Chase Elliott had to wait one extra day to earn his coveted first victory of the season.
NASCAR’s perennial Most Popular Driver led the final 53 laps to win the DuraMAX Drydene 400 presented by RelaDyne NASCAR Cup Series race in a rare Monday finish at Dover Motor Speedway.
It is the 14th career victory for the 26-year-old from Dawsonville, Ga., and his second at the Monster Mile. Elliott is the 23rd driver to win two or more Cup Series races at the Monster Mile.
“I feel like we’ve had a lot of pace at different times throughout the year, we just hadn’t put an entire race together really until today,” said Elliott, who led 73 total laps. “Really just proud of our entire group for continuing to bring good attitudes to the racetrack. Coming in with the right mindset every week regardless of what happened the week before. To me that says a lot about their character and the kind of group that we have.”
Elliott, driving the No. 9 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, topped Ricky Stenhouse Jr. with a finish under caution after Martin Truex spun out on the backstretch following contact with Ross Chastain. Chastain held on for third, with Christopher Bell in fourth and defending Dover champion Alex Bowman placing fifth. Truex slipped to 12th after running near the front for most of the race.
As the smoke was still in the air from his celebratory burnout, Elliott praised the fans that spent two days in the grandstands to see his victory.
“That was a great crowd,” Elliott said. “Biggest crowd [on Sunday] I have seen here personally since I’ve been racing, which I thought was really cool. Proud to see that.”
It was just the fourth out of Dover’s 104 NASCAR Cup Series races to be postponed to a Monday due to weather after rainy conditions forced red-flag conditions after just more than 45 minutes and 78 laps of action on Sunday.
The previous Monday races came on May 19, 1975 (won by David Pearson) and June 4, 2007 and May 6, 2019 (both won by Truex).
For Elliott, the series points leader, it also completed Hendrick Motorsports’ goal of having all their drivers notch a win in the first part of the season. Bowman (Las Vegas), Kyle Larson (California) and William Byron (Atlanta, Martinsville) had all previously earned wins this year.
“Having five wins at this point in the season, having all four of our cars into the playoffs at this point in time is a credit to all the men and women back in Charlotte at Hendrick Motorsports, as well as everybody here at the racetrack that make these cars go,” said Jeff Andrews, Hendrick Motorsports’ general manager.
“My drive to win, to do my job to the best of my ability, doesn’t change whether we are struggling, whether we are doing very good, whether I’m in a contract year, whether I’m not, whether my teammates have won and I haven’t,” Elliott added. “Those circumstances are fine and cool and great, but I want to do my job to the very best of my ability all the time no matter what, no matter the track, no matter the circumstances, always.”
Kyle Larson re-started in the lead Monday but had an up-and-down day after spinning on the frontstretch on Lap 157 and narrowly avoiding hard contact with the wall. Larson went a lap down but later recovered to finish sixth.
Kyle Busch led a race-high 103 laps and controlled much of the middle portion of the race, with Alex Bowman running close behind. Both drivers pitted at the same time a caution flag flew, and the resulting scoring left both scrambling up through the field for the rest of the action. Busch finished seventh, one of 10 drivers to lead at least one lap.
From there, Truex and Chastain both had turns at the front before Elliott powered away on the race’s final restart and kept Stenhouse at bay in the final stretch.
“I felt like we had a car capable of winning,” Stenhouse said. “My pit crew did a great job keeping us up front all day. Hopefully we can carry this momentum on. The big tracks, the tracks we’ve got coming forward, are really good tracks for us.”
Elliott completed the 400 miles in 3 hours, 49 minutes, 39 seconds for an average speed of 104.507 mph. Thirteen caution periods, including the two stage breaks, took up 75 laps, including 15 laps on Sunday and Monday due to rain.
“I actually feel like it might have helped us a little bit,” Elliott said of the postponement. “I think we probably would have ended up probably headed in the same direction with our car. But it did give us some more time to think about it. You just kind of go to bed, Groundhog Day, just try again.
Among other notable finishes three-time Dover champion Kevin Harvick finished ninth, Cole Custer was the last driver on the lead lap in 15th and Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric was last in 36th after an early incident on the backstretch.