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NASCAR: Elliott muscles out third-place finish at Darlington, drives in Evernham throwback scheme
Chase Elliott races into turn 2 during the running of the NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 on May 14, 2023 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Chase Elliott found a way to earn his best finish since returning from his injury, coming up in third position at Darlington Raceway’s Goodyear 400 on Sunday, May 14, during throwback weekend.

Elliott paid tribute to his father’s early 2000s resurgence by racing in the red Ray Evernham No. 9 paint scheme, harkening back to Bill’s Dodge days and Chase’s childhood. 

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While Chase had a solid run at Darlington, he largely blamed himself for not being able to advance past the eighth to twelfth-position bubble he floated in for most of the race.

“I felt like our car was plenty good throughout the whole day; I just do such a terrible job getting up through traffic,” Elliott said. “Everything on the other side of the wall and the car that I was driving was really good, so I need to just try to improve and keep going to work on the areas I’m struggling in.”

Pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. led more than 100 laps to begin a race that included several recognizable paint schemes — such as Dale Jarrett’s UPS scheme ran by Ross Chastain and Christopher Bell’s DeWalt tribute to Matt Kenseth.

Sunday’s race also marked the surprise return of two significant figures in NASCAR history. Ryan Newman made his first start since 2021 — driving the No. 51 for Rick Ware Racing, while Carl Edwards made an appearance in the FOX Sports broadcast booth shortly after being named as one of NASCAR’s 75 greatest drivers. 

With passing proving to be difficult at Darlington on Sunday, dominant cars such as Truex, Chastain, William Byron and Kyle Larson stayed up front until a dramatic final 20 laps. 

Three major incidents near the end of the race defined the finish, beginning with a spin by Newman. 

Larson held the lead prior to the incident and battled Ross Chastain for the lead from the next restart, only for Truex Jr to trigger a much larger incident that involved Elliott and several others. 

The tension between Chastain and Larson would come to a boiling point at the next restart, with the former pinching the latter aggressively toward the wall, resulting in both spinning out.

Byron, who had remained in the top 5 for most of the day, took the lead out of the ensuing restart and won the race in overtime — securing his third win of the 2023 season. 

Notably, Elliott and runner-up Kevin Harvick were able to retain track position following the Truex incident, allowing them to improve their top-10 performances into top-3 finishes.

Next week, the NASCAR Cup Series returns to the hallowed ground of North Wilkesboro Speedway for the first time since 1996 for the All-Star race.