Elliott came into Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race on the 2.45-mile, seven-turn road course as a heavy favorite having won the last two races at the track as well as winning on two other road courses this season.
However, before the race even began, Elliott’s No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet twice failed pre-race inspection and NASCAR confiscated several parts from the car.
Elliott’s car finally passed on the third try, but the damage was done. Elliott had to start the race from the rear of the field and his crew chief, Alan Gustafson, was ejected from the track. The team also lost 10 driver and owner points and was assessed a $25,000 fine.
That put Elliott in tough hole from which to dig out of.
Elliott made good progress early only to flat-spot his tires entering Turn 1 on Lap 30 of 90 and was forced to make a green-flag pit stop that left him at the tail end of the lead lap.
By the third stage, Elliott had clawed back into contention and clearly had the fastest car. He moved into the top 5 with 25 laps remaining. He got around Martin Truex Jr. for second on Lap 82.
With 8 laps to go and without a caution, lapped traffic was Elliott’s only hope to gain additional ground but Larson did what he needed to do and ended the race 2.4 seconds ahead.
“I made too many mistakes to get the win, unfortunately, and made it too late in the race,” Elliott said. “Super-proud of our team.
“Been kind of an uphill battle all day, but everybody was just super prepared coming into the day, and our NAPA team just did a really good job of fighting it.”
Missing out on a historic milestone
With a win Sunday, Elliott would have joined NASCAR Hall of Famers Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon as the only drivers since track’s first race in 1957 to win three consecutive times.
A victory would have also given him eight road course wins already in his Cup career and tie him with another Hall of Famer, Tony Stewart, for second all-time at just 25 years old.
“If I hadn’t have let them down there, I think we would have had a shot at it, but congrats to Kyle, Cliff (Daniels, Larson’s crew chief), all the guys on the No. 5 team,” Larson said. “Happy for everybody at HMS.
“Hendrick Motorsports has been working extremely hard, and not only do the people deserve to win, but Mr. (Rick) Hendrick deserves to win. Really happy for him, and I’ll try to clean some things up and make less mistakes next time.
“Maybe it’ll work out.”