WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – The checkered flag has waved on the final road-course race of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season, and Chase Elliott led his Hendrick Motorsports teammates with a 13th-place finish at Watkins Glen International.
Fuel-saving strategies came into play down the stretch in a race that was won by Martin Truex Jr.
Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson finished 16th and 29th, respectively.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s day ended after Stage 1 with reports of valve train issues. He was scored 37th.
“It’s been a little frustrating this weekend – this doesn’t make it much better,” Earnhardt said. “But, I sure have enjoyed racing here and really appreciate the fans here and the track and the staff. They’ve treated us so good every time we’ve been here, so it’s been a blessing.”
Below is a closer look at how the Hendrick Motorsports drivers fared at Watkins Glen.
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 RATED RED CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Kahne began Sunday’s race in 19th, and by the end of Stage 1 he jumped 10 spots to finish inside the top 10 in ninth and earn two bonus points. He elected to pit between segments and restarted Stage 2 in 11th, the same position he in which finished the stage. When the green flag waved for the third and final stage of the race, Kahne found himself restarting in 11th. A debris caution at Lap 51 led the No. 5 Rated Red Chevy team to pit for four tires and fuel. Back on the track, they restarted in 15th and by Lap 65 had jumped two positions into the 13th spot. However, with 25 laps to go in the race, Kahne was notified that he would be short on fuel. He chose to pit under the green flag for fuel at Lap 82, causing him to drop down to 24th. Kahne and the No. 5 team continued to push to finish the race in 16th.
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 24 SUNENERGY1 CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Elliott rolled off the grid in fourth, finishing Stage 1 in third and earning eight bonus points. He restarted Stage 2 in first after choosing not to pit between segments. Elliott finished the stage in 18th due to making a pit stop just prior to the conclusion of the stage. The driver of the No. 24 SunEnergy1 Chevy restarted the final stage in 14th. Elliott pitted during a debris caution 11 laps into the stage for four tires and fuel. The quick pit stop earned Elliott five spots on pit road, which put him back on the track in ninth after going in 14th. By Lap 65, Elliott was running in eighth and continued to hold the position, dropping one spot by Lap 72. Like his teammates, Elliott was short on fuel in the closing laps of the race. The No. 24 team chose to pit only for fuel with nine laps to go, causing him to hit the track in 18th. Elliott was able to hop back inside the top 15 to take the checkered flag in 13th.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Johnson took the green flag in 10th, but finished Stage 1 in 23rd after electing to pit just three laps before the end of the stage. He restarted Stage 2 in fifth, but reports of a loose car resulted in a 27th-place finish at the conclusion of Stage 2. Johnson restarted the final stage in 17th. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy team successfully avoided an incident on pit road after choosing to pit during a caution with 38 laps to go. With 24 laps remaining, Johnson worked hard to hold off cars in 14th position, but had to start saving fuel and dropped back to 17th by Lap 79. He worked his way back inside the top 15 in 13th, but the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy began to run out of fuel just before the white flag. He ultimately finished the race in 29th.
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Starting Sunday’s race in 28th, Earnhardt maintained track position enough to finish Stage 1 exactly where he started. Just before the end of the first stage, Earnhardt complained of power loss. He went to pit road for the No. 88 Axalta Chevy team to diagnose the problem and they found a potential valve train issue. Earnhardt’s day ended in the garage, and he was scored 37th.