“What’s he doing?”
That was Chase Elliott’s reaction to being spun out by a particularly aggressive Ross Chastain, who had already caused controversy at the NASCAR Cup Series debut at the World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis, Mo.
Earlier in the Enjoy Illinois 300 on Sunday, June 5, Elliott had built up a solid performance after beginning the race in 16th position, while also displaying the Hooters paint scheme for the first time this season.
With Stage One complete after 45 laps, Elliott had moved up to ninth position and looked to bounce back from finishing the previous two races in 29th and 33rd.
Around 20 laps into Stage Two, the first major incident involving Chastain occurred. Jockeying for a top-six position with Denny Hamlin, Chastain sent the No. 11 car into the wall, rendering Hamlin a non-factor for the remainder of the race.
Meanwhile, Elliott had drifted toward the back of the pack after the Stage One break but would benefit from the caution resulting from the first Chastain incident.
He would opt to stay out under caution to gain track position, which would pay off with a top-six spot for around 30 laps.
After going to pit road under the next caution, Elliott would begin the restart in the middle of the pack and looked to quickly move up. But Chastain, in a futile effort to cram himself through a four-wide situation, pushed the No. 9 car sideways and spinning in the path of other cars.
From there, Elliott would join Hamlin in an entertaining revenge tour to place pressure on Chastain whenever they could. At one point, both cars buzzed Chastain on either side.
While the initial damage looked light on Elliott’s car, the additional contact made with other vehicles after Chastain’s initial bump likely contributed to the rest of the day’s performance.
Unable to gain spots for the second half of the race, Elliott would languish in the far back before inching his way toward the top 20.
Finishing the race in 21st position, his lead atop the NASCAR points standings decreased. Elliott now has 507 points, just nine above Enjoy Illinois 300 runner-up Kyle Busch.
In overtime, Joey Logano would win the debut race in St. Louis.