After a frustrating start to his season at Daytona, Chase Elliott got back on track with a runner-up finish in the Pala Casino 400 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California on Sunday, Feb, 26.
In what was the final race for Fontana’s often-entertaining two-mile track, this year’s swan song provided solid racing, with Kyle Busch winning in poetic fashion at the very track he won his first career Cup Series race 18 years ago.
For Dawsonville native Elliott, his day ran the full gauntlet of the race as he steered himself from a 33rd-position start to a contending spot.
By the time Stage One ended at the 65-lap mark of the 200-lap race, Elliott was in a comfortable 10th position. He would slide up three more positions at the end of Stage Two before making more assertive moves late in the race.
With strong races ran by Ross Chastain, Daniel Suarez and Joey Logano, Elliott floated around fifth until the final pit cycle of the race, which he handled well to move up further.
Passing Chastain and Suarez, Elliott would find himself behind only Busch with around 20 laps left.
While Elliott initially reduced the interval between him and Busch to under three seconds, the new No. 8 for Richard Childress Racing would hold on to earn his first victory for his new team.
“Just really proud of our team,” Elliott said. “Everybody went to work hard over the winter just trying to get better. We still have some work to do, but it was really nice to just see a lot of that hard work pay off.”
NASCAR confirmed back in 2020 that the Auto Club Speedway, opened in 1997, will be torn down to be rebuilt as a short track.
As of now, there is no clear date as to when the new track will be completed.
Elliott continues his season this week at the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday March 5. The race will broadcast at 12:30 p.m. on FOX.