Chase Elliott pulled away to win in overtime Sunday at Dover International Speedway for an automatic berth into the next round of the NASCAR Cup playoffs.
Elliott was the surprise winner in a race that had been dominated by Stewart-Haas Racing drivers until a pair of wrecks over the final laps jumbled the field and set the stage for Elliott. He kept his No. 9 Chevrolet off pit road — and drove into victory lane.
Elliott raced to his first career Cup win this season at Watkins Glen and earned a bit of redemption Sunday from a tough finish in last fall’s Dover race. Elliott was passed by winner Kyle Busch with two laps left in the race and fell to 0 for 70 in his career.
Elliott rubbed his head and leaned against his car, crestfallen as he replayed the final laps in his mind. Jimmie Johnson walked over to offer some encouragement and let Elliott vent.
It was one big celebration on Sunday.
“It definitely makes it sweeter, for sure,” Elliott said. “You don’t appreciate it in those moments.”
Elliott was greeted in victory lane with a hug from team owner Rick Hendrick and retired star Jeff Gordon also was there to congratulate the winning driver. Elliott’s father, Hall of Fame driver Bill Elliott, was not at the race.
“He’s been so close here,” Hendrick said. “It’s really good to see him get this win and move on. He’s like his dad. He really knows when to race. I’m really fortunate to have him in our camp.”
The top eight drivers after the next two races move on to the next round and Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman are the bottom four after the first playoff race in the round of 12.
SHR was in control with Kevin Harvick early and Almirola late. Harvick led 286 laps and was on pace to sweep the Dover races until tire issues derailed his run and he finished sixth. Almirola, who led 64 laps late and had his second career Cup win in sight, was running sixth off a restart when he got loose and connected with Brad Keselowski. That triggered a multi-car wreck that collected championship contenders and brought out the red flag to force overtime.
Denny Hamlin was second, followed by playoff driver Joey Logano. NASCAR playoff drivers took 10 of the top 15 spots.