CONCORD, N.C. – Moments after taking the checkered flag in Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course, race winner Chase Elliott revisited the site of his biggest mistake.
Elliott drove his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet up to the tire barrier in Turn 1 of the 2.28-mile, 17-turn course and began a burnout that bordered on the sarcastic.
Early in the final stage of the 109-lap event and after a restart on Lap 65, Elliott locked up his brakes and plowed straight into the tire barrier, taking out the “Tums” logo in the corner known as Heartburn Turn. After pitting to address the damage, Elliott fell to 37th in the running and spent the rest of the race working his way forward.
After a spate of opportune cautions, Elliott took the lead for good on Lap 104, passing Martin Truex Jr. for second and Kevin Harvick for the top spot after the final restart.
Five laps later, Elliott crossed the finish line 3.016 seconds ahead of teammate Alex Bowman, who made a heroic run from the rear of the field to finish second and wrestle the final berth in the Round of 12 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs from Aric Almirola and Ryan Newman.
“Oh, my gosh, what a mistake, holy moly,” said Elliott, who picked up his third victory of the season, his first at the Charlotte road course and the sixth of his career. “You talk about messing something up, right here — don’t do that.
“What a day. Such a fast NAPA Camaro ZL1, and honestly that was the only reason we were able to get back in it. I pretty well blew it and got the cautions at the right time and brought it home. … But I don’t think that I could have done anything more stupid, leading that race.”
Bowman and Newman were locked in a tight battle for the final spot in the Round of 12 before Newman blew the backstretch chicane with three laps left and dropped to 32nd at the finish. That left Newman 14th in the standings and 15 points behind Bowman.
Almirola raced to a 14th-place finish and left Charlotte five points behind Bowman, the first driver outside the top 12. Kurt Busch (20th) and Erik Jones (40th after a Lap 23 crash knocked a hole in the radiator of his No. 20 Toyota) also were eliminated from the playoffs, which resume next Sunday at Dover International Speedway.
Bowman overcame a litany of mistakes and ill fortune to grab the final slot in the Round of 12. With 25 seconds left in Saturday’s final Cup practice, he crashed in Turns 3 and 4 and was forced to go to a backup car. That meant starting from the rear Sunday, and halfway through the first lap, Bowman spun in the backstretch chicane.
He was turned sideways in the six-car Lap 23 wreck that started when Busch slammed into the rear of Chris Buescher’s Chevrolet as the cars slowed entering the corner. And on Lap 42, Bowman turned Bubba Wallace at the exit of the backstretch chicane after a heated exchange that featured uncomplimentary hand gestures from Wallace.
At the end of the race, Wallace still was seething. As Bowman sat exhausted with his back against the driver’s side of his No. 88 Chevrolet, Wallace threw a drink into Bowman’s face and walked away.
Bowman could take solace, however, in the knowledge his championship hopes are still alive. After the race, Bowman visited the infield care center suffering from dehydration, team owner Rick Hendrick confirmed.
Truex, Harvick and Kyle Busch already had clinched Round of 12 spots entering the Charlotte race. Elliott, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer, pole winner William Byron, Ryan Blaney and Bowman clinched Sunday.
Harvick finished third in the Roval 400, followed by Bowyer, Keselowski, Truex and Blaney, who gritted out his eighth-place finish after damaging the rear suspension by hitting the wall.