Chase Elliott logs home-state victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway
By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
The other? Hall of Fame driver Bill Elliott, Chase’s father.
Chase Elliott earned it in the 260-lap race, as he lost the lead with 19 laps remaining and was third on a restart with three laps remaining. He diced his way to the lead with a little less than two laps to go, and on the final lap, he threw a block on underdog Corey Lajoie, which pinched LaJoie into the wall and eventually into a spin.
The caution was thrown with Elliott leading on that final lap, declaring him the winner.
"I’m just proud to be from here, proud to still live here, and I'm grateful that the fans of this state have always kind of kept me a part of the family really," said Elliott, who lives in his hometown of Dawsonville.
"At the end of the day, I'm just a fan, too, as it pertains to Atlanta and Georgia."
Here are three takeaways from a happy day for Georgia race fans:
Elliott shows grit in win
Elliott had the best car — he led 96 laps — but how he closed the deal on his 16th career victory demonstrated how he has grown as a driver.
The 26-year-old, who won the 2020 Cup title, thought he gave the win away last week at Road America, where Tyler Reddick passed him late for the lead on the road course. Then Elliott nearly saw the race slip away at Atlanta, where he had arguably a more dominant car than a week earlier.
"When we lost the lead, I was a little concerned I had fallen too far back for that few laps left," Elliott said.
Atlanta, which was reconfigured in the offseason with steeper banking so the cars race in packs and draft like they do at Daytona and Talladega, tests the mental capacity of every driver with the intense style of racing.
"I felt like we had the superior car," Elliott said. "When you have that, you certainly want to make the most of it. I felt like I didn’t do a very good job of that last week."
LaJoie’s Cinderella story comes up short
LaJoie, who is 31st in the standings with the second-year Spire Motorsports team, was leading on the final restart with three laps to go at the track where he recorded his best career finish (fifth) in March.
Having raced Elliott for more than 10 years and watched Elliott have significant success while he scraped with primarily underfunded teams, LaJoie has a healthy respect for Elliott, and vice versa.
"I made my move, and it didn’t work out," he said Sunday. "He made a good block. ... I was going to school. That was the first time I’ve been leading a restart at one of these superspeedway-style racetracks."
Elliott expected LaJoie to make a bold move, and LaJoie expected the block.
"I had to get aggressive with Corey at the end," Elliott said. "He told me he would have done the same thing. We all would. That’s just the box that you’re in when you’re speedway racing."
Chastain in the crosshairs
Chastain and Hamlin had a run-in last month at Gateway, and Hamlin was obviously sour afterward.
"Everyone has different tolerance levels, and as you guys know, I’ve reached my peak," Hamlin said afterward.
Chastain, who finished second, took the blame.
"I ran into him," he said. "I got super-tight into sliding [on the track] and [into] his left-rear quarter panel."
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!