NASCAR Nationwide: Elliott vaults into points lead with win in Joliet
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org July 19, 2014 10:36PM
Chase Elliott (9) drives past Ty Dillon (3) and Erik Jones (20) during the NASCAR Nationwide series auto race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Saturday, July 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Updated: July 19, 2014 11:09PM
Chase Elliott didn’t have a particularly good Friday at Chicagoland Speedway during practice sessions for Saturday’s Nationwide series EnjoyIllinois.com 300.
“Our car had speed at times, we just weren’t as good the whole time as I wanted to be,” he said.
The 18-year-old has a pretty slick crew chief in Greg Ives.
“We made some really good adjustments overnight,” Elliott said. “I can’t thank Greg and everybody enough.”
He pretty much did show his appreciation during the race, which he led for 85 laps en route to capturing his third win of the season and vaulting past both Regan Smith and Elliott Sadler into the Nationwide series points lead.
Pole-sitter Brian Scott led from laps 1 through 21 before Elliott took over and dominated for the next 40. Elliott was eight seconds ahead of the field when Richard Harriman sideswiped the wall and brought out a yellow flag.
Elliott wasn’t the same on the restart, falling back to third as Ryan Blaney shot into the lead and brought Scott with him. Just past the halfway point, Blaney would be engaged in a wild side-by-side battle with Kyle Larson, the duo swapping the top spot twice during one lap.
Elliott got himself back in contention after a lap 127 restart. He stalked Larson for several laps before getting a run on the bottom on lap 142 as Larson bobbled badly up toward the wall. Before Larson was able to bring his car back under control, Elliott had nearly a second lead.
Larson, however, wasn’t done. He reeled in Elliott and on lap 158 reclaimed the top spot. During the final pit stop sequences Trevor Bayne led for several laps, but at the end of the cycle Elliott was back in front, leading Bayne by more than four seconds and Larson by more than seven.
Over the final 20 laps Bayne was able to slowly close the gap, only to run out of time. At the finish the margin was 1.773 seconds. Larson held on for third ahead of Kasey Kahne, Ty Dillon, Scott, Erik Jones, Chris Buescher, Blaney and Sadler.
Scott, meanwhile, earned $100,000 in leg two of the Nationwide Series “Dash 4 Cash” competition as the highest finisher among a foursome of qualifiers that included Buescher, Sadler and Smith.
Earlier, Mason Mitchell won for the first time in 35 ARCA starts in the Ansell ActivAmr 150, passing Justin Boston on lap 95 of the 100-lap event.
Before Saturday, he had six career second-place finishes.
“We’ve been putting a lot of pressure on (ourselves) to get this first win,” Mitchell said. “Finally, it came through.”
It was a process, to be sure, as Mitchell struggled in practice on Friday and qualified ninth fastest. He wasn’t a major factor until the second half of the race when he changed his racing line.
“I couldn’t make it work on the bottom all day so I had to do something different,” Mitchell said. “I just kept moving up, moving up and started getting more grip up there. The last half of the race was when I noticed the farther I kept going up the more speed I was gaining.”
With about 10 laps remaining Mitchell caught Boston. A side-by-side battle raged for a few laps, but Mitchell eventually eventually prevailed by 0.795 seconds.
Spencer Gallagher led the most laps, from 3 through 72, before surrendering to Boston and falling back several spots. Pole-sitter John Wes Townley blew a tire and smacked the wall on lap 23.
The rest of the top 10 behind Mitchell and Boston were Matt Tifft,, Will Kimmel, Cody Coughlin, Gallagher, Grant Enfinger, Justin Allison, Tom Hessert and Frank Kimmel.