DAWSONVILLE, Ga. - Chase Elliott drove the No. 9 Aaron’s/Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet to win the Carolina 200 at Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway on Saturday, May 14.
The victory is Elliott’s first in the USAR Pro Cup Series and the second of his career at Rockingham Speedway, the track where his father Bill Elliott made his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start. Bill Elliott also scored his most recent of his 44 Cup victories at the short track in November 2003.
Chase Elliott and his crew are focusing on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series this season, but they decided two weeks before the race that some seat time in a similar car would be worth the effort. After a productive day of practice on Thursday, Elliott qualified sixth for Saturday’s 150-mile event.
At the start of the race Elliott quickly moved from his sixth starting position into third, but had to make a pit stop on Lap 12 during the first caution period so his team could secure a loose hood pin. Elliott restarted the race in 31st, and began his forward march through the field with encouragement and assistance from his dad, who was atop the spotter’s stand.
“Just be cautious, and I will help you get back up through the field,” Bill Elliott told his son.
By Lap 58, Chase Elliott had moved into the sixth position, passing A.J. Frank. During a caution at Lap 64, Elliott pitted for fuel only while several other drivers pitted for fresh tires. He lost two positions during the next green-flag run to Tanner Barryhill and Matt Loftin, both of whom had fresh tires.
Undaunted, Elliott pressed on, passing other drivers ahead that also took only fuel, such as Frank and Jeff Agnew. Elliott regained the sixth position.
On Lap 87 Elliott passed Caleb Holeman for the fifth position, just as the caution flag flew for a crash by Brian Keselowski, who made the field for this year’ Daytona 500. During the caution period, Elliott pitted for tires and lined up 10th for the restart.
By Lap 106, Elliott had moved into the fifth position behind leaders J.P. Morgan, Barryhill, Brad Rogers and Brian Silas. Elliott took fourth from Silas on Lap 111 and third from Barryhill four laps later.
After the fifth and final caution flag was waved, there were 18 green laps remaining. Pit strategy went into play, with teams choosing different options. First-place Morgan and second-place Rogers pitted for fresh tires. Elliott stayed out on old tires and held off a hard-charging Rogers to get the win. Morgan finished third.
“I thought the tires were going to be a little bit bigger issue,” Rogers said. “(Elliott) was awful fast there for not coming to get tires with me and J.P. right there at the end.”
Rogers also had praise for his young opponent.
“He [Elliott] held a pretty wheel,” Rogers said. “He didn’t screw up when I was able to get to him in that lapped traffic. I had a run on him on the front straightaway, but Chase is a good dude, and he’s got a bright future ahead of him. I’m sure we’ll be racing again in the future, hopefully.”
But for Elliott’s team, the decision wasn’t that hard. He said his team wouldn’t have benefitted by pitting for tires.
“We needed to use our tires in practice on Friday getting a solid set-up and were out of tires, so pitting during the caution period wasn’t an option for us,” Elliott said. “I still felt pretty confident we could hold them off.”
Elliott’s next event will be the NASCAR K&N series at Iowa Speedway on May 21.