EditorsNote: adds quotes
Young Chase Elliott didn’t need to win the Hollywood Casino 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, as his victory two weeks ago had already secured him a berth in the next round of the series’ playoffs.
However, like all drivers, Elliott, 22, is greedy. Greedy for victories. The Hendrick Motorsports driver used that greed to win at Kansas City, Kan., and build big momentum.
“Just proud of the effort,” he said. “We certainly were not where we wanted to be at the beginning of the year. And had a good few weeks.”
The victory was Elliott’s third of the season and came in a race in which he led 44 of 267 laps.
“It’s been a great couple of months,” Elliott said. “We got to keep it rolling. This is the time when it really counts.”
Alan Gustafson, Elliott’s crew chief, said, “Winning is key, and anytime you can, it gives you more confidence. It’s really good to win at an intermediate track. It’s been a long time since we won at an intermediate track. I might be most happy about that.”
Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing finished second, and Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing came in third.
Sunday’s event was the cutoff race for drivers hoping to advance from the Round of 12 to the Round of 8 in the playoffs.
Falling out of the playoffs as a result of events at Kansas were Alex Bowman, Larson, Ryan Blaney and former champion Brad Keselowski.
Advancing Sunday were Busch, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. They joined Elliott and Aric Almirola, who earned automatic berths by virtue of winning the previous two Round of 12 races.
The three-race Round of 8 begins next weekend at the Martinsville (Va.) Speedway short track.
Joey Logano started from the pole Sunday, won the first stage and led 100 laps.
Logano cruised until a green-flag pit stop at about the halfway point of the 267-lap race. When the pitting cycled through, Harvick was out front and stayed there to win Stage 2.
Harvick led until the final green-flag stop of the day with just over 50 laps to go. During his stop, he was penalized for speeding, and his hopes for getting his first victory of the playoffs ended.
Both Kyle Busch and Larson appeared to have the pieces to challenge for the win. But neither could.
“He ran a really good line,” Kyle Busch said, “and was just able to keep pace he needed to run to keep the car underneath him. It was going to be a struggle to get by him, that’s for sure.”
Larson, who needed to win in order to advance, was asked if he thought he had a chance at catching and passing Elliott on the final laps.
“Yes I did,” Larson said. “Our car (which was a backup as he wrecked his primary car earlier in the weekend) was fast. A lot better than in practice. I thought we had the balance really good there at the end. Wish I could have done something there at the end, but Chase ran a good race up front.”
—Field Level Media