Chase Elliott wins NASCAR playoff race at Dover
DOVER, Del. — Chase Elliott pulled away to win in overtime Sunday at Dover International Speedway for an automatic berth into the next round of the NASCAR Cup playoffs.
Elliott was the surprise winner in a race that had been dominated by Stewart-Haas Racing drivers until a pair of wrecks over the final laps jumbled the field and set the stage for Elliott. He kept his No. 9 Chevrolet off pit road — and drove into victory lane.
Elliott raced to his first career Cup win this season at Watkins Glen and earned a bit of redemption Sunday from a tough finish in last fall’s Dover race. Elliott was passed by winner Kyle Busch with two laps left in the race and fell to 0 for 70 in his career.
Elliott rubbed his head and leaned against his car, crestfallen as he replayed the final laps in his mind. Jimmie Johnson walked over to offer some encouragement and let Elliott vent.
It was one big celebration on Sunday.
“It definitely makes it sweeter, for sure,” Elliott said. “You don’t appreciate it in those moments.”
Elliott was greeted in victory lane with a hug from team owner Rick Hendrick and retired star Jeff Gordon also was there to congratulate the winning driver. Elliott’s father, Hall of Fame driver Bill Elliott, was not at the race.
“He’s been so close here,” Hendrick said. “It’s really good to see him get this win and move on. He’s like his dad. He really knows when to race. I’m really fortunate to have him in our camp.”
The top eight drivers after the next two races move on to the next round and Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman are the bottom four after the first playoff race in the round of 12.
SHR was in control with Kevin Harvick early and Almirola late. Harvick led 286 laps and was on pace to sweep the Dover races until tire issues derailed his run and he finished sixth. Almirola, who led 64 laps late and had his second career Cup win in sight, was running sixth off a restart when he got loose and connected with Brad Keselowski. That triggered a multi-car wreck that collected championship contenders and brought out the red flag to force overtime.
Denny Hamlin was second, followed by playoff driver Joey Logano. NASCAR playoff drivers took 10 of the top 15 spots.
Here are other items of note from Dover.
Johnson might have had better luck using one of the kids’ bikes he bought as a gag gift for his ride at Dover.
Johnson, who holds the Dover record with 11 wins, was an early hit when he dropped off 12 bikes at Martin Truex Jr’s hauler as an apology of sorts for triggering a wreck last week at Charlotte that denied both drivers a shot at a win.
Truex’s team gave away the bikes to kids who stopped by in the garage.
Johnson gave away the race before it really started. His No. 48 Chevrolet was forced to the garage during the pace laps because of mechanical woes and he finished 36th.
Johnson’s bid for a record eighth NASCAR Cup title ended last week when he was eliminated from the playoffs.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps said the series is set to implement guidelines in the rulebook on sports betting in 2019.
Dover International Speedway opened its on-site betting kiosk this weekend and became the only track that allowed sports gambling on its property. NASCAR does not prohibit its drivers or team members from betting on the race.
“I think for ’19, we’ll have some rules that we’ll put in place,” Phelps said Sunday at Dover. “For right now, there’ll be betting here. They have a kiosk here, you can bet inside. We’ll study and see how that goes, but I think we’ll have some rules in place for sponsorship, for what betting looks like, and continue to see what happens in the landscape overall.”
The series heads to Talladega where Keselowski is the defending race winner. Team Penske drivers Keselowski and Logano have combined to win five of the last seven races at Talladega.