NASCAR Cup Series at Nashville: Chase Elliott wins Ally 400 in a race marred by weather issues

LEBANON, Tenn. – Generally, a night out in Nashville is planned long in advance, as the city’s entertainment district attracts country music hopefuls and tourists from far and wide. Chase Elliott, though, didn’t exactly have plans to be in Nashville late Sunday night until Mother Nature forced them – but he made the most of it, and now he has a Gibson Guitar for his troubles.

After two lengthy weather delays forced the second half of the Ally 400 to be run on Sunday night, Elliott came to life and survived a late-race caution to win at Nashville Superspeedway for his second victory of the 2022 season. Elliott becomes the fifth repeat winner of the season, and his win at Nashville marks his second this season on a concrete racetrack. Elliott previously won at Dover Motor Speedway in May.

Elliott had built a comfortable lead on the final long green flag run and looked set for certain victory until Josh Bilicki blew an engine with nine laps to go, setting up a late race caution and a frantic finish. Elliott and crew chief Alan Gustafson elected to stay out under bail while his nearest competitors came to pit road, which proved to be the right decision on the final four lap run to the checkered flag.

Ally 400 results

  1. # 9 – Chase Elliott
  2. # 45 – Kurt Busch
  3. # 12 – Ryan Blaney
  4. # 5 – Kyle Larson
  5. # 1 – Ross Chastain
  6. # 11 – Denny Hamlin
  7. # 2 – Austin Cindric (R)
  8. # 20 – Christopher Bell
  9. # 22 – Joey Logano
  10. # 4 – Kevin Harvick

Here’s more from what turned into a long, but satisfying day for Elliott.

Getting ahead of Gibbs

Track position proved to be essential at Nashville, and the Joe Gibbs Racing cars had plenty of it throughout the first 200 laps. Much of Sunday’s race was controlled by Gibbs Toyotas, as Martin Truex Jr. swept the opening two stages while he, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Busch all took turns at the front.

By comparison, it looked as though it was going to be a miserable day for Hendrick Motorsports. A quick sequence following the first weather delay saw William Byron fall off the pace and go to the garage with a steering rack problem, while Alex Bowman spun and crashed in Turn 2 after getting turned by Corey LaJoie. Elliott and Kyle Larson, meanwhile, were fairly quiet during the afternoon hours.

But the nighttime proved to be the right time for Elliott. After gaining track position by taking fresher tires while other drivers stayed out, Elliott ran down Busch for the lead over the course of a long run, beginning the battle that would end up deciding the race. Elliott eventually took control of the race over the final 50 laps, driving away over the final long run and then hanging on at the finish.

Busch, Truex and Hamlin were all among the cars that came to pit road for fresh tires under the final caution, but that decision only wound up paying dividends for Hamlin. While Hamlin used his tires to make his way up to sixth, Busch and Truex ended up mired in traffic and came home 21st and 22nd, respectively.

Weathering the Storm

Entering Sunday, the expectation had been that Nashville might be one of the most grueling races of the season. Temperatures were in the high 90s in the lead-up to the race, and the extreme temperatures took quite a toll on drivers in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race.

As it turned out, heat ended up not being a major concern. Most of the afternoon portion of the race took place under the cover of threatening skies, and two major delays occurred. The first came when lightning strikes in the area forced the race into a holding pattern, and the second came when heavy rain and lightning hit the track just prior to the halfway point.

By the time the storm ended, the heat had broken and the race was forced to nighttime. By that point, heat was no longer a concern.

From the Finishing Order

  • With his 15th career win, Elliott now ties Ernie Irvan for 55th on NASCAR’s all-time wins list. With two more wins, Elliott will move into a tie for 52nd that is currently held between NASCAR Hall of Famer Curtis Turner, Marvin Panch and Larson.
  • The recovery of the night belonged to Ryan Blaney, as he came back from a spin on Lap 205 to finish third. That finish moved Blaney to third in points, and he now sits 31 points back of Elliott for the lead in the regular-season standings.
  • With a seventh-place finish, Austin Cindric earned his first top-10 finish on an oval since winning the Daytona 500, and he also earned op-10 finishes in consecutive races for the first time in his career. Cindric’s top 10 was well-earned, as he had to come back from an unscheduled pit stop that resulted in him going a lap down.
  • Erik Jones seemingly knows how to make things spectacular on pit road. After the heavy machinery was brought out to get his tire off at Kansas, a fire broke out as Jones ‘car was being fueled, singing the left rear quarter panel of Jones’ car. Jones went on to finish 11th.
  • Bubba Wallace scored his best finish since Kansas by coming home 12th, but Nashville presented another missed opportunity for Wallace and his crew. Wallace drove all the way from 30th up to sixth in the first half of the race, but more pit road miscues and an ill-timed caution during green flag stops mired Wallace back in traffic multiple times. Wallace stayed out under the final caution, allowing him to salvage a result more indicative of where he ran throughout the race.
  • After getting spun off of LaJoie’s bumper, Alex Bowman sarcastically quipped that LaJoie is a “really good race car driver” on his radio before trading barbs with him on Twitter during the long rain delay. Ironically, LaJoie ended up proving Bowman’s point: LaJoie scored a 20th-place finish, his first top 20 since Kansas.
  • Chris Buescher ran in the top 10 at times during the second half of the race, but the last round of green flag pit stops proved to be his undoing. Buescher’s right rear wheel fell off in Turn 4, causing a caution and drawing what will be a four-race suspension for crew chief Scott Graves and two crew members.

Next Race

The NASCAR Cup Series moves from the glitz and glamor of Music City to the humble dairy farms of Wisconsin, as the Cup Series heads to Road America for the Kik Trip 250 next Sunday at 3 pm ET on USA Network. The race will also be available to stream on fuboTV (try for free).

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