Ally 400: Chase Elliott caps off long night with win in Nashville
By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
LEBANON, Tenn. — Chase Elliott has had a frustrating past couple of months, so he was more than willing to take more than six hours to earn his second win of the 2022 season.
Elliott led the final 39 laps, including a four-lap dash to the finish following a late caution, to win the Ally 400 on Sunday at Nashville Superspeedway, where two weather delays lasted a combined more than three hours.
"It was a long day," Elliott said. "A fun day."
The victory made Elliott 2-for-2 on concrete-surfaced tracks this year, with his first victory of the season coming in May at Dover.
Here are three takeaways following a long night in Nashville.
Elliott gets off the skid
After winning at Dover, Elliott finished fifth the following week and then posted three consecutive finishes outside the top 20. An eighth at Sonoma was a little bit of a rebound, but Elliott desperately needed a good result.
Well, maybe saying he desperately needed a good result is a stretch — he was still the series points leader. He increased his lead in the series standings to 30 over Ross Chastain.
But Elliott said this win was important.
"The past month-and-a-half, two months that we have had have been horrendous," Elliott said. "I’ve crashed about 10 times, and we’ve had a lot of stuff happening to end up having bad finishes.
"I’m proud to be able to bounce back from a really rough stretch."
The keys to the victory:
Elliott came back from an early pit stop where he had a loose wheel, and he had to come back in, relegating him to the rear of the field.
He held off Kyle Busch as they battled for the lead with 30 laps to go.
And then Elliott stayed out on the late caution with 11 others, giving him enough space that no one who had pitted for fresh tires could catch him in the final four laps.
Comebacks to note
Ryan Blaney spun with 95 laps remaining as he battled a car he had difficulty controlling. A few adjustments and a good pit call for him to stay out on the late caution put him in position for a third-place finish.
"We were back-and-forth on it all night," Blaney said. "We just couldn’t really seem to get it right where we needed it to be. ... You want to win every single week, and that’s what we plan on doing, and we just didn’t get it done."
Another driver with a comeback was Kyle Larson, who had an early speeding penalty, and as with Blaney, the decision to stay out helped him finish well as he crossed the finish line in fourth.
It was Larson’s first race with crew chief Cliff Daniels sitting out as part of a four-race suspension for a wheel coming off at Sonoma. Larson said Daniels remained in communication with the team, which was led at the track by engineer Kevin Meendering.
"It really ran smooth," Larson said. "Cliff was [there] virtually, and we got talk to him each time we went to the trailer during the [weather delays]. It didn’t seem way different — just a different voice in my headsets.
"That just shows how Cliff has prepared this team."
Toyotas lead but come up empty
Denny Hamlin led 114 laps, Martin Truex Jr. led both stages and led 82 laps, and Busch led 54 laps. But the only Toyota in the top-5 was Kurt Busch, who was among those who stayed out on the late caution, restarted second beside Elliott and finished there.
"I had a plan, and I just didn’t execute," said Kurt Busch, indicating that he could have raced Elliott a little rougher on the final laps. "You’re supposed to throw fenders, but I didn’t throw fenders.
"I wanted to wash up and cut back to the bottom, and I didn’t get either one done. ... I just did not get the job done."
Hamlin, Truex and Busch all came down pit road on the final caution, and Truex and Busch both got shuffled out as Truex got caught up in an incident with Brad Keselowski and Busch ended up spun, relegating them to 21st (Busch) and 22nd (Truex). Hamlin finished sixth.
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!