John K Harrelson/NKP/Motorsport Images
It was a long night at Nashville Superspeedway with the Ally 400 being interrupted three times for weather, which included two red flags.
Chase Elliott and the No.9 Hendrick Motorsports team didn’t mind though. They didn’t have the best car in the field and needed time to overcome some adversity – it took Elliott until lap 245 to lead the race for the first time, but once in position, he capitalized and scored his second win of the season.
“It’s really fun to win regardless but I was really proud of a couple of things,” the 2020 series champion said. “The past month and a half, two months that we’ve had have been horrendous.
“I’ve crashed about 10 times and we’ve had a lot of stuff happen to end up having bad finishes, and you never want that.”
Following a win at Dover Motor Speedway on May 2, Elliott finished fifth at Darlington and then was 29th (Kansas), 33rd (Charlotte), 21st (Gateway), and eighth (Sonoma). Despite the poor results, Elliott led 122 laps during that stretch of racing.
On Sunday, he started fourth but didn’t have a good handling car early on. Then under the lap 118 caution, brought for a brief rain shower, Elliott had to back up and return to his pit box for a loose wheel and then the team chose to pit him a second time to work on the car. He sat 16th under the second red flag for rain and lightning, which lasted over two hours.
“I had a lot of work to do and started to work on the car, then had a pit stop issue which kind of got us behind but ultimately helped because we had an opportunity to work on the car a little bit more,” crew chief Alan Gustafson said. “From then on, I think the car was in a good position and driving really well, so we were able to make up ground.”
Elliott finished the second stage in fourth place and the car continued to come to life as the race went on.
He took the lead for the first time with 56 laps to go, and following a round of pit stops and an untimely caution – for some – when Chris Buescher’s wheel came off, Elliott cycled to second and then took the lead for the final time on the restart with 39 laps to go. He then held off Kurt Busch on the last restart of the night.
“To have struggled as bad as we did – as bad as we were at the beginning of the race – to be able to adjust on it, take advantage of the opportunities we had to try to fix it and then to hit on it and be able to execute on it after we hit on it to be able to finish the event strong is not an easy thing to do,” said Elliott. “Our team, I feel like, they do a great job when everybody is pulling in the same direction and is executing and doing their jobs to the best of their ability.
“I feel like we’re as good as anybody and tonight I felt like they really showcased their talents, not just on pit road with their pit stops being really solid but Alan [Gustafson] and Tom [Gray, engineer] making really good adjustments and just staying on top of everything, so it was a good team win.”