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NASCAR Cup: Chase Elliott secures playoff advancement with Dover win

during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover International Speedway on October 7, 2018 in Dover, Delaware.

By AMANDA VINCENT

Chase Elliott has clinched his berth into the third round, or round of eight, of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, courtesy of his win of the Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway on Sunday, the opening race of the three-race second round.

The win was Elliott’s second of the season and second of his Cup Series career.

“What a great day for Chase,” car owner Rick Hendrick said. “I’m so proud of him, especially after last year. He’s smart. He’s like his dad (1988 champion Bill Elliott). He knows how to race and has unbelievable car control.”

Elliott led late in last year’s race but was passed by Kyle Busch for the lead and the win with two laps remaining.

On Sunday, Elliott took the lead late, staying out during a caution on lap 392 that came out when Clint Bowyer hit the wall.

“We broke and I hit the wall,” Bowyer said. ”I’m just really disappointed. I’m frustrated with our day, obviously; we had a very fast race car. I got tore up passing a lapper, and then all of a sudden, we had a loose wheel. I think it was a loose wheel. And then, we went back out and broke something in the front end, and it was two different things. When we pitted, it was something in the rear, obviously, the right-rear. The left-rear was loose, it was all out of control, and then, all of a sudden, we went back out it was fine, so I took back off, and then I think something in the left-front broke; it just went straight. Whether I ran over something, I don’t know. I’m just sick for Aric (Almirola).  He had that race won. It was his win, and unfortunately, his teammate had trouble and took him out of it.”

Elliott maintained his lead through and overtime restart that was the result of contact between previous frontrunners Aric Almirola and Brad Keselowski. Their incident also collected playoff drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Alex Bowman.

Almirola was the race leader prior to Elliott’s lead-taking strategy. Almirola dominated the final 100 laps of the race after his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick dominated the first three-quarters.

Harvick started on the front row alongside pole sitter Kyle Busch after rain forced the cancellation of Friday’s qualifying session. Harvick took the lead from Busch on lap 16, won both 120-lap stages and led 286 laps before trouble on pit road on a lap 322 green-flag pit stop. Harvick had to make an extra pit stop when a lug nut knocked the valve stem off one of his tires.

During the same pit sequence Busch was nabbed speeding on pit road. Both recovered for top-10 finishes, with Harvick finishing sixth and Busch eighth.

“Our day was not very good,” Busch said. “Speeding on pit road took us out of the running for a top-10 and a solid finish. We got about what we deserved, I guess.”

After Bowyer, Almirola and Harvick’s troubles, Kurt Busch wound up the only Stewart-Haas Racing driver and one of the few playoff drivers to experience an problem-free race. As a result, he finished fifth.

Denny Hamlin took runner-up honors and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones also finished in the top-five in fourth a week after both were eliminated from the playoffs.

“We ran a 23.70 on that last lap. On older tires, that’s amazing,” Hamlin said. “I ran as hard as I could through 1 and 2. Then, through 3 and 4, I couldn’t get beside him (Elliott) there. I am proud of the whole FedEx team. Definitely a good start in the right direction. We chipped away at it all day as we moved up through the field. This is where we deserved. I am proud of this finish, and we’ll move on to the next race.”

Joey Logano finished third.

Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson were the lowest-running among the 12-remaining playoff drivers through most of the race. Bowman first went a lap down on lap 96. He got back on the lead lap after the first stage, but just past lap 200, he and Larson found themselves in battles to stay on the lead lap. Both drivers were a lap down by lap 230.

Larson also was issued a pit-road speeding penalty later in the race, as was Truex.

“The 5-hour Energy/Bass Pro Shops Camry was good for most of the day, but the pit road issue (speeding penalty) put us in a place we didn’t need to be, and then, we got caught up in someone else’s mess at the end,” Truex said. “Frustrating for sure but all we can do is look ahead to next week.”

Larson recovered to finish 12th. Bowman wound up 28th. Bowman wasn’t the lowest-finishing playoff driver, though. Bowyer held that distinction with a 35th-place finish.

Other top-10 finisehrs included Austin Dillon in seventh, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ninth, and Daniel Suarez in 10th.

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Posted by on October 8, 2018. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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