September 30, 2022

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Savvy Car Technicians

Home cooking: Elliott captures win at Atlanta


HAMPTON, Ga. – Chase Elliott had yet to win at his home track of Atlanta Motor Speedway. On Sunday, that changed when he scored the victory at the 1.54-mile track. 

Elliott led a race-high 96 laps in a win that thrilled the Georgia crowd. The driver of the No. 9 got the lead for the final time with two laps to go when he stayed on the outside to pass Corey LaJoie for the top spot. The two would battle coming to the white flag. A block by Elliott saw LaJoie make contact with the wall and touch off a wreck to end the race.

“Obviously I knew he was going to have a big run,” Elliott said of LaJoie’s last-lap move. “I didn’t really want to give him the bottom, and I tried to give it one real good aggressive block. I felt like I had enough room to kind of give it a second one, and he was just right there on the right side of my back bumper. So was far enough to the backside of the bumper to launch me forward. I hate I tore up some cars, but I don’t know what you do. Either go for the win or don’t. I’m going to choose option A every day of the week.”

The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion swept the stages en route to picking up his third win of the season, which makes him the first to get to three victories this year. For the 26-year-old driver, it is his 16th Cup Series win. 

The Dawsonville, Georgia, native’s hometown celebrated his win by sounding the si-reen as is their tradition. He is the second Peach State driver to win at Atlanta, joining his father Bill Elliott as the only Georgia-born drivers to win at the venue.

“This one is up there for sure,” Elliott said. “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; Jimmie (Johnson) out in California. We haven’t really had a very good run here, so I felt like today was a great opportunity for us.

“This is obviously home for me. Home to a lot of great fans who made a lot of noise today. Home for NAPA right down the road in Atlanta. Couldn’t be more proud of our team. What a car. I’m not sure we’ve ever had a speedway car that good.

“I feel like I gave one away last week, and to come back and to put on a performance like that, I’m really proud of that.”

Kyle Larson battled back from some early issues and getting caught up in a stage two wreck to finish 13th on the day. 

Early in the final stage, William Byron got caught up in a nine-car incident off of turn three. The spring Atlanta winner’s day would come to an end. The driver of the No. 24 would finish 30th. Prior to that, Byron had led 41 laps on the day.

“Our No. 24 Axalta Chevy was good out front,” Byron said. “We could hang around the top-five. We struggled a little bit there on the pit stop sequence. … Thinking that in the final stage some guys would stay out, we just seemed to net out further back than we thought we would. We ended up like 18th or 19th and had to restart there, and that’s where the wreck happened.”

Alex Bowman would spend the bulk of the first two stages in the top 10 but a cut tire at the end of stage two and the resulting damage from that saw his day come to an end. Bowman’s 32nd-place finish would end his status as the only driver to finish each 1.5-mile race this season in the top 10. 

“We had a phenomenal race car,” Bowman said. “Really proud of Greg (Ives, crew chief) and the No. 48 team. We struggled pretty bad back here in March and our Chevy was really, really good today. The No. 48 Ally Milestone Chevy was getting up through the field pretty good there. Bummer that it ended like that.”

Elliott’s win is the 16th for Hendrick Motorsports at Atlanta and he is the eighth driver to win here for the organization. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson each won at this track five times. Byron, Kasey Kahne, Jerry Nadeau, Ken Schrader and Darrell Waltrip all have won once at this track for the company.

Elliott leaves Atlanta having extended his point lead to 47 markers over Ryan Blaney.  

Next up for Hendrick Motorsports is the “Magic Mile” of New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 17. The race will be at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network and radio coverage on PRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. 

Chase Elliott, No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Where he finished: First

Race notes

Stage one: Elliott led the field to the green flag from the top spot but would lose the lead to Ross Chastain on the opening lap. The driver of the No. 9 would slip to fifth as the front portion of the field went two by two early on. Elliott reported that he was “sideways” in the early going. The 2020 champion got a big run down to the bottom and was able to get the lead from Ryan Blaney right before the competition yellow. Crew chief Alan Gustafson elected to keep Elliott out in the lead for the lap 31 restart. He would work both lanes to maintain the lead with Blaney and teammate Alex Bowman behind him. Elliott would lead 26 laps in a row before Blaney got the lead on lap 51. He would then make a late move down to the inside to get the lead back on lap 52. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native would lead the remainder of the stage for his fourth stage win of 2022. 

Stage two: During the stage break, Elliott would pit from the lead for four tires, fuel and adjustment. He had to stay slightly longer on pit road to get it full of fuel since the No. 9 had not pitted during stage one. The driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet would restart fourth on lap 67 and settle into that spot before the lap 79 caution saw him scored fifth. Elliott would stay out under yellow to restart fifth on lap 84 and was back into the top three just two laps later. He would give Martin Truex Jr. a push to the lead to get the two of them ahead before moving to the bottom lane to retake the lead on lap 87. He would be the leader when the lap 92 caution fell. Elliott would pit under yellow for two tires and would be the fourth car off pit road. With three cars staying out, he would restart seventh on lap 99. By the time the lap 108 caution came out, the two-time winner in 2022 was scored in ninth and would stay out. He would make a big move to jump into the top six by riding the inside lane. After falling back to 10th, he would drop to the inside to pass Bowman for ninth and Erik Jones for eighth. He would pull up into the top lane and then drop back inside to pick off two more spots on rookies Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland to get to sixth at the time of the sixth caution on lap 138. Elliott and Gustafson elected to stay out to restart sixth on lap 143 and would ride the outside lane into the top five. With seven to go in the stage, Elliott dove to the inside of Blaney to wrestle the lead away. He would lead the rest of the way to pick up his second stage win of the day and fifth of the season. 

Final stage: Under the stage break, Elliott would pit from the lead for four tires and fuel. A number of cars didn’t take tires on their stops so that put the stage one and two winner ninth for the lap 166 restart. When the lap 171 caution came out for a nine-car wreck, Elliott was running sixth. On the lap 177 restart, Elliott would restart third and line up on the inside behind Chastain. He and Chastain would break away from the rest of the lead pack a little and he would run second behind the No. 1 car. When the ninth caution of the race came out on lap 190, the home state hero was running second. Under yellow, Elliott would pit for two right-side tires and fuel to restart third. He would choose to restart as the first car on the inside line and alongside Corey LaJoie on lap 195. Elliott would come up to the outside in between LaJoie and Chastain for second. Elliott would move to the bottom on lap 202 to take the lead away from LaJoie. He would go back and forth with LaJoie for the lead over the next several laps. As soon as he got back to the point position, he went to the top, but he would work both lanes to maintain the lead. The field then went single file with Elliott leading the way and Truex Jr. behind him in second. When Christopher Bell spun for the 10th caution on lap 237, Elliott was scored in the lead. Under yellow, Gustafson kept Elliott out to hold the lead. Ahead of the lap 242 restart, the driver of the No. 9 elected to take the outside lane with Truex Jr. on the inside. Truex Jr. would get the lead off the restart and moved up in front of Elliott after taking the lead. The No. 9 made an aggressive move to the bottom but couldn’t clear Truex for the lead. When the 11th caution came out on lap 247 for a Denny Hamlin spin, Elliott was scored in the third. Elliott chose to line up as the second car on the outside behind Truex Jr. for the lap 253 restart. The driver of the No. 9 stayed on the outside lane and would be scored in third when the 12th caution came out on lap 254. Again, Elliott chose the outside lane and lined up in second row behind Truex for the lap 258 restart. The 26-year-old pushed through the middle to grab second place. He stayed on the outside to grab the lead with two to go and then he maneuvered both lanes to keep LaJoie and Erik Jones at bay. LaJoie would wreck on the final lap after Elliott blocked his move and had taken the white flag. Elliott got the win for his third victory of the season and the first at his home track.

Kyle Larson, No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Where he finished: 13th

Race notes

Stage one: Larson took the green flag from third but got really loose on the backstretch and dropped back nine spots to 12th on lap two. Continued issues had Larson outside the top 20 by lap 12 as he reported that the “front end has a mind of its own.” The team told him that were working on a plan to make adjustments for the lap 25 competition caution. At the competition yellow, Larson was scored in 23rd. He came down pit road for a lengthy stop that saw the No. 5 pit crew pop the hood of the car. After that work on pit road, Larson restarted 33rd on lap 31. Following chassis changes and more on pit road, Larson reported “I’m pretty good now.” He was up 10 spots in the first eight laps since the restart and by lap 47, he was in the top 15 and making moves to get further up in the field. On lap 55, Larson found his way into the top 10 for the first time since the initial start. The reigning champion would finish the stage in ninth to pick up two stage points. 

Stage two: Larson pitted from the ninth position for four tires and a rear air pressure adjustment. He would restart eighth on lap 67 but drop out of the top 10 shortly after the restart. When the lap 79 caution fell, the Elk Grove, California, native was running 10th. Larson would stay out under that caution and restart ninth on lap 84. Unfortunately, Larson would get collected in an incident in turn two involving Martin Truex Jr., Ross Chastain, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Austin Dillon and others. He would pit multiple times for repairs and restart one lap down in 32nd on lap 99. The fifth caution of the race on lap 108 saw Larson earn the free pass to get back on the lead lap. The winner of this year’s Auto Club Speedway race would pit under yellow for four tires and adjustments before restarting 28th on lap 113. When the sixth caution came out, he was running 26th. Under yellow, Larson would pit for four tires and fuel to restart 28th on lap 143. He would finish the stage in 22nd. 

Final stage: Larson would pit during the stage break for four tires and fuel and restart 16th on lap 166. The 2021 champion was involved in a nine-car incident on lap 171 but he was able to drive by after a bump to Ty Dillon. He would come down pit road for the crew to check the right side and pit for fuel from the 15th position. Larson would restart 17th on lap 177 and still be running there when the ninth caution came out on lap 190. He would pit under yellow for right-side tires and fuel to restart 14th on lap 195. The 29-year-old would have a tough time moving forward over the next run as he remained in the 17th-running position. As the field went single file, Larson started to pick off a few spots and was up to 15th on lap 219. At the time of the 10th caution on lap 237, the driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet was running 14th. While under caution, crew chief Kevin Meendering kept Larson out to restart 13th on lap 242. When the 11th caution of the race came, Larson was scored in 15th and would restart 14th on lap 253. A caution on lap 254 saw Larson scored in 15th. The ensuing run to the finish would see Larson finish 13th.

William Byron, No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Where he finished: 30th

Race notes

Stage one: The spring winner at Atlanta Motor Speedway started 13th. By lap 11, he was in the top 10 and reported to crew chief Rudy Fugle that he felt “pretty good here.” On lap 16, the 24-year-old was up to eighth and looking for more. At the time of the competition caution, he was scored in ninth. Fugle and Byron elected to stay out and restart sixth on lap 31. On lap 32, Byron would get up to fifth as he was on the outside lane with teammate Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin. From there, he would maintain a spot in the top 10 and use the outside lane’s surge to finish fifth in the stage.

Stage two: Byron would pit from fifth during the stage break for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. However, he got trapped in his pit stall and had to reverse to get out, which would see him restart stage two in 13th. In the early going, he would lose a few spots on the restart and drop to 15th. By the lap 79 caution, Byron was scored in 11th and would pit for right-side tires, an air pressure adjustment and fuel. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native restarted 16th on lap 84 and avoided an incident on lap 92 to be scored sixth. Byron pitted under yellow to top off on fuel and he would win the race off pit road. With a few cars staying out, the two-time winner in 2022 would restart fourth on lap 99. On lap 102, after pushing Harrison Burton to the lead, Byron dove to the inside to try and grab the lead away. After patiently running the inside, he grabbed the lead on lap 106 and he would hold the lead when the fifth caution came out on lap 108. Byron would stay out to keep the lead and choose to restart from the top on lap 113. The four-time Cup winner to date would lead the pack at the halfway mark of the race with Tyler Reddick and Kurt Busch close behind. He would be the leader during the sixth caution on lap 138 and would stay out to lead for the lap 143 restart. The No. 24 would jockey both lanes with the help of spotter Brandon Lines but he couldn’t get back to the high line in time on lap 147 as Reddick got the lead. He would regroup on the bottom to try and get back to the lead, but was unable to do so. He would lose more ground with the front of the field continuing to run the outside as he would drop outside the top 10 for a brief spell. Byron would end up finishing the stage in eighth. 

Final stage: Byron would pit from eighth under the yellow flag for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. He would restart 18th on lap 166. Byron was caught up in a multi-car incident off of turn three involving Reddick, Kyle Larson, Ty Dillon, Garrett Smithley, Todd Gilliland, Bubba Wallace and more. Smithley got loose and Dillon got into him after a bump from Larson. Byron just got caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time and saw his day end as a result of the nine-car accident.

Alex Bowman, No. 48 Ally Milestone Initiative Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Where he finished: 32nd

Race notes

Stage one: Bowman took the grid from the eighth position and made a move into the top five on the first lap. He held down a top-six spot over the 26-lap run to the competition caution and was scored in fourth when the yellow flag did come. Crew chief Greg Ives kept Bowman out under caution and that saw him restart third on lap 31. The driver of the No. 48 stayed on the outside to give teammate Chase Elliott a big shove to the lead. He would slip back a few spots over the initial part of the run, but Bowman was able to maintain a top-six spot in the running order. On lap 45, he found himself back into the top three. He would continue to ride the outside lane and finish stage one in second just behind Elliott.

Stage two: Bowman would come down pit road from the second position for service. He had to navigate around Blaney through part of the grass to get around a congested pit road but was able to restart the stage in sixth. The Tucson, Arizona, native dropped out of the top 10 early in the run as the field started to get spread out but was quickly side by side just a few laps later. When the caution came out on lap 79, Bowman was running 12th. He would pit for right-side tires under yellow and had some trouble exiting pit road as there was a backup of cars coming and going. He would restart 21st on lap 84 and be scored 13th after avoiding a wreck on lap 92. Bowman would pit under yellow for left-side tires and restart 15th on lap 99. When the fifth caution came out, he was scored in 18th and would stay out for the lap 113 restart. Bowman would end up in a big of a hornets nest but would pick his way forward and be running in 12th. On lap 127, he found his way back inside the top 10 and when the sixth caution fell, he was running seventh. Ives and Bowman would elect to stay out to restart seventh on lap 143. He would stay on the outside behind Elliott and make his way into the top five. Elliott’s move to take the lead left Bowman alone on the inside and he drifted out of the top five with six laps to go in the stage. With one to go in the stage, Bowman blew a tire while running in the top 10 and he would end the stage scored in 29th.

Final stage: The cut tire at the end of stage two would ultimately end Bowman’s day as the damaged vehicle clock would expire on the No. 48 Chevrolet. 



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