In the first race of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship, Dawsonville native Chase Elliott finished second at the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 14.
Due to a crash between frontrunners Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano on the last lap, the race ended as soon as NASCAR officials flashed the caution lights, signaling an accident to the other drivers. Elliott was less than a car length away from winner Michael McDowell when Nascar called the race.
“I saw the lights come on (for the caution), and I knew it was over right then,” Elliott said after the race. “We had a fast car. I thought we did a really good job of executing today, staying out of trouble. Seems like that’s something we’ve had a hard time doing here lately.”
Heavy rain and lightning strikes paused Sunday’s race for five hours and 40 minutes before resuming at 9:07 p.m. Elliott led for three laps at the start, but finished stage 1 outside of the top 10 in 11th place.
Elliott started stage 2 in the outside line and said after the race that he thought the outside lane was much faster than the inside lane.
“The top was just ridiculous,” Elliott said. “It made it to where nobody wanted to pull out of line until the very last lap, so that’s kind of what you got there to work with.”
Elliott pitted on lap 108 for fuel only. An inside line tried to form together at the end of stage 2 but could not gain enough speed to pass the outside. Elliott stayed on the top and finished stage 2 in fourth place.
He rode in eighth place from lap 155 to lap 190. He moved up to sixth place and stayed there until the last lap accident occured.
Only 27 cars were running on the last lap and five of those were affected on the last lap crash. Elliott said he was surprised by the amount of collisions, despite Daytona’s unpredictable history.
“I was shocked that there was as much pushing and shoving going on as there was there at the beginning,” Elliott said. “Not that that’s super abnormal, I don’t guess, but yeah, just really got to be careful about that, and the way these bumpers are on these cars, it’s just super easy to get somebody pointed in the wrong direction.”
Elliott won the 2020 Cup series championship after winning the last two races of the season. Had he won Sunday’s race, it would have been his third win in a row.
All NASCAR drivers will stay in Daytona, Fla., to race in the first-ever Daytona Road Course on Sunday, Feb. 21 at 3 p.m. Elliott has currently won the last four Cup Series road course races.