Elliott conquers Dover for first Cup victory of 2022

The one-day wait was worth the wait for Chase Elliott, who rose to the occasion in the late stages to win the rain-postponed DuraMAX Drydene 400 at Dover Motor Speedway on Monday, May 2, for his first NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season.

The 2020 Cup champion from Dawsonville, Georgia, led three times for 73 of 400-scheduled laps and rocketed away from Ross Chastain during a 53-lap dash to the finish before beating Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to conquer the Monster Mile in Dover, Delaware, for the second time in his career.

With on-track qualifying occurring on Saturday, Chris Buescher notched his first NASCAR Cup Series career pole after turning in a pole-winning lap at 160.149 mph in 22.479 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Denny Hamlin, who recorded a fast lap at 159.744 mph in 22.536 seconds. 

Prior to the event, William Byron and Josh Bilicki dropped to the rear of the field in backup cars along with Kurt Busch due to a steering adjustment. Rookies Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland also started at the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments to their cars.

When the green flag waved and the race started on a cloudy afternoon on Sunday, Buescher rocketed with an early advantage over the field as he went on to lead the first lap while Chase Elliott moved up to second place over Hamlin, who was under threat by Kyle Larson for more. Behind, Ryan Blaney was able to settle into fifth place ahead of Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez and Ross Chastain.

Through the first 10 laps, Buescher continued to lead ahead of Elliott, Hamlin, Larson and Blaney while Bowman, Suarez, Chastain, Kyle Busch and Bubba Wallace occupied the top 10.

Nine laps later, Hamlin moved his No. 11 FedEx Toyota TRD Camry into the lead over Buescher’s No. 17 Fastenal Ford Mustang. 

On Lap 40, a scheduled competition caution flew with Hamlin retaining the lead over Larson, Buescher, Elliott, Blaney and the rest of the field. By then, 27 of 36 starters were scored on the lead lap. 

Under the competition caution, the leaders pitted and Hamlin retained the lead ahead of Larson, Buescher, Elliott and Chastain.

When the event restarted under green on Lap 45, Larson and Hamlin dueled for the lead until Hamlin used the outside lane to retain the top spot. Behind, Chastain moved into third place followed by Buescher, Elliott and Blaney while Suarez and Kyle Busch battled for seventh place as more battles ensued behind in the field. 

By Lap 50, Hamlin was leading by nearly a second over Larson followed by Chastain, Buescher and Elliott while Blaney, Kyle Busch, Suarez, Bowman and Stenhouse were scored in the top 10.

On Lap 68, the caution flew due to precipitation on the track. During the caution period, the competitors remained on track under a cautious pace. Soon after, nearly the entire field led by Hamlin pitted while Larson, Elliott, Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Christopher Bell, Aric Almirola and William Byron remained on the track.

Then on Lap 78, the field led by Larson was brought down to pit road and the race was red-flagged due to the precipitation intensifying around the circuit. More than an hour later and with the jet dryers unable to enter the circuit due to the increased precipitation, NASCAR declared that the event would be postponed to Monday.

When the field returned to action on Monday under a cautious pace, Blaney surrendered third place to make a pit stop and for adjustments to his No. 12 Menards Ford Mustang.

By Lap 83, the race resumed under green. At the start, Larson retained the lead over teammate Elliott and Truex while Hamlin bolted his way into the top five on four fresh tires as he challenged Byron for fourth place, which he succeeded. Soon after, Hamlin was challenged by teammate Truex for the spot while Byron and Bell battled for fifth place in front of Kyle Busch and Aric Almirola. 

Four laps later, however, the caution flew when rookie Austin Cindric got loose and smacked the outside wall in Turn 3. In the process, rookie Todd Gilliland was hit and spun into the wall by Blaney.

Another five laps later, the race proceeded under green. At the start, teammates Larson and Elliott dueled for the top spot through the first turn until Elliott managed to assume the lead for the first time. Behind, Hamlin, who rocketed to third place during the previous restart, retained the spot ahead of teammates Christopher Bell and Truex. Behind, Byron was in sixth while Kyle Busch and Chastain battled for seventh place.

At the Lap 100 mark, Elliott was leading by more than seven-tenths of a second over Hamlin while Larson, Bell and Truex occupied the top five. Byron retained sixth ahead of Chastain, Kyle Busch, Buescher and Bowman while Brad Keselowski, Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick and Justin Haley were in the top 15. Bubba Wallace was back in 16th ahead of Daniel Suarez, Ryan Preece, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones while Blaney was back in 27th behind Tyler Reddick, Joey Logano, Michael McDowell and Chase Briscoe. By then, Cindric retired to the garage.

By Lap 110, Hamlin trailed Larson by two-tenths of a second in a bid for the lead while Larson and Bell battled for third place in front of Truex and Chastain. Two laps later, Hamlin overtook Elliott to reassume the lead. At the same time. Chastain made a bold three-wide move on Truex and Larson to move into fourth place.

When the first stage concluded on Lap 120, Hamlin claimed his second stage victory of the season. Elliott settled in second followed by Bell, Chastain, Truex, Larson, Byron, Buescher, Kyle Busch and Keselowski.

Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Hamlin, who exited pit road with the lead, lost the left-front wheel as the wheel came off of his car. With Hamlin returning to pit road, Chastain assumed the lead followed by Bell, Truex, Elliott, Byron and Buescher.

The second stage started on Lap 128 as Chastain and Bell occupied the front row, At the start, Chastain retained the lead while Truex, Buescher and Elliott all overtook Bell for positions in the top five. In the process, Bell made an unscheduled pit stop after falling off the pace with the driver suspecting a loose wheel on his No. 20 DeWalt Toyota TRD Camry. The issue cost Bell two laps, though he continued.

Back on the track on Lap 135, Chastain’s No. 1 Pitbull Tour 2022 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was leading by four-tenths of a second over Truex’s No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota TRD Camry while third-place Buescher trailed by less than a second. Elliott and Kyle Busch occupied the top five ahead of Byron, Larson, Keselowski, Harvick and Stenhouse.

On Lap 156, the caution returned when Larson spun his No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 on the frontstretch and made light contact with the inside wall after cutting a tire. At the moment of caution, Chastain retained the lead by six-tenths of a second over Truex while Buescher, Elliott and Kyle Busch remained in the top five.

Under caution, the leaders returned to pit road and Chastain exited with the top spot ahead of Truex, Justin Haley, Elliott and Keselowski.

When the race restarted under green on Lap 163, Chastain retained the lead while Haley moved his No. 31 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 into second place ahead of Truex, Elliott, Keselowski and Kyle Busch while Harvick and Buescher battled for seventh place.

By Lap 175, Chastain was leading by nearly nine-tenths of a second over Truex while Haley, Elliott and Keselowski were scored in the top five. Kyle Busch retained sixth ahead of Buescher, Harvick, Byron and Blaney.

On Lap 188 and just as Truex issued a challenge on Chastain for the lead, the caution flew when AJ Allmendinger made contact with Kurt Busch entering Turn 2, which got Busch’s No. 45 Monster Energy Toyota TRD Camry loose before the car spun and made contact with the inside wall. 

Under caution, some competitors like Haley, Bowman, Allmendinger, Tyler Reddick, Wallace, Suarez, Austin Dillon and Ty Dillon remained on the track while the rest led by Truex pitted.

When the race proceeded under green on Lap 194, Haley assumed the lead while teammate Allmendinger overtook Bowman for the runner-up spot, thus placing both Kaulig Racing competitors in the top-two spots. 

A lap later, however, the caution returned when Joey Logano, who was struggling with pace, slid sideways and made contact with the outside wall in Turn 1 following contact with Erik Jones exiting the frontstretch. 

As the race restarted at the halfway mark on Lap 200, Haley retained the lead over teammate Allmendinger while Bowman muscled his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 into the runner-up spot. Way behind the field, Ty Dillon got bumped and loose in Turn 3, but the race proceeded under green as Dillon continued to lose spots on the track. 

Back at the front, Haley was leading by two-tenths of a second over Bowman while Reddick was locked in a battle with Kyle Busch for fourth place behind Allmendinger.

By Lap 210, Bowman made a bold move through Turn 2 to move into the lead over Haley as Kyle Busch joined the battle. Two laps later, however, Busch rocketed his No. 18 M&M’s Toyota TRD Camry from third to first after overtaking both Haley and Bowman on the frontstretch. With Elliott and Allmendinger remaining in the top five, Truex, Chastain and Hamlin battled within the top-10 mark.

At the Lap 225 mark, Kyle Busch, who celebrated his 37th birthday, was leading by nearly two seconds over Elliott while Bowman, Truex and Byron were in the top five. Behind, Hamlin, following his early pit road issues, was in sixth ahead of Haley, Allmendinger, Chastain, Reddick, Harvick, Stenhouse, Erik Jones, Wallace, Buescher, Blaney, Almirola, Suarez, Chase Briscoe and Keselowski. By then, Larson was in 23rd behind Bell while Harrison Burton was the highest-running rookie candidate in 27th.

Seven laps later, Reddick made an unscheduled pit stop under green due to a shredded right-front tire as he lost two laps in the process. Shortly after, Ty Dillon made an unscheduled pit stop to address a flat right-front tire. 

Just past the Lap 240 mark and while Kyle Busch maintained a one-and-a-half second advantage over Elliott, the caution flew when Cody Ware got loose and smacked the outside wall on the frontstretch. In the process of his spin, Ware clipped Hamlin as Hamlin was sent backward against the inside wall with right-side damage to his No. 11 FedEx Toyota TRD Camry, thus making his afternoon tougher to overcome. 

Under caution, Blaney and Harrison Burton remained on the track while the rest led by Kyle Busch pitted.

With three laps remaining in the second stage, Blaney retained the lead while teammates Kyle Busch and Truex overtook Burton for second and third. Behind, Elliott nearly made contact with the outside wall on the frontstretch while battling Chastain. 

When the second stage concluded on Lap 250 in a flurry of late jostling for positions, Blaney fended off Kyle Busch to claim his fifth stage victory of the season. Bowman settled in third ahead of Truex, Stenhouse, Chastain, Erik Jones, Burton, Buescher and Elliott.

Under the stage break, Blaney, whose strategy to win the second stage worked, pitted along with Burton and Austin Dillon, whose pit crew lifted the hood of Dillon’s No. 3 Breztri Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for adjustments, while the rest led by Kyle Busch remained on the track.

With 143 laps remaining, the final stage started under green. At the start and with the field fanning out to multiple lanes, Kyle Busch retained the lead over Bowman while Stenhouse moved into third place. Shortly after, Chastain overtook Truex for fourth place in front of Erik Jones. By then, Larson was back in the top 10 in ninth place ahead of teammate Elliott. 

With 125 laps remaining, Kyle Busch continued to lead by more than half a second over Bowman while Stenhouse, Chastain and Truex remained in the top five. Erik Jones remained in sixth place ahead of Larson, Elliott, Buescher and Aric Almirola while Allmendinger, Bell, Harvick, Keselowski, Byron, Corey LaJoie, Michael McDowell, Haley, Preece and Wallace. By then, Reddick and Blaney were mired outside of the top 20 while Hamlin was back in 27th ahead of Austin Dillon.

Fifteen laps later, Kyle Busch, who lapped Austin Dillon, stabilized his advantage to seven-tenths of a second over Bowman while Chastain, Truex and Stenhouse remained in the top five.

Down to the final 100 laps of the event, Kyle Busch was leading by more than a second over Bowman while Chastain, Truex, Stenhouse, Elliott, Larson, Erik Jones, Buescher and Bell occupied the top 10. Almirola was in 11th ahead of Allmendinger, Harvick, LaJoie, McDowell, Preece, Haley, Byron, Blaney and Wallace while Briscoe, Suarez, Keselowski and Hamlin were scored on the lead lap. By then, names like Reddick, Custer, Austin Dillon and Harrison Burton were lapped. In addition, Logano was mired in 30th and three laps behind the leaders while Kurt Busch was in 32nd and eight laps behind.

Just as Kyle Busch and Bowman peeled off the track to pit under green, the caution flew when the right-front tire off of Allmendinger’s No. 16 Action Industries Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 came off in Turn 1. 

Under caution, the majority of leaders that did not pit prior to the caution led by Truex pitted and Chastain assumed the lead after exiting with the top spot ahead of Truex, Elliott, Bell, Stenhouse and Larson. Prior to the restart, Kyle Busch and Bowman took the wave around to return to the lead lap.

Down to the final 70 laps of the event, the race restarted under green. At the start, Chastain took off with a brief advantage until he was pressured by Elliott for more. 

Four laps later, the caution flew when Suarez and LaJoie made contact entering Turn 3, which sent LaJoie into the outside wall while Suarez spun and forced the field to scatter. 

With 61 laps remaining, the race restarted under green. At the start, Chastain and Elliott dueled for the lead through the first two turns with Elliott briefly peaking ahead until Chastain fought back on the outside lane. 

During the following lap, both Chastain and Elliott made contact through Turn 2, but both continued to battle dead even for the top spot. They made contact again during the next lap, but both continued to battle for the lead in a heated battle until the caution returned when Reddick spun and wrecked his No. 8 Guaranteed Rate Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 on the backstretch. At the moment of caution, Chastain retained the lead over Elliott.  

With 53 laps remaining, the race restarted under green. At the start, Elliott prevailed on the inside lane to move his No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the lead while Chastain was left in a battle against Stenhouse for the runner-up spot. Following an intense battle for a few laps, Stenhouse took the runner-up spot while Chastain settled in third ahead of Truex and Bell.

Under the final 50 laps of the event, Elliott was leading by seven-tenths of a second over Stenhouse while Chastain, Truex, Bell, Erik Jones, Larson, Bowman, Buescher and Kyle Busch occupied the top 10. 

With 35 laps remaining, Elliott extended his advantage to more than a second over Stenhouse while Chastain, Truex and Bell remained in the top five. 

Fifteen laps later, Elliott’s No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 continued to lead by more than a second over Stenhouse’s No. 47 Kroger/Frozen Farmer Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, who started to have Chastain and Truex reel in on him for the runner-up spot. With Bell in fifth, Bowman and Kyle Busch were up in sixth and seventh followed by Larson, Erik Jones and Buescher. Meanwhile, Harvick was in 11th ahead of teammate Briscoe, Haley, Wallace, Suarez and Cole Custer.

Down to the final 10 laps of the event, Elliott remained the leader by more than two seconds over Stenhouse while Chastain and Truex battled for third place ahead of Bell. By then, 17 of 36 starters were scored on the lead lap.

With five laps remaining, Elliott stabilized his advantage to less than two seconds over Stenhouse while working his way through lapped traffic. Meanwhile, Chastain continued to fend off Truex for third place.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Elliott continued to lead by nearly two seconds over Stenhouse. Having no competition closing in on him for a final circuit, Elliott cycled his way back around to the frontstretch and streaked across the finish line for his first victory of the season as the caution flag flew for a final lap incident involving Chastain and Truex.

With his first victory of the season, Elliott became the ninth different winner through the first 11 events of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season. The Dover victory marked Elliott’s second at the Monster Mile, the 14th of his Cup career, his first since winning at Road America in July 2021 and his first oval victory since winning the 2020 season finale at Phoenix Raceway, where he celebrated his first Cup championship. 

In addition, Hendrick Motorsports achieved its 22nd overall win at Dover Motor Speedway, leaving the team 15 victories shy of reaching 300 Cup career victories, as all four HMS competitors have recorded a victory this season. 

“[I] Just had some good circumstances finally,” Elliott said on FS1. “Really appreciate [crew chief] Alan [Gustafson] and our entire team. We were just sticking with it. We’ve had some tough races over the last four or five months and just great to get NAPA back to Victory Lane. Great to get Hendrick Motorsports back to Victory Lane. Just so proud. This one means a lot in a lot of different ways. Just appreciate all the effort. Thanks to all the fans for coming out. You are always awesome. Hope to see this big crowd here next year. Just a huge thanks to everybody involved. It’s been a fun day and we’re certainly gonna enjoy it. Like I told [the crew] after the race, they’ve been deserving of one for a while. Glad we could get it across the line first. We’ll enjoy it for a few days and go to work next week.”

Finishing two-and-a-half seconds behind Elliott with a stellar runner-up result was Stenhouse, who notched the first top-five result of the season for himself and JTG-Daugherty Racing following a difficult start to the year. 

“It’s been a rough start to the season,” Stenhouse said. “Our short track program’s been off and then all of our other good races that we’ve had good runs going, something always happens. Really good to put this all together. It was a really great day for us. I felt like we had a car capable of winning. The pit crew did a great job keeping us up front all day. This feels good. Hopefully, we can carry this momentum on the big tracks. The tracks we got coming forward are really good tracks for us. That was a lot of fun. Lot of battling. It was tough to pass, but it was fun running through lapped traffic. I really wished we had a 70-lap run to the end there, but all in all, our Kroger team’s doing a great job and looking forward to carrying that momentum on.”

Meanwhile, Chastain came home in third place despite making contact with Truex on the final lap that sent Truex sideways and into the inside wall on the backstretch. The incident dropped Truex to 12th place in the final running order while Bell, who rallied from his early issues, and Bowman finished in the top five. 

Following the event, Chastain and Truex met on pit road and exchanged words before Truex walked away.

“[Truex and I] were talking about where we were gonna go finishing next week,” Chastain said. “Super proud of this effort. I thought we were a fifth-place car and a couple of guys had misfortune with the caution coming out. That cycled us to the lead. The pit crew was incredible. They were just picking up spots every stop and got us the lead. I’m racing with champions and I got beat.”

Larson, Kyle Busch, Buescher, Harvick and Erik Jones finished in the top 10 as 15 of 36 starters finished on the lead lap.

There were 17 lead changes for 10 different leaders. The race featured 13 cautions for 75 laps.

With his first victory of the season, Chase Elliott leads the regular-season standings by 50 points over Ryan Blaney, 65 over William Byron and Kyle Busch, 69 over Alex Bowman, 80 over Ross Chastain, 82 over Martin Truex Jr. and 83 over Kyle Larson.

Results.

1. Chase Elliott, 73 laps led

2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

3. Ross Chastain, 86 laps led

4. Christopher Bell

5. Alex Bowman, two laps led

6. Kyle Larson, 19 laps led

7. Kyle Busch, 103 laps led

8. Chris Buescher, 18 laps led

9. Kevin Harvick

10. Erik Jones

11. Justin Haley, 19 laps led

12. Martin Truex Jr., five laps led

13. Chase Briscoe

14. Daniel Suarez

15. Cole Custer

16. Bubba Wallace, one lap down

17. Michael McDowell, one lap down

18. Corey LaJoie, one lap down

19. Aric Almirola, one lap down

20. Brad Keselowski, one lap down

21. Denny Hamlin, one lap down, 67 laps led, Stage 1 winner

22. William Byron, one lap down

23. Austin Dillon, two laps down

24. Harrison Burton, two laps down

25. Ryan Preece, two laps down 

26. Ryan Blaney, three laps down, eight laps led, Stage 2 winner

27. Ty Dillon, four laps down

28. Todd Gilliland, four laps down

29. Joey Logano, four laps down

30. Tyler Reddick, 10 laps down

31. Kurt Busch, 12 laps down

32. Josh Bilicki, 19 laps down

33. AJ Allmendinger – OUT, Brakes

34. Cody Ware – OUT, Dvp

35. BJ McLeod – OUT, Brakes

36. Austin Cindric – OUT, Dvp

Next on the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is Darlington Raceway, the first of two series events at the venue in Darlington, South Carolina, on Sunday, May 8, which marks Mother’s Day and the sport’s annual Official Throwback weekend. The event is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. ET on FS1.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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