The win gives Hendrick Motorsports its 250th Cup Series victory as an organization, and it locks Elliott into the Playoffs with just four races left in the regular season.
Thirty-four and half years later, his son recorded his first win on a road course, albeit on the other side of the country. On Sunday, father Bill was working as a spotter for his son on the backstretch.
"I don't know how to describe it," Bill said. "I was standing over there and kind of letting the laps run down and I was thinking, you know, what's going to go wrong now? He held it together and low and behold, (Martin) Truex runs out of gas. It's just that luck went our way today."
While Elliott celebrated his first victory, Truex, Jr. was left wondering what might have been.
Over the closing laps, Truex, Jr. appeared to have a faster car that Elliott. But two turns away from the checkered flag, Truex, Jr.'s gas tank ran dry. He would coast home to a second place finish after winning at Watkins Glen in 2017.
Kyle Busch finished in third, but also had to wonder what might have been. After winning the first segment of the race and leading 31 laps on the day, Busch won the race off pit road after the final round of pit stops.
But an issue with refueling his No. 18 Toyota meant his crew was only able to get eight gallons of gas into the tank. That brought Busch back to pit road, relegating him to 31st place on the restart.
Busch would charge his way through the field, coming home with a podium finish in the end.
"I had a fast race car and did a good job behind the wheel I guess," Busch said. "It doesn't show anything for the result that we wanted to get. Two years in a row here, we had pit road miscues and guess it's just called bad luck. It's kind of frustrating when you know you come here every year with a vengeance to go out here and win this race and you're the fastest car and you're arguably the fastest car or arguably the fastest guy and not able to perform or execute I should say."
That same round of pit stops saw a lot of issues, including one for Elliott. Elliott brushed his front tire changer as he exited his pit stall, sending the tire changer flying through the air. The crew member landed on the asphalt, and indicated quickly that he was okay.
Problems also struck pole sitter Denny Hamlin on that round of pit stops, as Hamlin left pit road with the air hose caught under car. That would see him penalized by NASCAR. He would finish 13th.
Daniel Suarez came home in fourth, with Erik Jones in fifth.
Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, William Byron, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top ten.
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 SUNENERGY1 CAMARO ZL1 – RACE WINNER
WHAT WAS YOUR EMOTION DURING THOSE FINAL FEW LAPS WHEN THE NO. 78 (MARTIN TRUEX, JR.) WAS TRYING TO CATCH YOU?
‘Holy cow! What a thrill! I don't know what to say. I'm just so thrilled and so emotional. There's so much relief you know; it's been working on three years and I hadn't won a one and came here with a good opportunity today. I was able to get it done. But, just thanks to all the fans. I hope all my buddies are ready to get rowdy tonight because it's going to be a good one."
WHAT DID YOUR DAD (BILL ELLIOTT) SAY TO YOU AFTER THE CHECKERED FLAG AND WHAT DID HE SAY TO YOU DURING THE RACE?
"He was really just spotting and doing kind of the normal spotter deal. And he was pretty encouraging those last couple of laps, which was certainly helpful and I was able to get it done."
WERE YOU WORRIED ABOUT THE NO. 78 AND THE MISTAKE IN TURN 1? WERE YOU THINKING, OH, I'VE GIVEN IT AWAY?
"Yeah, I started to wheel hop. I knocked it out of gear to not spin out and luckily had a big enough gap where he couldn't get me. But, what a day."
YOU MENTIONED THESE FANS. THEY ALL STOOD UP WHEN YOU WON. THEY CHEERED SO LOUDLY
"That's the coolest thing I've ever seen and I just want you all to know that. And, I am very grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Let's go get some more."
YOUR 99TH START AND YOU ARE IN VICTORY LANE YOUR INITIAL THOUGHTS AND REACTIONS:
TALK ABOUT THE LAST LAP:
A UNIQUE VICTORY LAP WITH TEAM MATE AND SEVEN TIME CHAMPION WHAT DID THAT MEAN?
ON HIS VICTORY:
"It took us some kind of hard times to get here. I had to have a good group around me to keep pushing me and keep making me realize that we weren't in those positions by accident. And, it was funny this morning. I woke up and I watched the video. Kirby Smart had a speech about having pressure is a privilege. And, I had that on repeat this morning in the bus, just thinking about it. I thought we had a chance today and wanted to make sure that if we were in a position to try to capitalize, and we did. What a day. But, just thanks to all my partners. SunEnergy1 is on the car this weekend, NAPA Auto Parts, Chevrolet, Kelley Blue Book, Valvoline, and Hooters, and all the folks that support us. This is one hell of a day."
TO HAVE YOUR DAD HERE, KNOWING THAT HE GOT HIS FIRST WIN ON A ROAD COURSE AND HE WAS HERE HELPING, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU TWO?
"Well, I'm just glad to have him here. I wish my mom was here, too. She hasn't missed many races; my mom and my grandma are some of my biggest supporters and biggest fans. I'm looking forward to getting home and seeing them. We're going to have one hell of a night, I can assure you of that."
THAT LAST TURN 1, WHAT HAPPENED IN THAT MOMENT?
"Yeah, I started wheel-hopping and I had two options: knock it out of gear, or spin out. So, I chose to knock it out of gear and missed the corner, but luckily had a big enough gap where Martin wasn't next to me. I felt like if I could just be in front of him before the esses, it's typical you can gap a guy through there just because it's so fast, and what a day. It worked out. A big thanks to everybody that makes this happen. This is a dream come true and I'm just proud to be here."
BILL ELLIOTT QUOTE:
YOU ARE HERE AND THIS IS WHAT YOU'VE BEEN WAITING FOR. HOW DOES IT FEEL?
"I don't know how to describe it. I was standing over there and kind of letting the laps run down and I was thinking, you know, what's going to go wrong now? He held it together and low and behold, (Martin) Truex runs out of gas. It's just that luck went our way today."
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing
Finishing Position: 2nd
Did you almost have him?
"I gave it everything I had for our guys at Bass Pro Shops, 5-hour ENERGY and Toyota, and all of our partners. I gave it everything I had every single lap. I could catch him but right when I got close, I'd get loose and fall back. I was too loose all day. Traffic made it worse for sure. He had the upper hand there at the end. We were a little faster but hats off to him. He did a great job. He put his car exactly where I needed mine to be. I couldn't get it and I was sideways. Congrats to him on his first win. We ran out of gas the last lap anyway, so I guess it wouldn't have mattered. I'm proud of my guys. I am proud of the effort. I love coming to these road courses.
How was it on the last lap where you couldn't quite get there?
"I got sideways and about went through the grass, and then lost five car-lengths. That's how far back I was there. If I hadn't slipped there, I might have been able to take advantage for sure and got by him but I ran out of gas, so he would have won regardless. Good job by those guys."
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Flavor Vote Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 3rd
Talk about this team and being able to come back through the field to come away with a top-three finish.
"Yeah, it's great. I had a fast race car and did a good job behind the wheel I guess. It doesn't show anything for the result that we wanted to get. Two years in a row here, we had pit road miscues and guess it's just called bad luck. It's kind of frustrating when you know you come here every year with a vengeance to go out here and win this race and you're the fastest car and you're arguably the fastest car or arguably the fastest guy and not able to perform or execute I should say. The performance was awesome. Can't say enough about Chase Elliott and the 9 team. They had a great race car. I told everybody pre-race, told everybody yesterday in the media center to look out for the 9 and I was right. I wish that we could have raced with him a little bit there. Obviously, congratulations for his first win. That's pretty cool. He passed me there in the mid-point of the race. He had me under pressure – had me loose and I had a couple bad exits, so gave way to him – let him have it and tried to hang with him and he drove away from me. Then on the next restart, we got in front of him and drove away from him, so I think we were pretty equally matched."
Talk about some of that battle with Chase Elliott. Could you have beat him in the end and what impressed you about his composure?
"I think what impressed me the most was just that he was hammer down and elbows up and flying – loose here, loose there and going through everything and doing everything right and really attacking the race course and not putting the wheel too far out of shape. He did a really good and he was really hustling it and keeping the car under him. He looked like a pro. That was cool to see. It's pretty early for him – like what third year – to be able to come out here and run like that at Watkins Glen and to be able to win, so pretty impressive. Overall, wish we could've raced with him and certainly think we would've had a shot for him."
Describe your day and the comeback you had here today.
"Sounds like every other year. Just pit road mistakes two years in a row. Not sure what happened. Part failure or something, but not what we needed there to be able to run upfront with the 9 (Chase Elliott) and the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) and put pressure on them. I thought we were as good as the 9 there that time that he got a run on me, I let him go and then he drove away from me surprisingly. Then on the next restart, I had enough to hold him off, so I felt like we were equal to him if not maybe a tick better than him, but doesn't matter. We had to restart in the back and drove our ass off with no cautions all the way up to third."
DANIEL SUAREZ, No. 19 Stanley Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 4th
Talk about your top-five finish today.
"It was a decent race. I felt like we had a top-five, top-seven car or so. The car was good, but not extremely good. Definitely the 18 (Kyle Busch) and the 20 (Erik Jones) were better, but it was a good race. Solid effort for my team. We're getting close. This is what we need – to run top five every week and if we continue to do this, I'm going to be a happy boy."
ERIK JONES, No. 20 buyatoyota.com Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 5th
Did your finish at Sonoma help build confidence for you coming into Watkins Glen?
"It did a little bit. Ran the K&N race on Friday, I think that helped. A combination of things – having a little experience here and having a good Toyota Camry to get around here was the two things that you need. I don't consider myself a road course racer and you know we're working that way to get better on those things. I feel like I put in a lot of work on it. It's rewarding when you can run well. That's two top-fives in a row for us. I'm wore out – a little out of breath. Just a hard day. You're running here. You're hustling as hard as you can and it takes a toll on you."
How do you build and continue the momentum you've had since Sonoma?
"That's what we've got to keep doing. We've only had one bad race since Daytona and that was New Hampshire. Two top-fives in a row for us, so we need to keep going that way and hopefully we can contend for a win at Michigan. That's the goal. We want to win another race. I know we can do it. If we're this close on a road course, I know we can do it on an oval, so we'll keep working on it."
Describe the afternoon racing here today.
"Well, we never quite had a winning car. We thought we had a top-three, -four car and we ended up top-five, so that's good. Buyatoyota.com Toyota Camry was good. Solid day for us here at a road course, but congrats to Chase (Elliott). Cool to finally see him get his first one. Other than that though, good day for us. Kind of keeping this streak going of good runs and hopefully can go grab a win next week at Michigan."
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