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Chase Elliot Wins at Dover

Chase Elliot earned his first victory of the season Monday at Dover Motor Speedway, making Hendrick Motorsports drivers 4 for 4 in the win column this season. It’s barely May and Elliott, Kyle Larson, William Byron and Alex Bowman already are locked into the playoffs.

 

Elliott snapped a 26-race winless streak when the 2020 NASCAR champion led the final 53 laps to win his 14th career Cup race. He gave team owner Rick Hendrick another triumph on the mile concrete track. Elliott followed Bowman’s checkered flag a year ago as a Hendrick driver won for the 22nd time at Dover. Hendrick swept the top four spots last season; this one clinched the four playoff spots.

 

Elliott, who leads the points standings, hopped on the window ledge of his No. 9 Chevrolet and pointed in appreciation toward a solid crowd for a weekday race. The finish was delayed a day because of rain.

 

His last win was July 4 at Road America.

 

Even without a win, Elliott had been building toward this moment. The 2020 NASCAR champion and reigning most popular driver, Elliott took a steady pace while his teammates burst out of the gate with early season wins; Byron already has two wins. Elliott has only one finish worse than 14th this season and rolled into Dover with three straight top-10 finishes at Martinsville, Bristol dirt and Talladega.

 

Elliott snatched the lead from Ross Chastain, last week’s watermelon-smashing winner at Talladega Superspeedway, and pulled away on the concrete. Chastain led 86 laps and Kyle Busch, who finished seventh, led a race-high 103.

 

A Hendrick car in the top spot looked familiar at Dover, but that was just the tip of four different teams in the top four spots. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was second and had his first top-five finish of the season for JTG Daugherty Racing. Chastain was third for Trackhouse Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Christopher Bell finished fourth.

 

Martin Truex Jr. spun himself out on the last lap while racing for a top-five finish when he appeared to get boxed out by Chastain. Truex confronted Chastain on pit road.

 

Denny Hamlin, who won the first stage of the race, lost serious ground after a left-front tire wasn’t properly attached to his No. 11 Toyota and rolled down the track. Hamlin apologized this week for posting a crass anti-Asian meme on Twitter.

 

Hamlin worked his way back into fourth when he connected with Cody Ware and brought out the caution on Lap 242. Hamlin finished 21st.

 

Larson also spun on the front stretch and blew the front and rear right tires on his Chevrolet. AJ Allmendinger also lost a tire. Allmendinger’s and Hamlin’s teams are expected to receive NASCAR punishments for the loose wheels.

 

The Cup Series races next Sunday at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. Truex is the defending race winner. Toyota is set to celebrate its 1,500th NASCAR race during Darlington’s annual Throwback Weekend.

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