Chase Elliott wins rain-shortened, crash-filled messy race in Austin

May 23, 2021; Austin, Texas, USA; Kurt Busch (1) drives with poor visibility around turn three in the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Chase Elliott solidified his reputation as the king of the road courses on Sunday by winning the rain-shortened EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix NASCAR Cup Series race at the Circuit of the Americas road course in Austin, Texas.

Elliott was in the lead but in fuel trouble with 14 laps to go when heavy rain began to pour down and cause officials to decide that the flooded surface of 3.41-mile, 20-turn COTA course had become too dangerous to continue.

The victory was the Hendrick Motorsports driver’s sixth overall and fifth in his last seven starts at road courses.

It was the first win of the season for the defending Cup champion.

Awarded second place was Elliott’s teammate, Kyle Larson, who had more fuel left and was closing on Elliott when the final red flag waved.

Joey Logano of Team Penske, who led a race-best 14 laps, was third.

Ross Chastain of Chip Ganassi Racing was fourth.

Road race specialist AJ Allmendinger was fifth.

Tyler Reddick started the race from the pole after a rare race-day qualifying session on Sunday morning. The pole was the first of the Richard Childress Racing driver’s career.

“It’s pretty well known that I haven’t been very good on road courses and I didn’t want that to be my weakness anymore,” Reddick said. “I just focused during the offseason at being better. I put a lot of work into this, being better and this whole team did a great job to help me get better.”

The race started on a relatively dry track, but before the first lap ended, heavy rain hit and the result was ugly. The slick track combined with lack of visibility because of rooster tails of water coming off the cars caused several bad accidents.

A wreck on Lap 18 took out a number of star drivers, including Kevin Harvick, Bubba Wallace and Christopher Bell.

After getting out of the care center, Harvick said, “We don’t have any business being out in the rain, period. All I can say is this is the worst decision that we’ve ever made in our sport that I’ve been a part of, and I’ve never felt more unsafe in my whole racing career, period.”

Back in the pack, “Just so hard to see” in the rain, Bell said. “Racing blind.”

Racing blind resulted in a very scary wreck on Lap 25 when Cole Custer hit Martin Truex, Jr. so hard from behind that Custer’s car ended up underneath the rear of Truex’s. Custer’s car then slammed a wall and burst into flames.

“Man,” Truex said, “it’s dangerous. You just go down the back stretch every lap praying there’s nobody having an issue … a crash or a car stopped or whatever because you are just wide open and can’t see anything.”

Officials then red flagged the race and sent out track dryers. The cars were then called to the pits where teams were allowed to clean windshields and apply chemicals that help shed water from the windshields.

Officials also announced all restarts would be with cars in single file.

The rain let up for a while but came back in force with 14 laps to go.

The next race on the Cup schedule is the traditional Memorial Day weekend Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

–Jim Pedley, Special to Field Level Media