In a weather-delayed, crash-filled and chaotic Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona, Chase Elliott found himself a victim of the biggest incident of the day. But even that couldn’t put a damper on his main achievement of the weekend: the presentation of his regular season championship trophy.
The final race of the regular season went just as scripted — a postponement followed by drama from start to finish and a surprise winner who slipped through the mess.
By the end of the race, only 16 drivers remained running and only three points separated either side of the Cup Series playoff cut line.(Story continues below)
But Elliott had the least to worry about in the field, having already secured the top spot in the playoffs with his four victories thus far.
As a result, he was able to enjoy the festivities of Saturday’s trophy presentation before the race scheduled for that night was pushed to Sunday morning due to inclement weather.
His standings status didn’t change his approach to the race, however, as he kept himself at the front of the pack before finishing Stage One in second position.
Soon enough, the incidents began to pile up and the biggest one of all occurred with just 21 laps remaining in the race.
Just minutes after multiple drivers had mentioned over their radios that the track conditions were worsening due to more rain, no less than 13 cars were entangled in a mess on Turn 1.
The famous speed of Daytona allowed that incident to end the day of nearly all involved, including Elliott.
Even with the early exit and official 29th-place finish, he gained 17 more points to finish out the regular season with 939 — a full 130 ahead of Joey Logano.
With the adjusted standings for the playoffs, Elliott leads the field of 16 drivers with 2040 points, which is 15 ahead of Logano.
As for the remainder of the race, the late incident shuffled the pack and triggered another long weather delay.
The man who managed to avoid the Big One and came out victorious was Austin Dillon, who became the 15th different winner in the Cup Series this season.
Because of that, the results for Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr once again became decisive for the final playoff spot. Both were within the top 16 prior to the race after Kurt Busch vacated his spot due to injury.
Despite Truex Jr’s 44-point haul on the day, he finished just three points behind Blaney.
Elliott will begin his 2022 playoff run next Sunday at the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.