Chase Elliott snapped a four-race streak of non-Playoff competitors winning throughout the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs by becoming the first Playoff competitor to win in the Playoffs after claiming a dramatic final lap victory in the YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, October 2.
The 2020 Cup Series champion from Dawsonville, Georgia, led four times for 10 of 188-scheduled laps as he survived a late duel against Playoff rival Ryan Blaney during a two-lap shootout to the finish, including a pass on Blaney for the lead and win entering the final frontstretch, to grab his fifth victory of the 2022 season and his second at Talladega. By becoming the first Playoff competitor to win in the 2022 Playoffs, Elliott, whose average-finishing result through the first four Playoff events was 20.3, earned a one-way ticket to the Round of 8, where he will continue his quest to achieve his second championship in NASCAR’s premier series.
With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Saturday, Playoff contender Christopher Bell secured his fourth pole position of the 2022 season after posting a pole-winning lap at 180.591 mph in 53.026 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Playoff contender Kyle Larson, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 180.516 mph in 53.048 seconds.
Prior to the event, Ty Gibbs dropped to the rear of the field due to an oil leak to his car along with teammate Bubba Wallace, who changed engines for the main event. Tyler Reddick, the winner of last weekend’s Cup event at Texas Motor Speedway, also started at the rear of the field due to having a splitter changed to his car along with BJ McLeod, who received unapproved adjustments to his car.
When the green flag waved and the race started, Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson dueled early for the lead until Larson received a push from Aric Almirola to clear the field entering the backstretch. Through the backstretch, however, Larson transitioned from the outside to the inside lane. This allowed Almirola to gain momentum as he moved into the lead. By the time the field returned to the frontstretch and the start/finish line, Almirola led the first lap by a hair over Ross Chastain as the field behind jumbled up in two tight-packed lanes.
Two laps later, a side-by-side action for the lead occurred between Chastain and Almirola, with Almirola moving to the bottom lane and being pushed by Larson while Chastain had Erik Jones pushing him on the outside lane.
Through the first five scheduled laps, Chastain and Almirola continued to duke for the lead while Erik Jones, Larson, Daniel Suarez, Christopher Bell, Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick were scored in the top 10. Chase Briscoe was in 11th while Kyle Busch, Noah Gragson, Cole Custer, William Byron, Ty Dillon, Joey Logano, Corey LaJoie, Tyler Reddick and Justin Haley were in the top 20.
Three laps later, the first caution of the event flew due to debris being reported on the track when a side mirror fell out of Ty Dillon’s car. By then, Chastain was scored as the leader ahead of Almirola, Erik Jones, Larson and Suarez. In addition, six of 11 Playoff contenders in the field were scored in the top 10. The rest that included Briscoe, Byron, Logano, Austin Cindric and Ryan Blaney, who dealt with radio issues and was delayed rolling his car off the grid with the field, were mired within the top 30. Meanwhile, Noah Gragson, who was substituting for Playoff contender Alex Bowman in the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 due to Bowman recovering from concussion-like symptoms, was in 13th.
During the caution period, some led by Larson pitted while the rest led by Chastain remained on the track. Following the pit stops, Cindric was penalized for speeding on pit road.
When the race restarted under green on Lap 11, Chastain quickly bolted his No. 1 Jockey Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 into the lead as he had both drafting lanes to his control. Meanwhile, teammates Suarez challenged Erik Jones for the runner-up spot with drafting help from Bell as the field again jumbled into two tight-packed lanes.
Another three laps later, Erik Jones emerged as the third different leader of the day as he was leading from the bottom lane. Shortly after, he moved up to the outside lane in front of Chastain, which allowed Almirola to launch a challenge on the inside lane with drafting help from Chase Elliott.
On Lap 24 and with the field fanning out to three lanes, the caution flew when a bump from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got rookie Harrison Burton loose entering Turn 1 as Burton spun and ignited a multi-car wreck that included Gragson, Justin Haley, Ty Gibbs and Justin Allgaier. Also involved were Playoff contenders Cindric and Logano, both of whom managed to continue after sustaining little damage to their respective Team Penske Ford Mustangs.
During the caution period, nearly the entire field led by Chastain pitted while names like Corey LaJoie, McLeod, Martin Truex Jr. and Cody Ware remained on the track. Following the pit stops, Kyle Busch exited with the lead followed by Suarez, Blaney, Elliott, Briscoe and Almirola. LaJoie, McLeod, Truex and Ware would eventually pit prior to the restart, thus giving the lead to Kyle Busch.
When the race proceeded under green on Lap 29, Suarez challenged Kyle Busch for the lead on the outside lane for nearly a full lap until he succeeded through the frontstretch with drafting help from Elliott. During the following lap, however, Elliott moved in front of Kyle Busch’s No. 18 M&M Toyota TRD Camry on the inside lane to overtake Suarez’s No. 99 Tootsie’s Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the lead. Busch and Blaney soon followed after while Suarez fell back to fourth, though he had drafting help from Almirola.
At the Lap 35 mark, Almirola and Suarez duked for the lead while Denny Hamlin, Elliott, Byron, Kyle Busch, Cole Custer, Blaney, Erik Jones and Briscoe were in the top 10. Behind, rookie Todd Gilliland was in 11th ahead of Chastain, Logano, Reddick, Bubba Wallace, Larson, Cindric, Harvick, Bell and Daniel Hemric were running in the top 20. By then, all 11 Playoff contenders were running in the top 20 while Gragson was back in 21st place.
Another five laps later, Almirola and Hamlin battled dead even for the lead and in front of the pack, with Almirola receiving drafting help from Suarez on the inside lane while Hamlin had Byron drafting him on the outside lane. By then, 34 of 37 starters were scored on the lead lap, with 26 separated by nearly two seconds.
On Lap 45, the caution returned when LaJoie cut a right-front tire as he slapped the outside wall in between Turns 1 and 2 before drawing and parking his wrecked car below the apron and near the inside wall in the backstretch as his race came to an early end. During the caution period, some led by Erik Jones pitted while the rest led by Hamlin remained on the track.
During the following restart on Lap 49, Hamlin gained a strong start on the outside lane before moving his No. 11 FedEx Toyota TRD Camry in front of rival Byron’s No. 24 Raptor Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 on the inside lane as the field behind started to pick up speed in the draft. Through the backstretch and when the field returned to the frontstretch to start the 50th lap, Hamlin maintained the lead ahead of Byron and Almirola while Cole Custer launched a charge on the outside lane as he ignited his bid for the lead.
A few laps later, the field scrambled and fanned out to three lanes as Hamlin maintained the lead followed by Byron, Almirola, Custer, Elliott and Suarez. By Lap 55, however, Byron drew himself beneath Hamlin as they battled for the lead through the frontstretch. While Byron pulled ahead through the first two turns, Hamlin gained the momentum on the outside lane to reassume the lead with drafting help from Elliott and Kyle Busch.
When the first stage concluded on Lap 60, Blaney surged his No. 12 Menards Ford Mustang to the front on the outside lane with drafting help from teammate Cindric as he edged Hamlin by 0.009 seconds to claim his seventh stage victory of 2022. Hamlin settled in second while Elliott, Cindric, Logano, Stenhouse, Kyle Busch, Larson, Gragson and Erik Jones were scored in the top 10. By then, six of 11 Playoff contenders earned stage points by finishing in the top 10 while Byron, Suarez, Chastain, Briscoe and Bell were mired back in 11th, 14th, 16th, 19th and 20th, respectively.
Under the stage break, nearly the entire field led by Blaney pitted while names like Truex, Austin Dillon and Justin Allgaier remained on the track. All who remained on the track initially would eventually pit, giving the lead to Larson, who was the first to exit pit road following the pit stops ahead of Erik Jones, Chastain, Blaney, Bell and Harvick. During the pit stops, Landon Cassill was penalized for speeding on pit road.
The second stage started on Lap 65 and at the start, Larson and Erik Jones dueled for the lead as Larson had Chastain drafting him on the inside lane while Jones had Blaney pushing him on the outside lane. With the field jumbled up in two tight-packed lanes, Blaney soon moved into the lead with drafting help from Harvick while Erik Jones, who transitioned to the inside lane in front of Larson, fought back in a battle for the top spot.
On Lap 70 and with Blaney leading the field, Harvick, who was running in second place, got placed in a three-wide situation as he lost a bevy of spots while running in the middle of the pack as Brad Keselowski launched his bid for the lead with drafting help from teammate Chris Buescher. During the following lap, Blaney and Keselowski nearly made contact in Turn 1 as Blaney tried to move up and stall Keselowski’s momentum. This allowed Erik Jones to surge to the front on the inside lane. When the field returned to the frontstretch, Blaney pulled his car out of the lead pack and the draft as he dropped towards the rear of the field while Jones and Almirola duked for the lead.
By Lap 75 and with Almirola leading ahead of teammate Harvick and Erik Jones, the highest-running Playoff contender was Larson in 10th place while Hamlin was the lowest-running Playoff contender in 33rd place.
Ten laps later, Almirola was the leader of a long line of competitors running in a single-file line towards the inside lane followed by Harvick, Gilliland, Larson, Erik Jones, Kyle Busch, Michael McDowell, Chastain, Custer and Elliott while the first side-by-side battle was for 11th place between Reddick and Custer. By then, Larson was the highest-running Playoff competitor in fourth while Hamlin remained as the lowest-running Playoff contender in 31st behind teammate Martin Truex Jr.
At the halfway mark on Lap 94, Almirola was the leader followed by teammate Harvick, Todd Gilliland, Larson and Erik Jones while Kyle Busch, Chastain, McDowell, Custer and Cindric were scored in the top 10. Elliott was in 11th while Gragson, Reddick, Hemric, Stenhouse, Keselowski, Byron, Buescher, Bell and Ty Dillon occupied the top 20. By then, the event featured 15 different competitors having led a lap. In addition, six of 11 Playoff competitors were running in the top 20 as Suarez was in 25th, Blaney was in 27th followed by teammate Logano, Hamlin was still mired back in 30th and Briscoe was back in 31st.
Four laps later, pit stops under green commenced as Ford competitors Logano, Keselowski, Briscoe, Buescher and Blaney peeled off the track and onto pit road for fuel. A lap later and as a bevy of Toyota competitors led by Kyle Busch pitted, Bell locked up the front tires while trying to meet pit road speed as he spun approaching the pit road entrance. Despite avoiding the inside wall, he brought his No. 20 SiriusXM Toyota TRD Camry to his pit stall for fresh tires. The situation for Bell soon went from bad to worse after he was penalized for speeding on pit road.
By the Lap 100 mark, a wave of Chevrolet competitors led by Larson pitted under green while Almirola continued to lead.
On Lap 102, Almirola led teammates Harvick and Custer along with a handful of competitors to pit road for service under green. By the time they returned to the track, Reddick emerged as the new leader and in front of a long line of Chevrolet competitors with Suarez, Larson, Elliott, Chastain and Justin Haley scored in the top six.
At the Lap 110 mark, Reddick, who lapped Bell four laps earlier and was trying to manage both lanes, continued to lead followed by Suarez, Chastain, Buescher, Larson and a wave of competitors bunched up in two tight-packed lanes. By then, a bevy of Chevrolet and Ford competitors were duking it out within the lead pack while the highest-running Toyota competitor was Bubba Wallace in 21st.
When the second stage concluded on Lap 120, Elliott pulled a slingshot move on teammate Larson on the frontstretch to grab his sixth stage victory of the 2022 season. Haley, who drafted Elliott to the front, settled in second followed by Larson, Suarez, Erik Jones, Chastain, Landon Cassill, Buescher, Daniel Hemric and Briscoe. By then, five of 11 Playoff competitors were scored in the top 10 and awarded another round of stage points while Byron, Logano, Blaney, Hamlin, Cindric and Bell were scored in 13th, 16th, 17th, 23rd, 28th and 30th, respectively. In addition, Byron and Bell were the only two Playoff competitors to not achieve stage points of the day. Meanwhile, Reddick, who was in position to claim the second stage victory, fell all the way back to 29th after running out of fuel on the final lap of the stage.
Under the stage break, names like Cassill, Kyle Busch and Truex remained on the track while the rest led by Elliott pitted. Once Cassill, Kyle Busch and Truex pitted, Elliott cycled to the lead followed by Erik Jones, Larson, Buescher, Suarez and Byron.
With 62 laps remaining, the final stage started under green. At the start, Elliott had drafting help from teammate Larson on the inside lane while Erik Jones had drafting help from Buescher on the outside lane. Shortly after, Erik Jones emerged with the lead before Buescher broke away from the pack with the top spot as he was being drafted by Byron with 60 laps remaining. Chastain would then draw himself toward the front in his bid for the lead, which he succeeded during the following lap with drafting help from Blaney and Keselowski.
With 50 laps remaining, Chastain was leading a long line of competitors running on the outside lane while Blaney, Keselowski, Gilliland, Harvick, Kyle Busch, Stenhouse, Bell, Almirola and Cindric were in the top 10. Meanwhile, Hamlin was the first competitor leading a handful of competitors on the inside lane in 12th place.
Ten laps later and with the field bunched up in two tight-packed lanes, Chastain continued to lead ahead of Blaney, Keselowski, Gilliland, Harvick, Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Buescher, Stenhouse and Erik Jones.
With less than 30 laps remaining, the field was divided into two different long waves pitted under green for service and enough fuel to the finish. Following the pit stops, Harvick and Keselowski were forced to serve drive-through penalties for speeding through pit road.
Back on the track with 25 laps remaining, Blaney cycled back to the lead followed by Chastain, Erik Jones and a bevy of competitors running in a tight pack.
Down to the final 20 laps of the event, Blaney continued to lead on the outside lane followed by Chastain while Erik Jones was the lead competitor on the inside lane with drafting help from McDowell and Elliott. By then, 27 competitors were separated by less than two seconds while five Playoff competitors were running in the top 10. The lowest-running Playoff competitor was Logano, who was back in 26th.
With 10 laps remaining, Blaney retained the lead ahead of Chastain and Gilliland while Erik Jones remained as the first competitor on the inside lane with drafting help from McDowell. By then, the top 27 competitors were separated by more than two-and-a-half seconds as the front-runners fanned out to two tight-packed lanes.
A lap later, Erik Jones muscled his No. 43 FocusFactor Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 into the lead followed by McDowell and Elliott while Blaney, who was back in fourth, remained as the first competitor on the outside lane as he tried to mount his way back to the front. Jones would then move up the track to block Blaney as he went to work in keeping both lanes under his control with the lead. Blaney, however, briefly fought back with drafting help from Chastain before Jones moved ahead by a hair.
Then with six laps remaining, the caution flew when Daniel Hemric stalled his No. 16 Celsius Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 on pit road with an engine issue. During the caution period, names like Stenhouse, Buescher, Truex and Keselowski pitted while the rest led by Erik Jones remained on the track.
At the start of a two-lap shootout to the finish, Blaney and Erik Jones duked for the lead entering the first turn until Blaney pulled ahead on the inside lane followed by McDowell. Elliott then launched his bid for the lead from the bottom to the outside lane as he was being pushed by Erik Jones through the backstretch. The inside lane, however, gained a brief advantage as Blaney cleared the field, but Elliott remained within close distance.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Blaney was still leading by a fender over Elliott, who drew himself alongside Blaney’s No. 12 Ford entering the first turn. With a bevy of competitors running in two tight-packed lanes through the backstretch, Elliott and Blaney continued to run dead even until Blaney again emerged ahead through Turns 3 and 4. Then, Elliott received another push of Jones to move his No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in front of the field entering the frontstretch. As the field fanned out to multiple lanes approaching the start/finish line, Elliott was able to have both all lanes to his control as he blocked and beat Blaney by 0.046 seconds to win in front of a roaring crowd that erupted with cheers.
In addition to becoming the first Playoff competitor to win and transfer to the Round of 8, Elliott achieved his 18th career victory in NASCAR’s premier series and his first at Talladega since April 2019. He also recorded the 290th Cup career victory for Hendrick Motorsports and the 18th of the 2022 season for Chevrolet.
“First, how about these fans, man?” Elliott said on NBC. “That’s unreal. Moments like that, you have to really cherish. [The fans] are what makes this special to me, so thank you sincerely. I really appreciate it. It was a wild last couple of laps. I wasn’t super crazy about being on the bottom [lane] and fortunately, got just clear enough off of [Turn] 2 to slide up in front of Erik [Jones]. He gave me some great shoves, obviously, a Team Chevy partner there. Just had a good enough run to get out front and then, was able to stay far enough in front of Ryan [Blaney] here at the line to get it done. These things are so hard to win. You got to enjoy them. Just appreciate everybody’s effort today. [Owner Rick Hendrick] is here, so excited to celebrate with him. Get ready to go to the [Charlotte] Roval and try to grab another [win], but thank you guys so much for coming out. Great crowd, great show.”
“[The win] gets you through to the next [round],” Elliott added. “That’s all you can ask for is just to have more opportunities and that’s really what this is about. We got six more Playoff points to go with that win today, so that’s a big deal. We’re excited for these final handful of events and hopefully, we can make it out to Phoenix [Raceway in November] and give’em a run.”
Meanwhile, Blaney, who was a lap shy of recording his first elusive victory of the 2022 season, settled in second place for his 10th top-five result of the season. He, however, leaves Talladega with a 32-point advantage above the top-eight cutline in the Playoff standings with the next round of eliminations looming.
“Yeah, I thought about [throwing a block],” Blaney said. “I thought about it, but when you go to the middle [lane] and you don’t have a Ford or teammate behind you, your chances of getting split are just so high. As much as I trust Chase, I don’t trust him not to take me three wide and leave me in the middle. I chose to stay down in front of Michael [McDowell] and he was awesome at pushing me the last restart and just giving me great shots. Just a little bit too late. Maybe I could’ve faked the top, go to the bottom there on the frontstretch. I don’t know if I would’ve got there anyway, but overall, not a bad day. I’m probably gonna replay in my head like five different things I could’ve done different, but overall, not a bad day. Go on to next week.”
McDowell came home in third place for his second top-five result of the season while Playoff competitors Chastain and Hamlin finished in the top five.
“You always wish you get a redo,” McDowell said. “Unfortunately, in motorsports, you don’t get that. It’s good to be challenging for wins, but when you come up short, it’s disappointing, for sure. [I] Felt like [Blaney] and I were hooked up good and had a good run. When [Hamlin] drug back off of me, that was probably my opportunity I needed to drag back off [Blaney] a little bit sooner. Just lost a little bit of that momentum and the energy just took a little too long to rebuild. It’s good to be close. It’s been a great season. We’re really proud of the season we’re having, but man, you come up a car length short of Victory Lane. It’s tough, for sure.”
“We made a lot of moves and a lot of moves got made on us,” Chastain, who is 28 points above the top-eight cutline in the Playoff standings, said. “Every point earned is just better. It’s never-ending. You just want more. Twenty-eight [points] to ninth [in the standings] is really good. Really good points earned today for Daniel [Suarez] and myself. For this Trackhouse [Racing] group to keep executing throughout these Playoffs. We’re figuring this out as we go. I’m experiencing this. I’m loving every moment of it as I get to do this.”
“We executed a pretty good day,” Hamlin, who is 21 points above the cutline, added. “Our goal going into today was five stage points. If we got more than five in the first stage, we were gonna punt in Stage 2 and then, go try to get a good finish, and that’s what we did. Overall, a good day. Would I like to have more [points]? Yes. Obviously, we executed the day we wanted to and better than what we started the day. We’ll take it.”
Erik Jones, Todd Gilliland, Suarez, Cindric and Briscoe completed the top 10 on the track. With seven Playoff competitors finishing in the top 10, the rest that included Byron, Bell, Larson and Logano finished 12th, 17th, 18th and 27th, respectively. In addition, Gragson finished 19th while substituting for Alex Bowman.
There were 57 lead changes for 17 different leaders. The race featured six cautions for 25 laps. In total, 33 of 37 starters finished the event with 27 finishing on the lead lap.
1. Chase Elliott, 10 laps led, Stage 2 winner
2. Ryan Blaney, 31 laps led, Stage 1 winner
3. Michael McDowell
4. Ross Chastain, 36 laps led
5. Denny Hamlin, 20 laps led
6. Erik Jones, 23 laps led
7. Todd Gilliland, one lap led
8. Daniel Suarez, two laps led
9. Austin Cindric
10. Chase Briscoe
11. Landon Cassill, one lap led
12. William Byron, one lap led
13. Austin Dillon
14. Aric Almirola, 36 laps led
15. Justin Haley
16. Bubba Wallace
17. Christopher Bell
18. Kyle Larson, eight laps led
19. Noah Gragson
20. Kyle Busch, three laps led
21. Cole Custer, two laps led
22. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
23. Ty Dillon
24. Brad Keselowski
25. Chris Buescher, one lap led
26. Martin Truex Jr., one lap led
27. Joey Logano
28. Tyler Reddick, one lap down, 11 laps led
29. Kevin Harvick, one lap down
30. Justin Allgaier, two laps down
31. JJ Yeley, four laps down
32. Cody Ware, four laps down
33. BJ McLeod, six laps down
34. Daniel Hemric – OUT, Electrical
35. Corey LaJoie – OUT, Accident, one lap led
36. Harrison Burton – OUT, Accident
37. Ty Gibbs – OUT, Accident
*Bold indicates Playoff contenders
1. Chase Elliott – Advanced
2. Ryan Blaney +32
3. Ross Chastain +28
4. Denny Hamlin +21
5. Joey Logano +18
6. Kyle Larson +18
7. Daniel Suarez +12
8. Chase Briscoe +0
9. Austin Cindric -0
10. William Byron -11
11. Christopher Bell -33
12. Alex Bowman -54
Next on the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course, which will determine the Playoff’s Round of 8 field. The event is scheduled to occur on Sunday, October 9, at 2 p.m. ET on NBC.