The crowd inside Atlanta Motor Speedway was left cheering with pride and joy as Chase Elliott achieved his first victory on home turf following a wild and dominant run in the Quaker State 400 on Sunday, July 10. The 2020 Cup Series champion from Dawsonville, Georgia, led nine times for a race-high 97 of 260-scheduled laps and swept all three stages of the race.
During a three-lap dash to the finish, Elliott muscled his way from fourth to first before he fended off a valiant run by Corey LaJoie on the final lap to emerge out in front of the field with the caution flying for a multi-car wreck that involved LaJoie. From there, Elliott cruised back to the frontstretch to claim his long-awaited first win at his home track amid a chorus of cheers from the crowd.
With on-track qualifying that was initially set for Saturday canceled due to rain, the starting lineup was determined by NASCAR’s rulebook’s qualifying metric. As a result, Chase Elliott was awarded the pole position at his home track. Joining him on the front row was Ross Chastain.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Chastain received a strong push from Kyle Larson on the inside lane to jump to an early advantage as he led the first lap ahead of Elliott, Tyler Reddick and the field while Larson got loose entering Turn 4 and dropped out of the top 10. During the following lap, however, Elliott assumed the lead after overtaking Chastain’s No. 1 Jockey Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in Turn 1 as he led the second lap before Chastain reassumed the top spot.
Through the first 10 scheduled laps and with the front-runners packed tightly in superspeedway formation, Chastain was leading followed by Ryan Blaney, Reddick, Denny Hamlin and Elliott while Alex Bowman, Michael McDowell, Chase Briscoe, Daniel Suarez and Chris Buescher were in the top 10. William Byron was in 11th followed by Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola, Christopher Bell, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Justin Haley, Larson, Cole Custer and Kurt Busch. By then, Martin Truex Jr. was in 21st, rookie Austin Cindric was in 24th ahead of Bubba Wallace, Brad Keselowski was in 27th and Erik Jones was in 31st.
Ten laps later and with the 36-car field separated by 12 seconds, Chastain continued to lead ahead of a side-by-side duel between Hamlin and Blaney while Reddick and Elliott battled for fourth. By then, Kyle Busch challenged Bowman for sixth while Byron cracked the top 10.
Two laps later, Hamlin muscled his No. 11 Coca-Cola Toyota TRD Camry into the lead as he overtook Chastain on the outside lane with drafting help from Blaney’s No. 12 Wabash Ford Mustang. Another two laps later, Blaney used the outside lane to his advantage as he moved into the lead. With Elliott and Chastain battling for the runner-up spot, Hamlin settled back in fourth.
When the competition caution flew on Lap 25 and with the field fanned out to multiple lanes entering the frontstretch, Elliott, who managed to overtake Blaney during the previous lap, was scored the leader followed by Blaney, Reddick, Bowman and Hamlin while McDowell, Kyle Busch, Chastain, Bell and Byron were in the top 10. Prior to the competition caution, Hamlin made the slightest contact with Chastain through Turns 3 and 4 as Chastain briefly lost his momentum and dropped from the top five to the top 10.
During the competition caution, some of the drivers, led by Elliott, remained on the track while the rest of the field pitted. During the pit stops, Larson’s pit crew popped the hood of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to diagnose steering issues in the car while Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suarez had to back up for missing their mark toward their pit lanes. Following the pit stops, Truex was penalized for speeding on pit road.
When the race proceeded under green on Lap 30, Elliott assumed the lead and managed to retain the top spot when the field returned to the start/finish line despite being challenged by Blaney and teammate Alex Bowman.
Through the first 40 scheduled laps, Elliott remained as the leader followed by Blaney, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Bowman while Byron, Chastain, Reddick, Hamlin and rookie Todd Gilliland were in the top 10.
Eleven laps later and with the front-runners continuing to run in a tight, side-by-side pack, Blaney made his move through the backstretch to assume the lead as he led a lap for himself. Elliott, however, quickly returned to favor and reassumed the top spot entering the first two turns, leaving Blaney to settle in the runner-up spot in front of Bowman while Chastain and Hamlin battled for fourth place.
When the first stage concluded on Lap 60, Elliott managed to fend off a steaming pack of cars to claim his fourth stage victory of the season. Teammate Bowman settled in second followed by Chastain, Blaney, Byron, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Hamlin, Larson and Bell. By then, the top 17 competitors were separated by under two seconds.
Under the stage break, the leaders led by Elliott pitted and Reddick utilized a two-tire pit stop to his advantage as he exited with the lead followed by Chastain, Truex, Elliott and Bell.
The second stage started on Lap 66 as Reddick and Chastain occupied the front row. At the start and with the field jostling for positions in a tight, side-by-side pack, Reddick rocketed with the lead as he defended the field from the top to bottom lane to lead through the frontstretch before Chastain launched his challenge through the backstretch. Truex, however, drafted Reddick’s No. 8 Alsco Uniforms Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 back to the front as he commenced his challenge for the lead.
Then on Lap 70, Truex launched his No. 19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota TRD Camry into the lead following a bold pass on the inside lane over Reddick through the first two turns as teammate Bell’s No. 20 Rheem Toyota TRD Camry followed in pursuit.
By Lap 75, Truex was ahead by a hair over Blaney followed by Bell, Reddick and Elliott while Hamlin, Chastain, Kurt Busch, McDowell and Larson were in the top 10. By then, the top-eight competitors were locked in a tight side-by-side battle as Truex and Blaney continued to duel dead even for the lead.
A few laps later, the caution flew for a three-car wreck that ensued on the backstretch and involved Ty Dillon, Chris Buescher and BJ McLeod. During the caution period, some led by Hamlin pitted while the rest led by Truex remained on the track.
When the race proceeded under green on Lap 83, teammates Truex and Bell dueled for the lead through the backstretch as Truex retained the lead with drafting help from Blaney. Shortly after, Blaney attempted to launch his bid for the lead on the inside lane, but Truex remained as the leader with the outside lane gaining the advantage as Elliott and Reddick moved up into the top three. Elliott, however, made his bid for the lead executed perfectly on Lap 86 as he overtook Truex on the inside lane and gained control of both lanes through the frontstretch.
Then on Lap 90, the caution flew when Truex slipped sideways off the front nose of Chastain as he spun and made contact against the outside wall between Turns 1 and 2. The incident between Truex and Chastain ignited a multi-car wreck that collected McDowell, Logano, Kyle Busch, Larson, Noah Gragson, Bell and Austin Dillon, whose No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 took a hard hit against the outside wall after being clipped by a spinning McDowell.
During the extensive caution period, most of the front-runners led by Blaney pitted while some led by rookie Harrison Burton remained on the track.
When the event resumed under green on Lap 98, Stenhouse, who spent the majority of the event having the hood of his car up during his pit stops, assumed the lead while Byron and Harrison Burton battled for the runner-up spot.
At the Lap 100 mark, Stenhouse was leading ahead of Burton while Byron, who briefly got loose entering the first turn, was in third. During the following lap, Burton received a draft from Byron to assume the lead and Todd Gilliland and Blaney made their move to the front. Another five laps later, Byron returned to the front as Reddick charged his way into the top five behind Stenhouse, Reddick, Burton and Gilliland. Not long after Byron assumed the lead, the caution flew when Buescher made contact with the outside wall in Turn 4 after blowing a right-rear tire.
When the event restarted under green on Lap 112, Byron and Stenhouse dueled for the lead through the first two turns until Byron received a push from Burton to clear the field and gain control of both lanes entering the frontstretch. Not long after, the field lapped Kyle Busch as Byron continued to lead ahead of Stenhouse, Reddick, Burton and Gilliland. During this process, Kurt Busch bolted his No. 45 Monster Energy Toyota TRD Camry into fourth place followed by Blaney while Burton and Gilliland fell back to sixth and seventh.
On Lap 119, Stenhouse briefly lost his momentum in Turn 1 and was slowly drifting out of the top 10 as Kurt Busch, Bell and Blaney made their way into the top five. By then, Byron remained the leader ahead of Reddick. McDowell also made an unscheduled pit stop under green to address a flat tire.
Eleven laps later and with most of the front-runners settling in a long single-file line, Byron continued to lead ahead of Reddick, Kurt Busch, Bell and Blaney while Burton, Gilliland, Erik Jones, Bowman and Elliott were in the top 10. By then, Keselowski was in 11th ahead of Chastain, Almirola, Corey LaJoie, Haley, Briscoe, Hamlin, Stenhouse, Daniel Suarez and Kevin Harvick. Wallace, Truex, Cindric and Larson were mired outside of the top 20.
Another seven laps later, the caution returned when Briscoe spun his No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Ford Mustang through the backstretch after cutting a right-rear tire. During the caution period, some, led by Erik Jones, pitted while the rest, led by Byron, remained on the track.
During a restart on Lap 142, Byron and Reddick dueled for the lead as Byron managed to make the outside lane work to his advantage again. Five laps later on Lap 147, Reddick made a bold move to the outside of Byron between Turns 1 and 2 to return to the lead followed by Blaney while Byron remained in hot pursuit for the lead on the inside lane.
Then with seven laps remaining in the second stage, Elliott navigated his No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 from the bottom to the top and back to the bottom for a full lap as he returned to the lead followed by Reddick while Kurt Busch battled Blaney for third place. Meanwhile, Brad Keselowski made his way into the top five as he battled Blaney and Bowman.
Just prior to the start of the final lap of the second stage, the caution flew when Bowman, who was running towards the front, slipped sideways after cutting a right-rear tire and backed his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 into the outside wall entering the frontstretch, which his car came to a rest near the restart zone and needed assistance from a wrecker to return to his pit stall due to both rear tires on his car flat. The incident was enough for the second stage scheduled for Lap 160 to conclude under caution as Elliott claimed his fifth stage victory of the season. Reddick settled in second followed by Keselowski, Blaney, Kurt Busch, Bell, Burton, Byron, Chastain and Corey LaJoie.
Under the stage break, some led by Elliott pitted while others led by Cindric and Almirola remained on the track. Stenhouse, who had the hood of his No. 47 Kroger/Ball Park Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 pop up again, retired due to engine issues that had persisted in his car throughout the event.
With 95 laps remaining, the final stage started under green as Cindric and Almirola occupied the front row. At the start, Cindric and Almirola dueled for the top spot before Cindric benefitted on the outside lane with drafting help from Erik Jones. Harvick would soon join the battle and draft Jones clear of the field in the runner-up spot while Justin Haley and Chastain made their way into the top five.
Four laps later, the caution returned when Larson sent Ty Dillon into Garrett Smithley, which sent Smithley spinning entering Turns 3 and 4 and in front of a pack of cars as a number of competitors including Byron, Reddick, Gilliland, Keselowski, Wallace and Landon Cassill wrecked. The wreck spoiled strong runs being produced by Keselowski, Gilliland, Byron and Reddick, with the latter two retiring in the garage.
With 84 laps remaining, the race restarted under green. At the start, Erik Jones received drafting help from Cindric on the outside lane to emerge out in front while Chastain fought back as the lead competitor on the inside lane. Four laps later, however, Chastain muscled his way into the lead on the inside lane while Elliott, LaJoie and Bell broke away from the pack and settled from second to fourth. Behind, Hamlin and Jones battled for fifth ahead of Cindric, Suarez, Harvick and Haley.
Nearing the final 70 laps of the event, the ninth caution of the event flew when Kyle Busch spun entering Turn 2 while Cody Ware, who was loose in Turn 2, ended up veering into the outside wall in the backstretch. Under caution, names like LaJoie, Suarez, Blaney, Logano and Kurt Busch pitted only for fuel while others like Chastain, Elliott, Hamlin, Bell, Truex, Erik Jones, Cindric, Harvick, Larson, Burton and Haley pitted for two fresh tires. Everyone else pitted for four tires.
With 66 laps remaining, the race proceeded under green as LaJoie made his way into the lead followed by Elliott and Chastain as the field duked and jostled for positions through multiple lanes.
Then with less than 60 laps remaining, the battle for the lead ignited between LaJoie and Elliott as both led a group of competitors stacked up through double lanes. Despite LaJoie’s persistence on the outside lane, Elliott managed to carve his way back to the lead as he cleared LaJoie with 55 laps remaining. By then, Truex was back in the race for the win as he battled LaJoie for the runner-up spot.
With 50 laps remaining, Elliott retained the lead ahead of Truex while LaJoie, Kurt Busch and Chastain were in the top five. By then, Blaney, Hamlin, Bell, Erik Jones and Suarez were in the top 10 as the top 18 competitors were separated by less than two seconds.
Ten laps later and with the field settling in a long single-file line, Elliott continued to lead ahead of Truex, LaJoie, Chastain and Hamlin while Bell, Blaney, Erik Jones, Haley and Cindric were scored in the top 10.
Another 15 laps later, the caution flew when Bell, who was running in sixth place, slipped sideways as he spun below the apron and through the frontstretch grass before he straightened his car through pit road. During the caution period, the situation went from bad to worse for Bell, whose left-rear tire came off as he was exiting his pit stall. Along with Bell, names like Wallace, Harvick, Gilliland, Kurt Busch, Almirola and Briscoe pitted under caution while the rest led by Elliott remained on the track.
Down to the final 19 laps of the event, the race restarted under green. At the start, Elliott and Truex dueled for the lead until Truex received a strong push from Chastain on the inside lane to take the lead. With Truex clearing the field, Elliott and Chastain battled for the runner-up spot before Chastain attempted to make his move for the lead on the inside lane.
Three laps later, Elliott made his move to the inside of Truex through Turns 1 and 2 in a bid for the lead before Truex fought back on the outside lane as LaJoie made his way into the runner-up spot while Elliott fell back to third.
Then with 14 laps remaining, the caution flew when contact from Chastain sent Hamlin, who was running in fourth, spinning in Turn 4 as Keselowski also spun through the frontstretch grass to avoid hitting Hamlin.
Down to the final eight laps of the event, the race proceeded under green as Truex and LaJoie occupied the front row. At the start, Truex received drafting help from Elliott on the outside lane while LaJoie bolted his way into the lead on the inside lane with drafting help from Chastain. Just as the field led by LaJoie was approaching Turns 3 and 4, the caution quickly returned when Bell made contact with teammate Hamlin and Logano as all three collided and wrecked across the backstretch.
With the event set for a three-lap dash to the finish, the field restarted under green. At the start, LaJoie and Truex briefly dueled until LaJoie managed to pull ahead through the backstretch. Behind, Elliott, who restarted fourth, made a bold between Chastain and Truex as he launched his final bid for the lead and win. Then through the frontstretch, Elliott rocketed to the outside of LaJoie and he assumed the lead while Erik Jones and LaJoie battled for the runner-up spot in front of Chastain and Blaney.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Elliott was still leading ahead of LaJoie and Erik Jones. Then in Turn 1, LaJoie tried to make a move to the outside of Elliott, but Elliott fended off LaJoie’s charge as LaJoie, who got into the rear of Elliott, got loose and scraped the wall. After trying to keep his car straight, LaJoie veered sideways and barely clipped Blaney before he turned back across the outside wall and wrecked along with Kurt Busch and Cole Custer. The wreck was enough to conclude the event under caution as Elliott emerged out in front of Chastain and made his way back to the frontstretch for his first checkered flag at his home track.
In addition to claiming his first victory at his home track, Elliott became the first three-time winner of this year’s NASCAR Cup Series season as he recorded his 15th career win in his 240th series start. The Atlanta victory was the 16th for Hendrick Motorsports as Elliott joined a long list of icons, including his father Bill, to win a Cup race at Atlanta, Georgia.
“This one’s up there, for sure,” Elliott said on USA Network. “To win at your home track is a really big deal, I think, to any race car driver. I’ve watched a lot of guys do it over the years. Jimmie [Johnson] out in California. We haven’t really had a very good run here, so I felt like today was a great opportunity for us. Just so proud. This is home for me, home to a lot of great fans who made a lot of noise out today, home to NAPA. Couldn’t be more proud of the team. What a car. I’m not sure we’ve ever had a speedway car that good. If we had, I probably wrecked it at Daytona. What a few weeks it’s been. I felt like I gave one away last week [at Road America]. To come back and put on a performance like that, I’m really proud of that. Excited to get home. It’s gonna be a big one tonight. I’m looking forward to it.”
While Elliott was left beaming and saluting the crowd on the frontstretch, LaJoie, who was in position to achieve his first Cup victory, was left heartbroken on pit road as he concluded the event in 21st place and with a wrecked race car.
“[That was the] Closest I’ve ever been, for sure,” LaJoie said. “That was fun. I’m proud of my guys, Spire [Motorsports], RAZE Energy, Built Bar, Schluter, everybody that’s helped us out. It was nice to have [the car] out in the wind for once. I made my move, didn’t work out. [Elliott] made a good block and the siren’s ringing in Dawsonville. Unfortunately, I wished that granny in the front row over there wouldn’t have been clapping so much. I wished that No. 7 car was going to Victory Lane. We keep running like this, more consistently, that time will come…I was having some fun. I know that. Hopefully, we can have that No. 7 car up front more often.”
Chastain settled in second place after finishing in second at Atlanta earlier in March while Cindric came home in third place. Erik Jones earned his second top-five result of the season by finishing fourth while Blaney finished fifth.
“I hated I took the best car here and I tore it a couple of times,” Chastain said. “It’s incredible. Hats off to Chevrolet and Trackhouse [Racing] for bringing this fast of a Jockey Chevrolet. To be able to come back, our road crew and pit crew did an awesome job. To rebound through all the damage repairs. We had a shot and I got inside of [Elliott] coming off of [Turn] 2, coming to the checkered, and the caution came out…Almost gave it to us.”
Suarez, Haley, Almirola, Custer and Harrison Burton completed the top 10 on the track.
There were 27 lead changes for 12 different leaders. The race featured 13 cautions for 64 laps.
With seven regular-season races remaining this season, Chase Elliott leads the regular-season standings by 47 points over Ryan Blaney and 50 over Ross Chastain.
Chase Elliott, Ross Chastain, William Byron, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Tyler Reddick, Daniel Suarez, Kurt Busch, Chase Briscoe, Kyle Busch, Alex Bowman and rookie Austin Cindric are currently guaranteed spots for the 2022 Cup Series Playoffs based on winning once throughout the regular-season stretch while Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr. and Christopher Bell are above the top-16 cutline based on points. Kevin Harvick trails the top-16 cutline by 19 points, Aric Almirola trails by 42, Erik Jones, trails by 76, Austin Dillon trails by 116, Michael McDowell trails by 117, Justin Haley trails by 149, Chris Buescher trails by 163, Bubba Wallace trails by 178, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. trails by 190 and Cole Custer trails by 200.
1. Chase Elliott, 96 laps led, Stage 1 & 2 winner
2. Ross Chastain, 32 laps led
3. Austin Cindric, seven laps led
4. Erik Jones, 10 laps led
5. Ryan Blaney, two laps led
6. Daniel Suarez
7. Justin Haley
8. Aric Almirola
9. Cole Custer
10. Harrison Burton, nine laps led
11. Martin Truex Jr., 27 laps led
12. Kevin Harvick
13. Kyle Larson
14. Bubba Wallace
15. Michael McDowell
16. Chase Briscoe
17. Todd Gilliland
18. Brad Keselowski
19. Christopher Bell
20. Kyle Busch
21. Corey LaJoie, 19 laps led
22. Kurt Busch, one lap down
23. Cody Ware, one lap down
24. Landon Cassill, one lap down
25. Denny Hamlin, one lap down, two laps led
26. Joey Logano – OUT, Dvp
27. Garrett Smithley, eight laps down
28. Ty Dillon – OUT, Dvp
29. Tyler Reddick – OUT, Accident, 13 laps led
30. William Byron – OUT, Accident, 41 laps led
31. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – OUT, Engine, two laps led
32. Alex Bowman – OUT, Dvp
33. Chris Buescher – OUT, Accident
34. Noah Gragson – OUT, Suspension
35. Austin Dillon – OUT, Accident
36. BJ McLeod – OUT, Accident
Next on the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the series’ lone annual visit of the season to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. The event is scheduled to occur on Sunday, July 17, at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network.