NASCAR Cup Atlanta: Elliott claims win after chaotic last lap
Chase Elliott passed Corey LaJoie with one lap to go and won Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta when LaJoie crashed while trying to reclaim the lead.
Spire Motorsports Chevrolet driver LaJoie led the way on a restart with three of 260 laps remaining at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but Hendrick Motorsports' Elliott was able to get around him with one to go.
LaJoie wasn't giving up on a potential first win in the Cup Series however, and at the start of the final lap got a big run on Elliott's Chevrolet. He tried a pass on the outside, but the 2020 Cup champion blocked his advance and left LaJoie with no room.
He got sideways and touched the wall, before spinning down into the chasing pack and being collected -forcing NASCAR to throw a caution that secured Elliott’s third win of the season - the Dawsonville driver's second in the last three races.
“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,” Elliott said.
“I’m not sure we’ve ever had a speedway car that good - if we have, I’ve probably wrecked it down at Daytona!
“What a few weeks it’s been. I feel like I gave one away last week (at Road America), and to come back and to put on a performance like that, I’m really proud of that.”
When the field was frozen for the caution, Ross Chastain's Trackhouse Chevrolet was scored second ahead of Austin Cindric's Team Penske Ford, the Petty GMS Chevrolet of Erik Jones and Penske's Ryan Blaney in fifth.
Completing the top-10 were Daniel Suarez (Trackhouse), Justin Haley's Kaulig Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Ford team-mates Aric Almirola and Cole Custer, and Harrison Burton's Wood Brothers Ford.
Polesitter Elliott had got the day off to a good start by edging his team-mate Alex Bowman to the Stage 1 win ahead of Chastain, who had swapped the lead with Elliott in the early laps.
LaJoie headed the field to the final restart, but couldn't see off Elliott and crashed trying to take the lead back
Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images
Elliott also claimed the Stage 2 win after Bowman crashed with a flat tyre with one lap remaining. Tyler Reddick was second at this point in the Richard Childress Chevrolet, having moved to the front at the start of the Stage by only taking two tyres in the pits.
But Reddick was eliminated early in the third Stage in a multi-car accident on lap 170 when Ty Dillon plowed into the back of a loose Garrett Smithley, with William Byron, Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace and Michael McDowell all involved.
It followed another big crash on lap 91 that had embroiled McDowell, when Martin Truex Jr got loose in Turn 2 and spun in front of Chastain, with Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano collected.
LaJoie hit the front with a fuel-only stop after Kyle Busch and Cody Ware tangled to bring out another caution.
Elliott got around LaJoie for the lead on lap 202, LaJoie reclaimed it on the following tour but Elliott got back around him again on lap 205.
With 30 laps remaining, Elliott maintained his hold on the lead, though dropped behind Truex when he decided to stay out following the 10th caution of the race caused by a spin for Christopher Bell's JGR Toyota.
But another caution soon followed when Chastain turned Denny Hamlin around on lap 246, with Keselowski also collected.
The race returned to green on lap 253 with Truex out front, but a push from Chastain helped LaJoie return to the lead on the restart.
But there was still time for one more caution, as Logano and Hamlin wrecked, giving Elliott his chance to pounce on LaJoie at the final restart with three laps remaining.
NASCAR Cup Atlanta results
|11||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||260||3:22'21.230||3.020|
|22||Kurt Busch||Toyota||259||3:21'44.715||1 Lap|
|23||Cody Ware||Ford||259||3:22'31.043||1 Lap|
|24||Landon Cassill||Chevrolet||259||3:22'38.944||1 Lap|
|25||Denny Hamlin||Toyota||259||3:22'45.434||1 Lap|
|26||Joey Logano||Ford||252||3:13'49.518||8 Laps|
|27||Garrett Smithley||Ford||252||3:22'44.096||8 Laps|
|28||Ty Dillon||Chevrolet||174||2:18'54.815||86 Laps|
|29||Tyler Reddick||Chevrolet||170||2:09'14.348||90 Laps|
|30||William Byron||Chevrolet||170||2:09'29.338||90 Laps|
|31||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Chevrolet||162||2:01'40.071||98 Laps|
|32||Alex Bowman||Chevrolet||160||2:06'10.477||100 Laps|
|33||Chris Buescher||Ford||107||1:23'16.634||153 Laps|
|34||Noah Gragson||Chevrolet||91||1:03'34.188||169 Laps|
|35||Austin Dillon||Chevrolet||90||1:02'39.164||170 Laps|
|36||B.J. McLeod||Ford||77||50'24.542||183 Laps|
|View full results|
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