Elliott beats Hamlin in NASCAR Cup’s first Daytona road course race – NASCAR

Chase Elliott secured his second victory of the season in the first ever NASCAR Cup Series race on the Daytona road course, fending off Denny Hamlin after a late restart.

Elliott’s #9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet had worked his way into a 10-second lead over the pack after the race was suspended following a lightning strike near the Daytona circuit – but this was wiped out with five laps of the 65 to run after a Kyle Busch spin.

The race around the Daytona 24 Hours road course circuit, plus an additional chicane out of the oval’s turn four, then became a three-lap sprint to the finish between Elliott and Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry machine.

Although Hamlin was able to close to within 0.202s of Elliott, he was unable to pass the leading Camaro, handing Elliott his first win since the second Charlotte race in May, fourth in the last eight road course events and third in succession on such circuits after Watkins Glen and the Charlotte ‘roval’ in 2019.

Behind Hamlin, JGR team-mate Martin Truex Jr passed Jimmie Johnson on the final restart to take third for the fifth race in succession, having overcome a pit-lane speeding penalty.

Truex, who like Elliott had won three of the last seven road course races, was sent to the back of the pack for the stage three restart, after NASCAR officials determined he was not allowed to serve his drive-through penalty as the pit-lane was closed.

Despite that, the #19 of the 2017 series champion steadily rose through the pack, and began to latch on and reel in the Hamlin/Johnson gaggle before team-mate Busch’s spin on the oval section of the track.

On the restart, Truex nipped past Johnson for third to extend the seven-time champion’s winless run to 117 races, stretching back to Dover 2017, although Johnson’s fourth place finish was the best for the #48 Hendrick machine since third at Bristol in May.

Chris Buescher (Roush Fenway) and Clint Bowyer (Stewart Haas) both produced clean races in their Ford Mustangs – Buescher’s fifth place his best since the season-opening Daytona 500.

Bowyer’s sixth place was his best since taking second at the same Bristol race in which Johnson managed third.

On his Cup debut, Kaz Grala drove an excellent race, standing in for Austin Dillon in the #3 Richard Childress Camaro after Dillon tested positive for COVID-19.

Starting at the back, Grala briefly led the race and was able to take a seventh-place finish, just ahead of Hendrick’s William Byron in eighth.

2018 series champion Joey Logano opted to pit for fresh Goodyear tyres under the Busch caution from seventh and restarted in 17th place as the lead runner of those who pitted.

The #22 Team Penske Mustang driver did not benefit as much as he hoped and took ninth, just ahead of Michael McDowell who took a third top 10 result of 2020 for Front Row Motorsports.

Pre-race points leader and pole-sitter Kevin Harvick endured a tricky afternoon; the #4 SHR Mustang was struggling with balance early on before Christopher Bell spun Harvick on the approach to Turn 2 on lap 32.

This dropped Harvick to the rear, and an additional spin later on left the six-time race winner this season only able to salvage 17th.

Brad Keselowski took 13th for Penske, having had to serve two separate in-race penalties for missing the chicane on the back stretch – race officials determining beforehand that any driver who did so would have to stop in the run-off before continuing.

Busch’s miserable title defence goes on, despite the #18 JGR Camry looking strong and being in contention for the win.

On lap 48, he pitted with rear-brake failure, which the team quickly fixed and got him back out after seven laps in the vain attempt to pick up crucial points to count in the battle for playoff qualification.

Five laps after he rejoined however, the rear tyres shredded, causing the spin that brought out the final caution to set up Hamlin’s ultimately in-vain pursuit of Elliott.

NASCAR Cup Daytona road course results – 65 laps

Pos Driver Team Car
1 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
2 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
3 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
4 Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
5 Chris Buescher Roush Fenway Racing Ford
6 Clint Bowyer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
7 Kaz Grala Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
8 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
9 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford
10 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford
11 Erik Jones Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
12 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
13 Brad Keselowski Team Penske Ford
14 Kurt Busch Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
15 Matt DiBenedetto Wood Brothers Racing Ford
16 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet
17 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
18 Tyler Reddick Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
19 Ryan Newman Roush Fenway Racing Ford
20 Ty Dillon Germain Racing Chevrolet
21 Christopher Bell Leavine Family Racing Toyota
22 Cole Custer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
23 Ryan Preece JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet
24 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
25 Darrell Wallace Jr. Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet
26 Matt Kenseth Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
27 Daniel Suarez Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota
28 Brennan Poole Premium Motorsports Chevrolet
29 Timmy Hill MBM Motorsports Toyota
30 James Davison Petty Ware Racing Ford
31 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford
32 Corey LaJoie Go FAS Racing Ford
33 Quin Houff StarCom Racing Chevrolet
34 J.J. Yeley Rick Ware Racing Ford
35 John Hunter Nemechek Front Row Motorsports Ford
36 Garrett Smithley Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet
37 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
38 Stanton Barrett Spire Motorsports Chevrolet
39 Brendan Gaughan Beard Motorsports Chevrolet
Reed Sorenson Spire Motorsports Chevrolet

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