In NASCAR’s six-plus decade return to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, on Independence Day weekend, Chase Elliott extended his road course skillsets after the reigning Cup Series champion rallied from starting at the rear of the field to lead the final 17 laps and muscle away from the field to win the Jockey Made in America 250 at Road America on Sunday, July 4, as he returned to Victory Lane in the Cup circuit following a one-month dry spell.
Qualifying occurred on Sunday, July 4, and William Byron claimed his sixth NASCAR Cup Series career pole position with a pole-winning lap at 110.359 mph. Teammate Kyle Larson joined him on the front row.
Prior to the event, Kyle Busch and Ryan Preece dropped to the rear of the field in a backup car. Justin Haley also dropped to the rear of the field due to an engine change along with Bubba Wallace due to a transmission change. Kyle Tilley, Josh Bilicki and Quin Houff started at the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to their respective machines.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Byron peaked ahead with the lead through the first three turns. Through the Turn 4 straightaway and with the field fanning out to two and three lanes, Larson, who was battling AJ Allmendinger for the runner-up spot, also ignited an early challenge on teammate Byron for the lead from Turn 5 to Turn 9, but Byron maintained his advantage through the kink. As the field settled in a single-file line, Byron remained as the leader over Larson and Allmendinger from the kink to Turns 13 and 14.
When the field returned to the start/finish line, Byron maintained the lead over teammate Larson and led the first lap. Allmendinger remained in third place followed by Reddick and Austin Cindric. Ross Chastain was in sixth followed by Matt DiBenedetto, Daniel Suarez, Denny Hamlin and teammate Martin Truex Jr.
On the second lap, the first caution of the event flew when the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE piloted by Suarez came to a stop under the Corvette bridge in Turn 6 due to a transmission issue, an issue that required a wrecker to have Suarez’s car pushed back to pit road and the garage.
When the race restarted on the fourth lap, Byron retained the lead through the first three turns. Larson also maintained second place over Allmendinger and the field, which made its way through the Turn 4 straightaway and the left-hand fifth and sixth turns.
By the fifth lap and with the field settling in a single-file line, Byron was leading by nearly three-tenths of a second over teammate Larson, while Allmendinger, Reddick and Cindric continued to run in the top five. Chastain, meanwhile, retained sixth followed by Truex, DiBenedetto, Denny Hamlin and Alex Bowman. By then, Joey Logano was in 12th behind Christopher Bell, Kurt Busch was in 14th, Chase Elliott was in 18th in between Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski was in 22nd in front of Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch, Aric Almirola was in 25th ahead of Ryan Newman and rookie Chase Briscoe and Bubba Wallace was mired back in 31st.
Then in Turn 5, Larson, who made a bid for the lead over teammate Byron, overshot the left-hand fifth turn, which allowed Allmendinger to move into the runner-up spot while Larson fell back to third in front of Reddick and Cindric.
The following lap, Ryan Preece pulled his No. 37 Kroger Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE off the course in Turn 5 and behind the wall due to an engine issue. Despite Preece’s exit, the race remained under green as Byron continued to lead by nearly a second over Allmendinger.
Through the first 10 laps of the event, Byron’s No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE continued to lead by more than a second over Allmendinger’s No. 16 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. Larson, racing in his No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, settled in third ahead of Reddick and Cindric while Chastain, Truex, Hamlin, DiBenedetto and Bell were in the top 10. By then, Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch, both of whom started at the rear of the field, were in 14th and 16th.
During the 10th lap, Ty Dillon spun in the right-hand kink corner. Despite the spin, Dillon continued and the race remained under green. Shortly after, names like Cindric, DiBenedetto, Kyle Busch, Truex, Bubba Wallace, Aric Almirola, rookie Anthony Alfredo and Austin Dillon pitted. During the pit stops, Austin Dillon was busted with a pit road speeding penalty. Briscoe and Michael McDowell, both of whom pitted, were also penalized for driving through multiple pit stalls.
The following lap, the second caution of the event flew when Kyle Tilley got stuck in the gravel trap after overshooting Turn 9. The incident was enough for the first stage scheduled on Lap 14 to conclude under caution, and William Byron claimed his third stage victory of the season. Allmendinger settled in second followed by Larson, Reddick, Chastain, Hamlin, Bell, Bowman, Kurt Busch and Elliott.
Under the stage break, a multitude of competitors led by Byron pitted while the rest led by Martin Truex Jr. remained on the track.
The second stage started on Lap 16 with Truex and DiBenedetto on the front row. At the start, Cindric ignited his early bid for the lead as he pulled a three-wide move on Truex and DiBenedetto entering the first turn. By the third turn, Cindric emerged as the new leader. Through the Turn 4 straightaway and the left-hand fifth turn, Cindric was out in front of DiBenedetto while Kyle Busch muscle his way into third place.
When the field returned to the start/finish line, Cindric was out in front by two-tenths of a second over DiBenedetto, who started to challenge Cindric for the top spot. Kyle Busch moved up to third followed by teammate Truex and Bubba Wallace in the top five. Byron, meanwhile, was in sixth while Aric Almirola, Ty Dillon, Reddick and Hamlin were in the top 10. Larson was in 11th ahead of teammate Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Chastain and Allmendinger.
On Lap 18 and with a multitude of battles ensuing around the road course, DiBenedetto and Cindric engaged in a side-by-side battle for the lead through the Turn 4 straightaway and the left-hand fifth turn as Kyle Busch closely tucked himself behind the two leaders. While Cindric was able to retain a brief lead for another turn, DiBenedetto, though, was able to prevail for the lead in Turn 6 while Cindric retained the runner-up spot over Kyle Busch.
The following lap, Cody Ware punted Quin Houff in Turn 5, but the race remained under green as both continued.
By Lap 20, DiBenedetto, piloting the No. 21 Menards Ford Mustang, was leading by nearly a second over Cindric and his No. 33 Pirtek Ford Mustang. Kyle Busch, racing in his No. 18 Skittles American Mix Toyota Camry, was still in third followed by Truex and Byron. Reddick was in sixth followed by Larson, Wallace, Elliott and Hamlin.
Then in Turn 5, Hamlin overshot the corner and kicked up some gravel after his No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry overshot the corner, with the driver taking evasive action to avoid hitting Elliott’s No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. The off-track ride dropped Hamlin from the top 10 to 16th behind Aric Almirola.
Two laps later, the battle for the lead ignited between DiBenedetto and Cindric, with the latter gaining a run through Turns 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 along with the kink corner. By then, Brad Keselowski was continuing from a spin in Turn 14.
In Turn 1 and during the following lap, Cindric returned to the lead. Four turns later, however, Cindric locked up the brakes and went wide, which allowed Kyle Busch to move into the lead through Turn 6. Then, things went from bad to worse for Cindric, who spun in Turn 8 and had to loop his car around to continue without drawing a caution. Despite continuing, Cindric was off the pace and he ended up nursing his car to his pit stall, where he then took his car to the garage due to a mechanical issue.
Back at the front, Kyle Busch, winner of Saturday’s Xfinity Series event at Road America and one of the Pocono Raceway doubleheader events last weekend, was leading by more than a second over DiBenedetto, with Truex, Reddick and Byron scored in the top five. By then, Corey LaJoie went off course, got loose and spun in Canada corner, but he continued despite kicking up dirt in the air.
By Lap 25, Kyle Busch was leading by more than a second over teammate Truex, with Reddick, Byron and DiBenedetto in the top five.
Not long after, names like Blaney, Elliott, Hamlin, Bowman, DiBenedetto, Allmendinger, Larson, Keselowski, Almirola, Chris Buescher, Bell, Briscoe, Austin Dillon, Erik Jones, McDowell, Alfredo, Cole Custer, Ty Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who had a flat tire, pitted under green. Kyle Busch and teammate Truex also pitted.
In the midst of the pit stops, Reddick emerged with the lead on Lap 27. With pit lane closed, Reddick was able to maintain his advantage for the next two laps before claiming the second stage victory on Lap 29 as he also claimed his first stage victory of the season. Byron settled in second, trailing by more than four seconds, followed by Chastain, Larson, Kurt Busch, Logano, Kevin Harvick, Wallace, Justin Haley and Kyle Busch. Earlier, Kurt Busch went off course in Turn 6, though he was able to remain in the top 10.
Under the stage break, a multitude of competitors led by Reddick pitted while the rest led by Kyle Busch and Elliott remained on the track.
With 30 laps remaining, the final stage commenced. At the start, Kyle Busch launched ahead with the lead followed by DiBenedetto through the first turn while Elliott slipped back to third. Busch maintained the lead through the first three turns and the Turn 4 straightaway as the field fanned out to two lanes while battling for positioning.
From Turn 5 to Canada corner, Busch continued to lead, but everything changed when DiBenedetto powered back into the lead entering Turn 12.
Through the first three turns, the Turn 4 straightaway and the left-hand fifth turn, DiBenedetto was the leader followed by Kyle Busch and Elliott while Hamlin and Briscoe were in the top five.
With 25 laps remaining, DiBenedetto was leading by two-tenths of a second over Elliott, who earlier made his way by Kyle Busch for the runner-up spot. Busch settled back in third ahead of teammate Hamlin and Bell. Briscoe, Bowman, Chris Buescher, Byron and McDowell were in the top 10.
Then, Elliott took over the lead for the first time of the day in Turn 1. By Turn 6, Elliott was out in front by a decent advantage over Kyle Busch, who dropped DiBenedetto back to third.
Down to the final 20 laps of the event, Elliott was leading by more than four seconds over Kyle Busch, with Hamlin, Bell and DiBenedetto in the top five. Shortly after, Aric Almirola and Ryan Blaney pitted under green. Then, the caution flew when rookie Anthony Alfredo spun in Turn 1 and got stuck in the gravel trap as a result of a cut left-rear tire. The caution was well-timed for Blaney, who was having his front nose repaired following on-track contact.
Under caution, nearly all of the leaders led by Elliott pitted, except for Almirola and Blaney, both of whom pitted earlier and remained on track.
With 17 laps remaining, the race restarted under green. At the start, Almirola led the field through the first turn while Kyle Busch followed pursuit. Then, Busch engaged in a brief battle with Almirola through the following two turns before he took the lead away entering Turn 3. Through Turn 5, Elliott charged his way up into the runner-up spot behind Busch as the field behind battled and fanned out to two lanes.
Entering the Canada corner, however, Elliott was able to reassume the lead over Kyle Busch as he maintained the top spot when he returned to the start/finish line and slowly started to pull away.
With 15 laps remaining, Elliott was leading by more than a second over Kyle Busch, with Hamlin, Larson and Almirola battling in the top five. Blaney was back in sixth followed by Bell, DiBenedetto, Bowman and Briscoe.
While Elliott and Kyle Busch continued to run in first and second, Larson was able to muscle his way into the third place over Hamlin in Turn 5.
A lap later, Byron, the pole-sitter, went off course in Turn 5, but the race remained under green.
Down to the final 10 laps of the event, Elliott remained as the leader by more than three seconds over Kyle Busch. Behind, Bell marched his No. 20 SiriusXM Toyota Camry into third place while Larson was in fourth ahead of Hamlin and Bowman. Kurt Busch, Briscoe, Almirola and DiBenedetto were in the top 10.
With six laps remaining, Bowman locked up his brakes and bumped his teammate Larson, sending Larson spinning in Turn 5. Following the contact, Bowman and Hamlin, both of whom sustained damage following the contact with Larson, moved up to fourth and fifth followed by Kurt Busch and Briscoe while Larson fell back to 11th.
Five laps later and with five laps remaining, Elliott continued to lead by nearly five seconds over Kyle Busch while third-place Christopher Bell trailed by six seconds. Bowman and Hamlin, meanwhile, remained in the top five ahead of Kurt Busch, Briscoe, Chastain, DiBenedetto, Reddick and Larson.
A lap later, Bell moved into the runner-up spot after overtaking teammate Kyle Busch, with Elliott still leading by more than six seconds.
Down to the final two laps, Elliott maintained an advantage of more than five seconds over Bell, with Kyle Busch trailing by eight seconds. Behind, Briscoe locked up his brakes entering Turn 5 and nearly ran into the rear of Hamlin, though he was able to continue and remain in sixth place while Hamlin and Kurt Busch battled for fourth.
When the final lap of the race started, Elliott was leading by less than six seconds over Bell. For one final time through the 14-turn circuit and with no challengers closing in, Elliott was able to cruise to the checkered flag and score the victory on the Fourth of July weekend as the crowd cheered.
With the victory in NASCAR’s first event at Road America since 1956, Elliott notched his second victory of the 2021 season, first since winning the rain-shortened event at the Circuit of the Americas in May, his seventh road course win and his 13th Cup Series career victory in his 205th series start. Elliott also recorded the 10th victory of the season for Hendrick Motorsports.
“I appreciate y’all [fans] coming out,” Elliott said on NBC. “Thank you for spending your Fourth of July with us. I hope you enjoyed the show. Man, it was a hot day, but a lot of fun, man. Just really proud of our team for overcoming some adversity early, having to start at the back, having good pit stops. [I] Had a really fast NAPA Chevy, so just so proud. We’ve had a rough few weeks, so [the win]’s really good.”
“I just never felt like I got in a real good rhythm all of yesterday,” Elliott added. “For whatever reason there, about halfway through the race, I started finding some of that rhythm, was able to put it together, piece different parts of the track and then finally, I felt like I was able to piece most of it together. [I] stayed with it and glad that it worked out.”
Bell, who won the Daytona Road Course event in February, came home in a strong second-place result for his third top-five result of the season, first since Richmond Raceway in April, followed by Kyle Busch, who achieved his ninth top-five result of the season.
“Yeah, I just, kind of, buried ourselves there,” Bell said. “We had that pit road penalty, but man, it was a lot of fun. Our SiriusXM Camry was really good and really proud of this No. 20 group. It’s been a trying last two months, but we feel like we’re getting back on track here, so there’s no reason why we can’t be running upfront every week.”
“[I] Just kept working at it,” Busch added. “[I] Kept trying to do what I needed to do for adjustments there. Just did not have the tire life that [Elliott] did. Just incredible that they could continue to just drive away from us. His braking was really good, but then, the drive-off out of the corners was just awesome. They out-beat us by far today. Proud of the Skittles bunch, everybody here on the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camrys did a good job. We all ran upfront, we had good speed. We showed that we’re close. That’s all we had for what [Elliott] seems like impossible. Overall, just a good day fighting through traffic…I feel like we’re in a good spot and hopefully, we’ll go get’em next week.”
Kurt Busch and Hamlin finished in the top five while rookie Chase Briscoe achieved his second top-10 result in the Cup Series by finishing sixth. Chastain, Reddick, Truex and DiBenedetto finished in the top 10.
Austin Dillon finished 11th, Keselowski settled in 13th in front of Almirola and Logano, Larson ended up in 16th following his late dust-up with teammate Bowman, Chris Buescher finished 18th in front of Erik Jones and Blaney and Bowman, who pitted following his contact with Larson, ended up in 22nd.
Bubba Wallace came home in 24th, Kevin Harvick ended up in 27th behind Ty Dillon, AJ Allmendinger ended up in 29th in front of McDowell and pole-sitter William Byron fell all the way back to 33rd.
There were 10 lead changes for eight different leaders. The race featured four cautions for nine laps.
With six races remaining until the 2021 Cup Playoffs commences, Denny Hamlin continues to lead the regular-season standings by three points over Kyle Larson. Currently, 11 competitors (Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, William Byron, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Christopher Bell and Michael McDowell) are guaranteed Playoff spots based on winning at least once throughout the regular season. Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick and Kurt Busch occupy the remaining five vacant spots as winless competitors, with Kurt Busch ahead by 25 points over Chris Buescher, 69 over Ross Chastain, 70 over Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 74 over Matt DiBenedetto, 79 over Bubba Wallace and 88 over Daniel Suarez.
1. Chase Elliott, 24 laps led
2. Christopher Bell
3. Kyle Busch, four laps led
4. Kurt Busch
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Chase Briscoe
7. Ross Chastain
8. Tyler Reddick, five laps led, Stage 2 winner
9. Martin Truex Jr., one lap led
10. Matt DiBenedetto, 10 laps led
11. Austin Dillon
12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
13. Brad Keselowski
14. Aric Almirola, one lap led
15. Joey Logano
16. Kyle Larson
17. Cole Custer
18. Chris Buescher
19. Erik Jones
20. Ryan Blaney
21. Corey LaJoie
22. Alex Bowman
23. Josh Bilicki
24. Bubba Wallace
25. Justin Haley
26. Ty Dillon
27. Kevin Harvick
28. James Davison
29. AJ Allmendinger
30. Michael McDowell
31. Cody Ware
32. Ryan Newman
33. William Byron, 15 laps led, Stage 1 winner
34. Quin Houff
35. Kyle Tilley, two laps down
36. Daniel Suarez, nine laps down
37. Anthony Alfredo – OUT, Brakes
38. Austin Cindric – OUT, Rear gear, two laps led
39. Ryan Eversley – OUT, Rear gear
40. Ryan Preece – OUT, Engine
Next on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is Atlanta Motor Speedway for the series’ second visit to Hampton, Georgia this season. The event is slated to occur on Sunday, July 11, at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.