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Hometown hero: Chase Elliott wins at Atlanta for first time

Sportsnaut
Jul 10, 2022; Hampton, Georgia, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Chase Elliott (9) leads the pack during the Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Chase Elliott won for the first time at Atlanta Motor Speedway, his home track, in Sunday’s Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart in Hampton, Ga.

The NASCAR Cup Series’ second visit to Atlanta came down to a final restart with three laps to go.

Elliott restarted fourth, pushed second-place Martin Truex Jr. up the track and passed leader Corey LaJoie entering Turn 1 with two laps to go.

The 26-year-old Elliott then blocked LaJoie, who wrecked in Turn 1 on the final lap after a strong shove from Erik Jones’ No. 43.

That brought out the 13th caution period, ending the race with Elliott declared the victor.

Ross Chastain finished second, followed by Austin Cindric, Jones and Ryan Blaney.

With his third triumph in 2022, Elliott became the second Georgia native to win at the 1.54-mile speedway — joining his father, Bill Elliott, a five-time AMS winner. The Elliotts joined the Earnhardts as the only father-son duo to win at the track.

“To win at your home track is a really big deal for any racecar driver,” said Elliott, who recorded his first AMS win in his ninth start at the speedway. “I’ve watched a lot of guys do it over the years — Jimmie (Johnson) in California. I felt like today was a good opportunity for me.”

He also credited his team.

“What a car. I’m not sure we’ve ever had a speedway car that good,” Elliott said. “If we have, I’ve probably wrecked it down at Daytona.”

Polesitter Elliott, whose roots are in Dawsonville, Ga., less than two hours north of AMS, was stout from the start. He kept his No. 9 Chevrolet up front ahead of Alex Bowman and claimed the win in the 260-lap race’s first 60-circuit segment.

But with Truex out front after a round of pit stops, Chris Buescher, B.J. McLeod and Ty Dillon brought out the event’s third caution on Lap 77, with many drivers deciding to hit pit road again.

The race’s biggest melee occurred on Lap 91 when Chastain’s No. 1 hit Truex’s No. 19 and sparked a nine-car accident in Turn 2. Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet went nose-first into the wall, but the 2018 Daytona 500 winner escaped harm despite the hard hit.

“It looks like we were just a casualty of Ross Chastain once again,” said the elder Dillon, a three-time Cup winner. “When you’ve got guys like him out there wrecking half the field, you might as well take a different strategy sometimes.”

William Byron, winner of the earlier AMS race on March 20, held the point after Buescher caused the fifth caution period in a single-car incident. But Elliott held off Tyler Reddick as Bowman spun off Turn 4 coming to the white flag to win Stage 2.

The eight caution on Lap 170 started with Garrett Smithley’s No. 15 slowing and creating a second nine-car wreck, putting Jones in the lead.

–Field Level Media