NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When the sun went down, Chase Elliott and the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet team found another gear en route to victory on Sunday at Nashville Superspeedway.
Elliott would score his second win of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season – becoming the fifth driver of the season to nab multiple victories. Crew chief Alan Gustafson would keep the 26-year-old out under a late caution with eight laps to go and the driver of the No. 9 pulled away from Kurt Busch for the victory.
PHOTOS: See scenes from Elliott’s victory lane celebration
The Dawsonville, Georgia, native led the final 39 laps of the 300-lap event and led 42 circuits on the evening. His car really came to life following the second delay of the race for lightning that also saw rain hit the 1.33-mile track. Prior to that delay, Elliott and the No. 9 team had a setback on pit road following a lengthy stop due to trouble on the left front, but they were ultimately able to overcome that.
“So proud of our team because we kind of had a setback there about halfway and we were able to get our NAPA Chevy dialed back in and get back in the mix,” Elliott said after his 15th Cup Series victory.
“These things are hard to come by and you have to enjoy them. You never know when or if ever you will get another one.”
Elliott’s other win this season also came in a race delayed by rain at Dover Motor Speedway in May – that event moved to the next day after starting on a Sunday.
With the win, Elliott’s points lead now sits at 30 points over Ross Chastain with nine races left in the regular season.
Kyle Larson rallied late for a top-five finish – his seventh of the season. Larson stayed out under the final caution and was able to finish fourth. He had an up-and-down race with a pit road speeding penalty and then when a caution came out during the final green flag pit cycle, he had to take the wave around to get back on the lead lap after spending most of the final stage in the top 10 to that point.
“So proud of my guys for working hard and persevering,” Larson said. “Didn’t have a lot of things work out for us there as we got caught a lap down and we had to take the wave around and drove from twenty-something to 10th there before the last caution. We stayed out and netted out a top-five.
This race marked the first of four without crew chief Cliff Daniels, jackman Brandon Johnson and front-tire changer Donnie Tasser. The three members of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com team were suspended after the team inadvertently lost its right-front tire during the final stage of the Cup race at Sonoma Raceway. Kevin Meendering filled in atop the box as the team’s crew chief.
A mechanical issue marred William Byron’s day just past the halfway point of stage one and sent him to the garage. He would return to the race near the end of the opening stage before finishing 35th. An accident on lap 51 coming into turn two ended Alex Bowman’s race early, resulting in 36th-place finish.
Sunday’s race saw Hendrick Motorsports extend its win streak on concrete tracks to five races – dating back to the 2021 spring race at Dover. The organization is also the lone Cup Series team to have won at this particular Nashville venue.
Next up for the Cup Series is a race at Road America on Fourth of July weekend on Sunday, July 3. The event will mark the 18th points-paying race of the season and the third to take place on a road course.
Chase Elliott, No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: First
Stage one: Elliott took to the grid from row two in the fourth starting spot. He had a big wiggle on the outside that he was able to save on lap three but it did drop him to seventh. On lap 19, Elliott passed Joey Logano for sixth. Elliott was scored in eighth prior to the lap 42 caution after Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. made passes on the 2020 champion. The points leader entering this race hit pit road for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment and he restarted sixth on lap 48. He would restart in eighth on lap 56 after staying out under the second caution of the race. On lap 57, Elliott had a close call with teammate Kyle Larson while battling for seventh. At the time of the lap 62 yellow, the winner from this spring’s event at Dover Motor Speedway was running eighth. He would stay out and restart from that spot on lap 66. Elliott would grab seventh place on lap 82 but lose the spot on the final lap to Bubba Wallace to finish eighth.
Stage two: The Dawsonville, Georgia, native pitted under the stage break for four tires, fuel, an air pressure adjustment and came out ninth for the lap 97 restart. Shortly after taking eighth on the restart, he would slide back into the ninth position. On lap 110, Elliott took back eighth from Denny Hamlin. After taking seventh place a few laps later, he reported that his right front is building up over the right rear. During the race’s fifth caution, Elliott pitted for four tires and fuel but an issue on the left front led to a long stop. The driver of the No. 9 would come back in for an adjustment and restart 25th on lap 125. Four laps later, Elliott was back in the top 20 and he was scored in 16th when a second delay for lightning occurred. After the red flag was lifted, crew chief Alan Gustafson called Elliott down to pit for four tires and fuel before restarting 15th on lap 151. The night time was the right time for the No. 9. By lap 153, Elliott was back in the top 10 as he got to ninth and he grabbed eighth from Logano on lap 157. On lap 161, he took seventh away from Michael McDowell. Using the inside lane, Elliott passed Ryan Blaney for sixth on lap 173. With six to go in the stage, Elliott grabbed a spot in the top five by darting in front of Ross Chastain as they were coming up on a lapped car. A pass on Kurt Busch with two laps to go in the stage gave him a fourth-place finish in the stage.
Final stage: During the stage break, Elliott pitted for four tires and fuel. The No. 9 crew’s fastest stop of the night to that point (11.28 seconds) would see him gain a spot on pit road to restart third on lap 193. Following the restart, he set his sights on Kyle Busch and Truex Jr. for the front two positions. Under the eighth caution of the night on lap 206, Elliott pitted for four tires and fuel as the field essentially split into two with half staying out and others like the No. 9 pitting. He would restart 14th as the first car on four fresh tires on lap 210. Elliott wasted no time moving up with fresh rubber as he was in the top five just two laps later. He would use the high line to take fourth from Chastain on lap 216 and again go to the outside for pass on Kevin Harvick for third on lap 229. Elliott would pass Truex Jr. for second on lap 241 while continuing to chip away at Busch’s lead. On lap 245, he would run down the No. 18 and go to the inside for the pass to take the point position. On lap 248, Elliott pitted from the lead for four tires and fuel under green. He would exit pit road behind Busch, who pitted one lap earlier. Elliott would stay out under caution with 43 laps to go to restart second. He would take the inside lane for the lap 262 restart. Elliott took the lead on lap 262 and was able to clear the two-time champion on lap 263. He then had Hamlin in hot pursuit for a spell before it was Busch chasing him again. Elliott held the lead when the caution fell on lap 293 for Josh Bilicki. Gustafson and Elliott elected to stay out under yellow when the rest of the top five coming to pit road. However, the first car to pit for two tires – Kyle Busch – was set to restart 11th. The driver of the No. 9 chose the outside lane for the lap 297 restart and was able to drive away from Kurt Busch, Blaney and Larson for the victory.
Kyle Larson, No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: Fourth
Stage one: Larson lined up third for the race where he entered as the defending winner. He went from the inside to the outside after the start to take second away from Joey Logano. The reigning Cup champion held that spot until lap 25 when Daniel Suarez took the position away. On lap 37, Larson lost third to Ross Chastain and was scored in fifth prior to the red flag for lightning. The driver of the No. 5 pitted for four tires and fuel and restarted fifth. He would stay out and restart from the same position on lap 56 following the second caution of the race. On lap 57, Larson and teammate Chase Elliott had a close call while battling for seventh. The winner of this year’s race at Auto Club Speedway was running seventh as the third caution came out on lap 62. He would stay out to restart from that spot on lap 66 and he grabbed sixth place right away. Larson would finish the stage in sixth.
Stage two: The Elk Grove, California, native pitted under the stage break for service but he would lose seven spots to restart 13th on lap 97. The early part of the run saw Larson struggle a bit after he floated up the race track while battling Erik Jones for position. He was scored 15th after 15 laps of the stage two run. Under the caution that came on lap 119, Larson pitted but was nabbed for speeding and had to go to the rear of the field to restart 26th on lap 125. When a second delay occurred for lightning, Larson was scored 20th. After the red flag was lifted, Larson pitted for service to restart 20th on lap 151. Six laps into the run, he was up to 12th. Following a pass of Chris Buescher to enter the top 10, Larson grabbed ninth place from Kevin Harvick on lap 169 and three laps later he took eighth. With seven to go in the stage and riding the low lane, he grabbed seventh from Ryan Blaney. Much like his teammate Elliott, he would pass Chastain and finish the stage in sixth. Over the radio, he told the team, “I think the car feels pretty good.”
Final stage: During the stage break, Larson pitted for four tires and fuel prior to restarting seventh on lap 193. Under caution on lap 206, the team elected to stay out and that saw Larson move up three spots to restart fifth on lap 210. Larson looked to have some good momentum but Truex Jr. had a moment where he slowed up in front of the No. 5 and that hurt his move forward. He would lose a few spots to cars on fresher tires as he was running in eighth 10 laps later. On lap 251, Larson would pit from third for four tires and fuel. Following a caution on lap 256, he would take the wave around to get back on the lead lap since the cycle of pit stops hadn’t yet completed prior to the caution. That would see him be 24th for the lap 262 restart. On lap 265, Larson was back inside the top 20. Ten laps later, he was back in the top 15 and hunting for more. Larson had just gotten back into the top 10 when the caution came out with eight laps to go. The 5 team and fill-in crew chief Kevin Meendering elected to stay out under yellow to restart fourth. Larson would restart on lap 297 as the second car on the inside and he would maintain that spot for a top-five finish.
William Byron, No. 24 Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 35th
Stage one: Byron began the 300-lap event from 13th and was in the top 10 just one lap into the race. During the initial run, he reported being a bit free in the corners. He would keep a spot in the top 10 for the opening 20 laps before being passed by Martin Truex Jr for 10th. Byron was scored in 11th and getting ready to pit for what he thought was a flat left-rear tire when the first caution fell. During the lightning delay, he described the feeling to NBC’s Dave Burns as having to hold the car to the right on the straightaway and likened it a little bit to a vibration. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native pitted for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. His crew reported that he did not have a flat tire, so they were working to diagnose the issue before he restarted seventh on lap 48. Just after the restart, Byron made contact with teammate Chase Elliott. Shortly after that, the two-time winner had steering issues that saw slow on track before he brought the car to the garage for a steering rack issue. The No. 24 crew would make repairs in the garage and Byron returned to the race 38 laps down.
Stage two: The plan for the remainder of the race was for Byron and crew chief Rudy Fugle to try a few things and see if they could gain a few spots in the process. He pitted under the stage break for tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. During the initial run in the stage, he had gotten his car to mid pack, despite being 38 laps down. Byron was told to start at the tail when the race restarted from a weather delay in order to laydown a fast lap for the metric formula that establishes the groups for practice and qualifying. He would finish the stage in 35th.
Final stage: Under the stage break, Fugle told Byron that the team was going to try some different shock settings to gather some info. He radioed in that this package was too tight and so the team decided to try another combination. Since returning to the race near the end of stage one, Byron’s lap times were comparable with the lead-lap cars and much of the top half of the field. At night’s end, the 24-year-old would be scored 35th for the race.
Alex Bowman, No. 48 Ally Music City Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 36th
Stage one: Bowman started 12th in his purple No. 48 Ally Racing Chevy but was going the wrong run on the initial green flag run. He lost five spots in the opening 10 laps of the race and was back to 20th by lap 30. When the lap 42 caution fell, Bowman was scored in 22nd. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series winner came down pit road for a lengthy stop that saw the crew make sweeping changes including shock adjustments. He restarted 25th on lap 48. The Tucson, Arizona, native would spin in between turns one and two on lap 50 following contact from Corey LaJoie. Bowman hit the wall and had significant left rear and right front damage. His day would be done following that incident.