Road Course Master Chase Elliott Wins Weather Shortened Cup Series Event At COTA

By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service

Chase Elliott celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas Sunday (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

You can’t call a Chase Elliott victory on a road course “unexpected,” but little else was predictable in the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at the Circuit of the Americas road course in Austin, Texas. 

After all, Elliott came to COTA having won five of the previous 10 road races, and on Sunday the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix became No. 6 after NASCAR called the race 14 laps short of the scheduled finish because of excessive standing water on the track and potential danger to the drivers.

Elliott’s first victory of the season and 12th of his career accounted for significant milestones. He delivered the 268th Cup win for Hendrick Motorsports, tying the organization with Petty Enterprises for most all-time. 

It was also the 800th NASCAR Cup Series victory for Chevrolet.

“Yeah, man, I couldn’t be more excited,” said Elliott, the reigning Cup champion, who is tied for third with Rusty Wallace in all-time road course wins. “I’ve never won a rain race before, so it’s kind of cool. Just super-proud of our team for continuing to fight.

“We kind of started the day, and we weren’t very good. I just kept pushing myself and (we) made some good changes throughout the day and got to where I think we were on pace with those guys there at the end.” 

A week after Hendrick drivers finished 1-2-3-4 at Dover, the organization grabbed the top two spots at the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course, with Kyle Larson running second when NASCAR red-flagged the event after 54 of a planned 68 and then called it when the rain failed to abate.

Joey Logano ran third, followed by Ross Chastain and AJ Allmendinger. Chase Briscoe, Michael McDowell, Alex Bowman, pole winner Tyler Reddick and Kyle Busch completed the top 10. 

William Byron finished 11th, ending his streak of consecutive top-10 results at 11. 

For all but the first few laps, drivers raced in the rain until it became too heavy to continue.

With challenging visibility on the long, high-speed backstretch, a crash on Lap 25 brought the race to a halt for the first time. Martin Truex Jr. slammed into the back of the Ford of Michael McDowell, who had slowed in traffic.  

In a chain reaction, the Ford of Cole Custer plowed into the back of Truex’s damaged Toyota, lifting the rear of the Camry off the pavement. Custer then hit the Armco barrier to the inside of the straight. Custer hastily exited the crippled Mustang, which had lit on fire.

NASCAR red-flagged the race and sent track dryers out to remove water from the racing surface.

“I’m all good,” Custer said after a trip to the infield care center. “It didn’t hurt as much as I thought it was going to be, but it’s just that you can’t see anything. It’s pretty bad. I mean, you can’t see a foot in front of your car.   

“I was just rolling down the backstretch. You can’t see anything. I’m just so frustrated about having our day end like this. It killed the car, and it’s just really frustrating.”

The cars of Custer and Truex were damaged too severely to continue. Before that wreck occurred, Kevin Harvick and Bubba Wallace already had been eliminated in a similar low-visibility crash on Lap 19. 

Even before the race went green, teams were faced with a choice. With rain seemingly imminent but the track dry to start the event, would a change to slick tires be in order, or would crew chiefs opt to stay on rain tires, which NASCAR had mandated for the initial roll off pit road.

Most of the field opted for slicks, and Austin Cindric streaked to an early lead. But the rain intensified, and those who had taken the green on dry tires soon came to pit road for rain tires. 

Earlier in the day, in only the second Cup qualifying session of the 2021 season, Reddick won the pole in dry conditions with a lap at 92.363 mph. The pole was the first for a Richard Childress Racing driver on a road course since Dale Earnhardt was top qualifier for the last time in his career in August 1996 at Watkins Glen.

“Road racing has been a big challenge in my career, and I’ve worked really hard to get better at it,” said Reddick, who qualified fifth in the rain and finished eighth in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race. “Running yesterday’s NXS race helped me with some valuable seat time, so it’s great to see all that hard work come together with a pole.”

NASCAR Cup Series Race – Inaugural EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix

Circuit of The Americas

Austin, Texas

Sunday, May 23, 2021

                   1. (8)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 54.

                   2. (2)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 54.

                   3. (6)  Joey Logano, Ford, 54.

                   4. (20)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 54.

                   5. (7)  AJ Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, 54.

                   6. (27)  Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 54.

                   7. (23)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 54.

                   8. (12)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 54.

                   9. (1)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 54.

                   10. (4)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 54.

                   11. (5)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 54.

                   12. (16)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 54.

                   13. (28)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 54.

                   14. (19)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 54.

                   15. (36)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 54.

                   16. (29)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 54.

                   17. (9)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 54.

                   18. (37)  Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 54.

                   19. (24)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 54.

                   20. (25)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 54.

                   21. (33)  Ty Dillon(i), Toyota, 54.

                   22. (22)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 54.

                   23. (21)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 54.

                   24. (34)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 54.

                   25. (3)  Austin Cindric(i), Ford, 54.

                   26. (26)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 54.

                   27. (13)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 54.

                   28. (38)  Garrett Smithley(i), Ford, 54.

                   29. (32)  James Davison, Chevrolet, 54.

                   30. (31)  Josh Bilicki, Ford, 54.

                   31. (39)  Kyle Tilley, Ford, 54.

                   32. (35)  Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 53.

                   33. (15)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 46.

                   34. (40)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, DVP, 38.

                   35. (17)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, Accident, 24.

                   36. (14)  Cole Custer, Ford, Accident, 24.

                   37. (11)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, Accident, 19.

                   38. (10)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, Accident, 18.

                   39. (18)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, Accident, 18.

                   40. (30)  Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, Steering, 12.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  59.024 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 7 Mins, 11 Secs. Margin of Victory:  Under Caution Seconds.

Caution Flags:  6 for -41 laps.

Lead Changes:  11 among 10 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   T. Reddick 0;*. Cindric(i) 1-4;M. Truex Jr. 5-7;M. McDowell 8-10;J. Logano 11-24;R. Chastain 25-26;*. Preece 27-28;K. Busch 29-40;K. Larson 41-44;R. Chastain 45-46;A. Bowman 47-49;C. Elliott 50-54.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Joey Logano 1 time for 14 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 12 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 5 laps; Kyle Larson 1 time for 4 laps; Ross Chastain 2 times for 4 laps; * Austin Cindric(i) 1 time for 4 laps; Michael McDowell 1 time for 3 laps; Alex Bowman 1 time for 3 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 1 time for 3 laps; * Ryan Preece 1 time for 2 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 22,34,1,5,33,17,14,42,18,21

Stage #2 Top Ten: 18,9,8,33,7,5,37,16,14,48

Comments

  1. Congrats to my man Chase Elliott on the win and congrats to Ryan Preece on his 15th place finish along with leading a couple of laps as well.

  2. Racing blind in pouring rain at 180 mph created some of the most dangerous racing I have ever seen. The restarts were treacherous and could have injured or killed a driver. Pure stupidity and not very entertaining to watch. Should have been stopped long before it was.

  3. Logano 3rd, Preece 15th, Alfredo 18th, and what the heck let’s throw in Corey Lajoie’s 20th place finish in there too as part of the Connecticut Crew persevering their way to Top 20 finishes.
    And isn’t everything just sunshine and puppies over at Hendrick Motorsports these days eh? Wonder how long that’ll last. Maybe for the next decade or maybe those four nice young men will be at each other’s throats by October. Who knows.
    Is it too early and too morbid to start lobbying for a certain driver from Berlin to maybe take over the #10 Cup ride in 2022?. Just wondering 🤔

  4. Hendrix has carefully amassed an organization of young superstars that aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The wins will continue to pile up along with the championships. Can you say another dynasty!

  5. Harvick expressed it well; it was very dangerous and those cars are not made to race in the rain no matter what they do.. way to go driver 37, great performance, esp. in those conditions.. what a mess; they escaped COTA in that nobody was injured yesterday. That said, I really hope they go back next year under dry conditions, that’s one heck of a race facility.

  6. Viva Race Fan says

    1 Word …. Rain Tires…..

    Why stop race with them ??

  7. Fast Eddie says

    Earl, I gotta say this because your last comment struck my funnybone. You’re showing your age referencing Hendrix. A 60’s flashback perhaps? 🙂 I know you meant Rick Hendrick and you’re absolutely right, as he has quite the dominating team right now.

  8. Fast Eddie says

    Viva, rain tires work on a wet track, however no tires will work on a track with puddles of water on it. Hydroplaning will happen at speed regardless of the tires being used, unless you want to watch a race at 25-30 mph. Plus it was raining so hard visibility was next to none.

  9. Viva Race Fan wrote:

    “1 Word …. Rain Tires…..”

    How high can you count?

    “Rain Tires”, the way you wrote it, is TWO (2) words.

  10. If Formula 1 races in the rain with standing water, no windshield wipers and horrendous conditions why can’t NASCAR on the very few times they are called to do it. Come on man, suck it up and drive the car.
    Drivers don’t win championships unless they are in great cars and for most of recent history the royal families of NASCAR control the mega operations that make all their own everything with factory support. The same guys mostly and all ancient. Gibbs, Hendrick and Penske dominating the top ten for Toyota, Chevy and Ford with only Stewart-Haas intruding on the oligopoly.
    Young drivers are plug and play. The Royal families determine the winners and at this stage Gibbs/Toyota is leading.

  11. Fast, you are correct, Hendrick as in Rick Hendrick not Hendrix as in Jimmy Hendrix. My bad 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂. Yep flash back, Purple Haze forever!

    Those 4 kids could wreak havoc in cup for many years to come.

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