NASCAR: Chase Elliott’s road course streak ends at Daytona

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

Following a bizarre sequence of events to end the second race on the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule, Chase Elliott saw his road course win streak come to an end.

Not since Darrell Waltrip was still in the Fox Sports booth had a driver other than Chase Elliott won a NASCAR Cup Series points race on a road course.

In Waltrip’s final race at Sonoma Raceway back in June of 2019, it was Martin Truex Jr. who took the checkered flag. Since then, Elliott had gone four for four, a streak that trailed only Jeff Gordon’s six-race road course winning streak on the all-time list.

Elliott, whose five road course wins are already the most among active drivers, won at Watkins Glen International for the second consecutive season in 2019 after securing his first career Cup Series victory there in 2018, and he added a win at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval in comeback fashion, crashing as the race leader before rallying back to take the checkered flag.

Watkins Glen International was knocked off the 2020 schedule as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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It was replaced by the Daytona International Speedway road course. Sonoma Raceway was knocked off the calendar but not replaced by a road course. Elliott won at the Daytona International Speedway road course before going on to win at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, again in come-from-behind fashion.

But his winning streak ended at four. He dominated Sunday afternoon’s race at the Daytona International Speedway road course, which served as the replacement for the race at Auto Club Speedway this year, after starting from the pole position, but a bizarre sequence of events to end the race ultimately led to a 21st place finish.

He led 44 of the first 57 laps of the 70-lap O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 around the 14-turn, 3.61-mile (5.810-kilometer) road course in Daytona Beach, Florida, but a controversial caution flag for rain changed the complexion of the race.

Nobody went to rain tires for a very simple reason: whatever rain there might have been at the huge venue was certainly not enough to warrant giving up speed on dry tires.

Many drivers came in for new slick tires, and several stayed out on the track on old tires. Elliott was one of those who came into the pits, and for the second time of the day, the #9 team did not execute a great pit stop. He came out fourth among those who pitted after coming in as the leader, and he restarted well outside of the top 10.

He was involved in an incident with Corey LaJoie a few turns after the ensuing restart. He ended up with more damage following the next restart thanks to more contact. Finally, as he was battling his way back into the top five, he spun out behind Brad Keselowski and ahead of Denny Hamlin following additional contact.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell, like Elliott, went on to secure his first career victory in a road course race, passing Team Penske’s Joey Logano with two laps remaining. He led only five of the race’s 70 laps.

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NASCAR Cup Series action is scheduled to return next Sunday, February 28 at Homestead-Miami Speedway with the Dixie Vodka 400, which is set to be broadcast live on Fox beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.