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Chase Elliott’s long Roval lead cut short by late caution, ensuing chaos
Chase Elliott and AJ Allmendinger race during the NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Oct. 9, 2022 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

For longer than anyone else, Chase Elliott held the lead at the Bank of America Roval 400 playoff race at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s road course last Sunday.

Following a well-timed pit stop decision by crew chief Alan Gustafson, the No. 9 car was in front of the pack by the time the pit cycle had completed with around 32 laps left to go.

Already into the Round of 8 after winning at Talladega, Elliott would continue to lead the Round of 12 cutoff race in what was up to that point a relatively uneventful day with few, if any, opportunities for passing. 

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Maintaining around a four-second lead over AJ Allmendinger — the winner of Saturday’s Xfinity Series Roval race — Elliott was sailing smoothly until a caution flag was brought out with just five laps remaining due to debris on the track near a turn. 

At that point, there became a near-guarantee of a chaotic restart that would render the previous three hours of the race obsolete.

Coming out of the caution in front, Elliott burst out of the restart looking to maintain his lead. But in one of the early turns, Allmendinger maneuvered past Elliott before Kevin Harvick pushed Allmendinger aside to take the lead. 

Elliott managed to briefly return to second position after Harvick’s move but was suddenly spun out by Tyler Reddick, who had moved into third ahead of Allmendinger. 

Through all of that commotion, the No. 20 of Christopher Bell moved from seventh to second position, setting up a showdown between him and Harvick for the lead. 

One final caution was thrown out for additional debris with two laps to go while Elliott attempted to salvage some points for the day. 

But an initial move from around 26th position up into the mid-pack only got as far as 18th at the restart for overtime. After the restart, Elliott would get caught up in a corner dogpile and finish in 20th position.

The final restart saw Bell — in a must-win position to advance in the playoffs — use his fresh tires to move ahead of Harvick and earn a clutch victory.

Meanwhile, the two remaining Hendrick Motorsports drivers had a dramatic day of their own. William Byron — who had a penalty from a previous race decreased so he would regain lost points — finished 16th but would advance to the Round of 8 after a rough day for Kyle Larson.

The defending Cup Series champion became the first man below the Round of 8 cutoff line through a combination of Bell’s win, Byron’s penalty modification and a late mistake of his own. 

The four eliminated drivers were Larson, Daniel Suarez, Austin Cindric and Alex Bowman.

With another points reset after the Roval race, Elliott sits atop the playoff standings with 46 playoff points — 20 ahead of second-place Joey Logano. 

Elliott and the No. 9 team now move on to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the South Point 400 on Sunday, Oct. 16 at 2:30 p.m. The race will be broadcast on NBC.