LEBANON, Tenn. – In a race twice delayed by lightning, Chase Elliott stole the thunder from a contingent of Toyota drivers who showed early dominance.
After a late caution slowed the action in Sunday’s Ally 400, Elliott remained on the track and led the field to a restart with four laps left at Nashville Superspeedway.
Elliott pulled away from runner-up Kurt Busch and powered his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet across the finish line by a margin of 0.551 seconds.
In fashioning his second NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season, his first at Nashville and the 15th of his career, Elliott overcame a long pit stop on Lap 120 that dropped him to 25th in the running order.
“I’m so proud of our team,” Elliott said. “We had a setback about halfway, but we were able to get the NAPA Chevy dialed back in and get back in the mix. It was a long day, a fun day… I’m so proud of our team. We’ve had a pretty rough month, month and a half. It’s just nice to get back going in the right direction.
“Getting a win is always huge. To do it in a really cool city like Nashville is even better. I’m looking forward to that guitar (trophy).”
Elliott beat three Toyota drivers — pole winner Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch — who collectively led 250 of the 300 laps at the 1.33-mile concrete track.
It might be more accurate to say the Toyota drivers beat themselves by pitting during the 10th and final caution on Lap 293, the result of a blown engine in Josh Bilicki’s Chevrolet.
While Elliott and Kurt Busch stayed out under caution, along with eight other drivers, Kyle Busch, Truex and Hamlin all came to pit road for tires. Of the three, only Hamlin advanced over the final four laps, finishing sixth behind Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Ross Chastain.
Kyle Busch and Truex ran afoul of heavy traffic on the final lap and came home 21st and 22nd, respectively.
Hamlin, who led a race-high 114 laps, was out front for the first 41 circuits before lightning halted the action for one hour and 28 seconds. After the resumption and two more cautions, Truex passed Hamlin for the lead on Lap 66 and help through the end of Stage 1.
Truex, who led six times for 82 laps, also won the second stage, but Elliott’s car came to life in the final third of the race. Elliott had a one-second lead over Kyle Busch, with Hamlin and Truex trailing in third and fourth place, when Bilicki’s engine failure caused the final caution with nine laps remaining.
Kurt Busch’s only regret about his runner-up finish was not being more aggressive on the final restart.
“I wanted to throw some fenders, but I didn’t get the job done,” the No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota driver said. “Everybody will be smiling, but I let them down. I should have come up with a better plan.
“We were going to stay out no matter what, and I needed to start throwing fenders to move people around. I didn’t get after it, and I made too many mistakes and didn’t stick with our strength. I’m not going to say what our strength was, but we did a lot of things good.
“We didn’t have one exceptional item. We’re second with our Toyota Camry. I want to do it over, but you don’t get those at this elite level and Chase got the job done.”
The second lightning delay, which also brought rain and necessitated track drying, lasted two hours, eight minutes and 35 seconds. It occurred on Lap 139, just 11 laps short of halfway.
Austin Cindric, Christopher Bell, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick ran sixth through 10th, respectively. Elliott leads the series standings by 30 points over Chastain.
At Lap 50, shortly after the first delay, Alex Bowman’s day came to a premature end. Contact from Corey LaJoie sent his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet spinning into the Turn 2 SAFER barrier. Bowman was able to drive away from the scene, but a flat-spotted right-front tire tore away critical body panels. The team couldn’t repair the car before the damaged vehicle policy’s six-minute clock expired, adding to the list of disappointing summer results for Bowman.
Chase Briscoe found trouble at Lap 61 when his No. 14 Ford slid sideways entering Turn 1 while battling with Ty Dillon. Both cars spun into the outside retaining wall but were able to continue.
This marks the second Cup race at Nashville, a 1.33-mile concrete oval in Lebanon, Tennessee. Hendrick Motorsports has won each event at Nashville, with Kyle Larson claiming the inaugural victory in 2021.
Contributing: Staff reports