Chase Elliott had the moves and the power when he needed them.
Elliott shot to the lead in a web of traffic in the final five miles and won Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway. Elliott, winning for the fifth time this year, thus earned a spot in the playoffs’ Round of 8.
The victory was huge for Elliott, who carries a platter full of playoff points with him and will be in good shape when the next round begins in two weeks at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Round of 12 will end Oct. 9 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
MORE: Talladega Cup results
“It was a wild last couple of laps,” Elliott told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “I wasn’t super crazy about being on the bottom. Fortunately, I just go clear enough off of two to move up and ha da good enough run to get out front.”
Powering through the top five, Elliott moved from the inside line to the outside in front of Erik Jones and benefitted from Jones’ push as he outran Blaney to the finish line.
As has been the case at so many Talladega races over the years, risky though impactful technique in the long drafting lines was a key. Approaching the finish line at the first two stages, Blaney and Elliott made excellent moves in the trioval to win the stages — Blaney the first and Elliott the second.
The last round of pit stops began with 28 laps to go. At the end of the pit cycle, Blaney, Chastain and Jones were at the front.
With 10 laps to go, Blaney led the lead drafting line, with Chastain and Todd Gilliland trailing. Jones led the other line.
The field was slowed by caution with seven laps to go when Daniel Hemric‘s car experienced engine trouble and stalled in the final pit row spot.
Playoff driver Christopher Bell took a big position hit on lap 99 when he lost control entering pit road and slid. He lost a lap but rebounded to challenge near the top 10 in the final stage.
The race hadn’t reached the halfway point of the first stage when a multi-car accident brought out the day’s second caution flag.
The wreck began on lap 25 when rookie Harrison Burton lost control of his car in three-wide traffic entering Turn 1. Burton, looking for drafting help from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. behind him, was bumped by Stenhouse and slid to the left in the middle of a pack of traffic, causing drivers behind and around him to scramble.
The early part of the race included some odd cooperation in Talladega’s famous draft. Racing one-two in tight formation were Hamlin, the leader, and William Byron, both gaining speed from their drafting. Last week at Texas, the two had major issues, resulting in Byron bumping Hamlin into a spin under caution and being nailed by a NASCAR penalty.
Stage 1 winner: Ryan Blaney
Stage 2 winner: Chase Elliott
Next: The Round of 12 will end Oct. 9 on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (2 p.m. ET, NBC). Four drivers will be eliminated, and eight will advance.
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Chase Elliott wins Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway originally appeared on NBCSports.com