Elliott grabs Nationwide points lead with Chicagoland win
Joliet, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - Rookie Chase Elliott moved atop the Nationwide Series point standings again with a victory in Saturday night's EnjoyIllinois.com 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Elliott, the 18-year-old son of former NASCAR Cup Series champion Bill Elliott, started third and led the most laps with 85. He took the lead for the fourth and final time after a round of green-flag pit stops had concluded with 24 laps remaining. Elliott crossed the finish line 1.8 seconds ahead of his closest competitor, Trevor Bayne.
It's the third career win in the series for Elliott. The driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports won back-to-back races in April at Texas and Darlington. All of his Nationwide victories have occurred at tracks where he competed for the first time.
"I just try to make the most of the practice laps," Elliott said. "The biggest thing is these guys [No. 9 team] brought me a really fast race car. That gives me time to learn the racetrack instead of having to work on the car and do it at the same time. It's just a pleasure to drive these race cars at JR Motorsports. It was an awesome night."
Bayne's second-place run matched his season-best finish. He was also runner-up in the spring race at Dover.
Sprint Cup Series regulars Kyle Larson and Kasey Kahne finished third and fourth, respectively. Rookie Ty Dillon placed fifth. Sprint Cup took its final weekend off this season before it resumes its schedule next week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Brian Scott finished sixth and collected a $100,000 bonus from series title sponsor Nationwide Insurance for being the highest finisher among the four drivers eligible for the "Dash 4 Cash" at Chicagoland. The other drivers who had qualified for the cash award in this race were: Chris Buescher (finished eighth), Elliott Sadler (10th) and Regan Smith (16th). Scott won the pole position earlier in the day and led the first 20 laps before Elliott took command.
Scott, Elliott, Bayne and Dillon have qualified for the third round in the four-race Dash 4 Cash, which is next Saturday at Indianapolis.
"It was just a great night for us," Scott said. "We started on pole and led some laps in the beginning. We just needed some adjustments. We got too tight. We needed one or two more adjustments, and I wish this race was a little bit longer. I think we could have got the car tuned in and give us a shot for the win. It's really neat that we won the $100,000 and that we're locked into [the Dash 4 Cash] at Indy."
Smith entered this 300-mile race as the championship leader but now trails Elliott, his teammate at JRM, by seven points. Sadler is eight points behind.
Erik Jones, who made his Nationwide debut driving the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, finished seventh. Ryan Blaney was ninth.
Sam Hornish Jr., who drove the No. 54 car for JGR in this race, suffered engine failure on lap 8, which ended his night early. Hornish had qualified sixth but had to start from the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments to the car before the event. He had moved up to 21st before his motor expired.
"We know one thing - there's a big hole in the oil pan," Hornish said. "The car was really good there at the start of the race. We had to start from the back because of a problem that we had in qualifying. Felt like we were going to have a really good day. It's unfortunate that it ended so soon. It's definitely not what these guys [No. 54 team] or myself deserved, but we'll keep our heads up and move on."
Hornish is driving a limited schedule for JGR in Nationwide this season. His next start in that car, which is normally occupied by Kyle Busch, is the Aug. 16 road-course race at Mid-Ohio.
07/20 00:37:37 ET