From his pole-position start, Dawsonville native Chase Elliott fought through a series of misfortunes that started with the loss of power steering on lap 20, to muscle his No. 9 Chevy across the finish line for an 11th place finish over the weekend.
NASCAR’s second short-track race of the season took place on the half-mile oval of the Bristol Motor Speedway on April 7 and the Food City 500 delivered the action and excitement expected from such close-quarters racing.
Kyle Busch edged out his brother, Kurt Busch, after both decided to trust their tires and stayed on the track under the eleventh, and final, caution of the race. When the green flag waved with 14 laps to go the brothers battled it out to the end, with the final decision coming down to a mere .733 seconds.
Elliott has consistently fielded one of the fastest cars in this year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) with an average start position of 9.1 over the season’s first eight races. His start from the pole-position at Bristol allowed him to avoid the first lap accident that involved his Hendrick’s Racing teammate William Byron and eliminated Stewart-Hass Racing’s Aric Almirola on the first lap.
The No. 9 Chevy looked to be comfortably in the lead as Elliott maintained his lead after the restart and continued to hold on to his front row seat. Around the twentieth lap Elliott indicated to his pit crew that he had lost power steering, but he stayed on the track on continued to build on his lead.
On lap 39, as Elliott began to lap the field, Ryan Preece broke into a spin directly in front of the passing cars and everyone was forced to brake hard to avoid the collision. Contact between Corey LaJoie and Elliott turned Elliott’s car into a slide towards the interior wall.
In a masterful display of driving, Elliott pulled his car around in a tight 180 degree turn, narrowly brushing the wall, and rejoined the race at almost full speed but no longer in the lead. All the more remarkable when it is considered that he had no power steering during the maneuver.
Although the lead changed 20 more times during the race, those first 38 laps proved to be the only ones led by Elliott. The closest he came to the lead was late in the race when he had pushed his way through the pack back into the top 10.
Elliott was battling his way back into the top five when another short-stop situation centered around his car with 70 laps to go took place after Ryan Blaney attempted to force his way into the lane. Minor contact between all the cars involved sent Elliott into the wall on the next lap as one of his tires appeared to deflate as he made the circuit.
After a pit stop for new tires, he took to the track once again far behind the lead. Over the race’s last few laps, and still lacking power steering, Elliott pushed his car to the limit and pulled himself to just outside of the top 10 as he crossed the line in 11th place.
With a second place finish on the short track of Martinsville two weeks ago, and the pole-position speed on display at Bristol it is clear that Elliott is comfortable on the short track circuit.
He got another chance at victory in that environment as NASCAR moved to the Richmond Raceway and its three-quarter mile track. Results were unavailable as of publication.