After winning a streak of road course races dating back to 2019, Chase Elliott could not finish victoriously on Sunday, Feb. 21 at the second-ever Daytona Road Course race.
“I hate it,” Elliott said after the race. “Too many mistakes. Went off track...bad deal.”
Elliott won the pole position and stayed in first place throughout the entire first stage. He won stage 1 and led every lap in stage 2 until a caution flag came out on lap 27.
The front right tire of Elliott’s car got away from the crew on a pit stop, so the left front had to slow down until the right could recover. This caused Elliott to lose four spots on pit road. 11 drivers did not go to pit road and Elliott restarted off the caution in 14th place.
With only six laps left in the stage, Elliott worked quickly. He was back in ninth place with three laps to go in the stage and finished stage 2 in sixth place.
Elliott continued to speed past the competition and passed Christopher Bell for the lead on lap 40 of the 70-lap race. A weather caution flag sent Elliott back to pit road where he once again lost three spots. During that stop, 11 drivers stayed on the track and Elliott restarted in 15th place.
On a move right off the restart, Elliott ended up in the grass and was going to lose a lot of places if another caution flag had not immediately come out. On the restart, Elliott surged past his opponents and was back in fifth place with just seven laps to go.
Brad Keselowski drove in fourth place. Elliott tried to make a move past Keselowski, but did not have enough room. That’s when Denny Hamlin, driving in sixth place, tapped the back of Elliott’s car, sending him spinning into the grass infield. Elliott did not have to pit but his chances of winning the race were over. He rejoined the pack in 24th place and ended the race in 21st.
“When you have those late-race cautions like that, you have a mixed bag of who stays and who goes,” Elliott said. “It’s a bit of a gamble either way. You get back in traffic and it just gets to be so chaotic and it just depends on who gets through and who doesn't.”
Elliott’s road course win streak dated back to August 2019 when he won at Watkins Glen. He won the next two races at the Charlotte Roval and then won the first-ever Daytona Road Course race last season.
In just two races this season, Elliott sits sixth in the NASCAR 2021 Cup Series standings. He is behind the two winners, Michael McDowell and Christopher Bell, along with Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick.
Elliott will aim for the win column at NASCAR’s next Cup Series race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Dixie Vodka 400 starts at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 28.