Chase Elliott claimed his third win of the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series season Saturday night after leading 85 of the 200 laps that made up the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. With the win, he also reclaimed the series championship points lead from JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith, who finished 15th.
“This is an unbelievable night,” Elliott said. “We were able to run up front all night, and that’s what it takes.”
Trevor Bayne finished second. The only two Sprint Cup Series regulars in the race, Kyle Larson and Kasey Kahne, finished third and fourth after a late-race battle for the third spot.
“Somehow I was just really loose that last run,” Larson said. “Kasey closed in on me, but I was able to hold him off.”
Ty Dillon rounded out the top-five.
“We kind of chased the track a little bit,” Dillon said. “About a half step behind at the wrong time.”
As the three highest-finishing Nationwide championship-eligible drivers, Elliott Bayne and Dillon qualified to race for the Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus next Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Also qualified is Brian Scott, who claimed the bonus at Chicagoland with a sixth-place finish.
“I felt like we were better than a sixth-place car,” Scott said. “We’ll take sixth.”
At Chicagoland, Scott was racing Smith, Chris Buescher and Elliott Sadler for the bonus. Both Buescher and Sadler finished in the top-10, taking t he eighth and 10th positions, respectively.
Scott started the race on the pole and led the first 24 laps until Elliott took over on lap 25. After Elliott took the lead for the first time in the race, he pulled away from the field. By the time Ryan Blaney took second from Scott soon after lap 40, Elliott had a lead of 4.1 seconds on his nearest competitor. After a cycle of green-flag pit stops around the quarter mark of the race, Elliott was 8.2 seconds out in front of the race field.
Blaney, though, took the lead from Elliott on a restart following a caution that came out for debris around lap 70. Soon after, Larson took second from Elliott and set his sights on Blaney and the lead. Blaney and Larson raced side-by-side for the lead for several laps, but Blaney was able to maintain the position.
Larson took the lead, though, on a restart on lap 127. Blaney continued to lose positions, giving up second to Elliott. Just past lap 140, Elliott regained the lead when Larson’s car got loose and scraped the wall.
Soon after, the field cycled through another round of green-flag pit stops. The cycle was a lengthy one, as several drivers who pitted during the previous caution stayed out longer before making their final stops.
Bayne was among those who was able to make his final green-flag stop late, and as a result, led several laps before finally heading for pit road and handing the lead back over to Elliott. Bayne returned to the track in second position and ran second to Elliott for the remainder of the race.
“Another 15 laps and we may have had him,” Bayne said of Elliott.
Other top-10 finishers included Erik Jones, who finished seventh in his Nationwide Series debut. Blaney, meanwhile, wound up ninth.