After a frustrating finish in the NASCAR K & N Pro Series East race held in June at Gresham Motorsports Park (GMP), 16-year-old Chase Elliott came back strong for the tracks 29th annual Commerce Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram World Crown 300 held on July 4.
Elliott and his No.9 team seized control of all three segments of the 300-lap event, delivering a $20,000 purse while etching his name into World Crown history as only the second driver to set the events pole and to win it.
Elliott earned the lead position after setting the fastest qualifying time with a 16.609-second lap. Teammate T.J. Reaid was not far behind in third qualifying with a 16.663-second lap time, and Stephen Nasse qualified for second with a 16.664-second lap time.
Immediately after Elliott led the field to the green, he quickly gained a strong lead ahead of Nasse, Reaid, and fourth position, David Ragan. Only ten laps into 150 of the first segment, Reaid succumbed to mechanical problems.
Two laps later, the first caution flag came out as Dalton Grindle ended his night when he plowed into a wall on turn two. Elliott was in the lead on the restart in front of Ragan and Kyle Benjamin.
The first segment would continue to cut down the field as many drivers had to call it a night due to mechanical issues or car damage. Elliott found himself in front of the field throughout the remainder of the first segment and netted $4,000 for winning it. An inversion of the field put the No. 9 of Elliott into 14th position.
The 100-lap segment began with Mason Mitchell in the front spot. But that quickly changed as Benjamin stole the position from Mitchell during lap 153, and stayed there for most of the second segment.
Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Paul Kelley, and Austin Theriault were moving their ways towards the front, regaining positions lost during the field inversion. During a caution flag due to debris on lap 224, all four drivers went to the pits for fresh tires while other strong drivers including Benjamin, Pollard and Ragan remained out. After a confusing restart due to several cars trying to find their correct position, Elliott seized the opportunity to change his view and two laps later, the No. 9 found its home, back out in front. His lead continued through the end of the second segment and added another $6,000 to Elliotts winnings.
The third segment began with only the 12 cars that were left on the lead lap. Kelley, Ragan and several other drivers headed to the pits before they were open and lost some position. Once pit road opened, Elliott and Benjamin headed in leaving Blaney to take the lead. Elliott came out of the pits refreshed and quickly regained control from Blaney just four laps later.
Just 16 laps into the final segment, Blaney would suffer a blown engine and spin his way out for the night. Elliott maintained his lead position with Benjamin in second and Kelley and Pollard brawling for third. During lap 288, Kelley and Benjamin spun in turn two and the hard crash stole Clay Alexander and Cale Gale.
After the red flag was dropped for track workers to clean up the slippery mess, the race resumed, and Elliott quickly regained the front spot where he remained until the checkered flag. Pollard came across the finish line in second and Ragan worked his way up to finish third.
The events win would award Elliott with another $10,000, bringing his total purse to $20,000. We just had a really good car tonight, said Elliott while celebrating in victory lane. Everyone has been working really hard on these cars this year, and I feel like our cars get better and better.
Ricky Turner, crew chief of the No. 9 Aarons Dream Machine said he was pleased with Elliott and the team. We dont always have this three segments of a 300-lap race and we were able to kind of work our tire strategy, and Chase put himself in position to win all three segments which was really cool.
Weve had some close calls the last couple of races that hes ran, finishing second to Kyle Busch and finishing second in Milwaukee. We had a chance to win both of those and came up a little bit short so its nice to bounce back down here at his home track, Turner added.
Elliotts schedule will primarily concentrate on K & N Series and ARCA events over the next several months. His late model events will pick-up in October for the Winchester 400 in Indiana and the Snowball Derby held at Five Flags Speedway in December 2012.