Dawsonville's Chase Elliott is leading the NASCAR Nationwide Series points race after claiming a third victory in his rookie season Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway.
With the win, Elliott leads teammate Regan Smith by seven points in the season-long drivers' standings.
Despite having never raced at the 1.5-mile tri-oval, Elliott found himself on the move to the front early. Elliott blasted his No. 9 machine past pole-sitter Brian Scott into the lead on lap 21 and set sail. At one point, Elliott extended his lead to more than eight seconds over his nearest competitor.
In the latter stages, Elliott and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standout Kyle Larson waged a spirited battle for the top spot before Elliott's crew chief Greg Ives called him to pit road for the team's final pit stop at lap 161.
Both Elliott and his NAPA Auto Parts crew executed a flawless pit stop under pressure to distance themselves from Larson through the sequence of green-flag pit stops. By the time the running order cycled through, Elliott found himself with a four-second advantage over Larson and Trevor Bayne.
"We made some really good adjustments overnight. I can't thank Greg [Ives, crew chief] and everybody enough. They didn't quit. Our car had speed at times yesterday (during practice). We just weren't as good, the whole time, as I wanted to be," Elliott said.
He'd never relinquish the lead again as he cruised to the victory by 1.773 seconds over Bayne, Larson, Kasey Kahne and Ty Dillon.
With his third Nationwide Series win of the season Saturday night, the rookie is back on top of standings.
"We had an awesome race going," Elliott said. "I try to make the most of my practice laps. They gave me a good car. That gives me time to learn the track in practice."
Elliott, the son of former NASCAR champion Bill Elliott, also won in his first trips to Texas and Darlington this year. He leads the standings by seven points over Regan Smith.
Chase Elliott said Smith and Kahne provided some important advice about the track.
"I did have some questions that I asked, and I definitely think that helped tonight," he said. "So thankful to have a couple great teammates and good to have something to lean back on with those guys."
Larson was third, followed by Kahne and Dillon to round out the top five.
Racing the same chassis he took to victory lane at Darlington Raceway back in April, Elliott led a race-high 85 laps en route to his third career victory and the seventh win for JR Motorsports in 2014.
The win qualifies Elliott to compete for an additional $100,000 bonus courtesy of Nationwide Insurance's Dash 4 Cash program next weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.