Chase Elliott won Thursday night in the rain-delayed event at Charlotte Motor Speedway to close a brutal 12 days for NASCAR. The event, postponed Wednesday night, was the fourth Cup race since the series resumed racing May 17.
Elliott had two frustrating losses in that span, including defeat Sunday night in the Coca-Cola 600 when a caution flew two laps from the finish with Elliott leading.
Elliott’s frustration began last week — three Cup races ago — when he was trying to race for the lead at Darlington Raceway and was wrecked by Kyle Busch.
Then he had the 600 checkered flag in site until a caution caused by his own teammate. Elliott pitted from the lead, took four tires and couldn’t get back to the front in the two-lap overtime sprint.
There was little suspense in this one. Elliott reeled in Kevin Harvick with 27 laps remaining and closed out the victory. Elliott also won the Truck Series race Tuesday night at Charlotte to give him a pair of victories in a four-race stretch at the track a few minutes away from Hendrick Motorsports headquarters.
Denny Hamlin finished second in a Toyota with three crew members sitting at home under suspension for an infraction Sunday night. His crew chief, car chief and engineer earned automatic four-race suspensions when a piece of tungsten fell off Hamlin’s car on a pace lap.
Ryan Blaney was third in a Ford for Team Penske, followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for JTG-Daughtery Racing, a tremendous boost after a bad resumption of the season. Stenhouse wrecked on the first lap of the first race and finished last, then was 25th and 24th before Thursday.
Elliott’s victory was the first for a Chevrolet driver in NASCAR’s return to Cup racing. Harvick won the first race back in a Ford, Hamlin won the second race in a Toyota and Brad Keselowski won the 600 in a Ford.
NASCAR next goes to Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee on Sunday for a fifth Cup race in 15 days as the series attempts to reschedule eight events in a frantic stretch of racing through Southern states.