LONG POND, Pa. - Chase Elliott was declared the winner of the NASCAR Cup Series event at Pocono Raceway. He had initially finished third but became the winning driver following the top-two finishers failing post-race inspection.
Elliott’s surge toward the end of the race saw him pilot the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to the front of the field after capitalizing on several late-race restarts. The run was nearly cut short by a spinning Ross Chastain on lap 144, but ended up as a near-miss thanks to spotter Eddie D’Hondt’s communication on the radio.
The victory at "The Tricky Triangle" extends his points lead to 105 markers over Chastain with five races left in the regular season. The 26-year-old's top-two streak is also now extended to five straight races with three of his wins coming in that stretch. Overall, his four wins on the season are the most by any driver in the Cup Series this season.
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Kyle Larson also finished in the top five, bringing his No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 home in the fifth position. The reigning Cup Series champion spent the majority of the day inside the top 10 and picked up his third stage win of the season. He now has nine top-five finishes this year - the second-most in the Cup Series.
Alex Bowman finished 11th after spending much of the day in the top 15. William Byron battled back from a late-race pit road penalty to finish 12th after running as high as fourth near the midway mark of the final stage.
The win is Hendrick Motorsports' 19th at Pocono - the most by any one team at the 2.5-mile venue. Elliott is the ninth driver in team history to win here. Jeff Gordon has an organization-best six wins at the Pennsylvania track. Jimmie Johnson and Tim Richmond each won three times, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. had two wins. Bowman, Elliott, Geoff Bodine, Kasey Kahne and Terry Labonte have one win apiece.
Hendrick Motorsports will head to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course for the Cup Series' next stop on the schedule. Both Elliott and Larson finished in the top five in the first race on this layout last year, while Byron was on the pole. Catch the action on Sunday, July 31, at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC with radio coverage on the IMS Radio Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Chase Elliott, No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: First
Stage one: Taking the green flag as the highest qualifying Hendrick Motorsports driver, Elliott fired off well and stormed into second place. The 26-year-old driver battled teammate Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin down the Long Pond straightaway before backing out of a three-wide battle and wisely settling for second. While Larson pulled away from Elliott, the caution came out before the Georgia native had a chance to put on a late charge to pass his teammate. Elliott would finish stage one in the runner-up position.
Stage two: Following the stage break, the race saw multiple restarts that stalled Elliott’s progress. The No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 seemed to get stuck in a Pennsylvania traffic jam on nearly every restart, holding him outside the top 10 despite the pace of his car being faster than those ahead of him. Following his teammates’ lead, crew chief Alan Gustafson called his driver to pit road on lap 63 for four tires and fuel during the longest green-flag run of the race to that point. When Ty Dillon brought out the yellow flag on lap 84, the No. 9 pit crew gained the three-time winner this season six spots on pit road. The No. 9 NAPA Racing team was able to maintain the track position from the pits and finish the stage in the ninth position. Gustafson radioed to his driver saying, "I think we’re a little better than where we’re running," following the green-checkered flag.
Final stage: Elliott's charge back to the front picked up steam at the beginning of the final stage as he battled inside the top 10. On lap 122, Elliott made his way down pit road for four tires and fuel. With a stop of 12.3 seconds, Elliott rejoined the race in the 20th spot. Under caution, Gustafson chose to keep his driver on the racing surface in order to maximize track position. Following the choose rule, Elliott lined up in the sixth position on the outside of row three. Spotter Eddie D'Hondt navigated Elliott through a spinning Ross Chastain and into third place on lap 144. The 2020 champion got a great restart on lap 148 and maintained his position as the third-place car. Following post-race inspection, Elliott was awarded the win after both Hamlin and Kyle Busch failed post-race inspection.
Kyle Larson, No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: Fifth
Stage one: Larson’s day started well as he maintained a top-five position in the early part of the run. After the race’s first caution flew for a spinning Austin Cindric, Larson capitalized on the restart, pulling off a daring three-wide move for the lead over teammate Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin. From there, he opened up a sizeable gap over Elliott before the caution flew on lap 29, ending the stage. With the stage victory, Larson earned a playoff point and his third stage win of the season.
Stage two: Despite losing multiple positions on the restart to begin stage two, Larson recovered on the following restart to move into the fifth position, behind teammate William Byron in sixth. His aggressiveness on the restart was the reason for his success as he navigated crowds of four- and five-wide groups to get through the pack. On lap 49, Larson’s restart skills took center stage once again. He moved up several positions into the fourth spot with assistance from Byron as the teammates worked together to escape the pressure from those behind. Larson followed crew chief Cliff Daniels’ direction on lap 63 when he made his way to pit road for four tires and fuel. Despite the alternate fuel strategy, Larson ran inside the top 15 before the caution flew on lap 84. On pit road, the No. 5 HendrickCars.com crew gained their driver two spots. The 29-year-old Elk Grove, California, native finished stage two in 10th.
Final stage: At the outset of the final stage, Larson and the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was battling hard for the 10th spot with Elliott. After pitting on lap 122, Larson made his way on and off pit road and continued to run inside the top 10 when the cycle of stops was complete. When the caution came out on lap 139, Daniels asked Larson about the balance of his car. The reigning Cup Series champion responded with, "little bit tight exiting one. My tunnel (turn) isn't terrible anymore and my turn three is kind of out of track." Under caution, the crew chief elected to keep his driver on the track to gain track position. On the ensuing restart, Larson made an aggressive three-wide move into turn one, which gained him several positions into eighth. Following the restart on lap 148, Larson continued to mix it up inside the top 10. With four laps to go, Larson got by Michael McDowell for the seventh position, finishing inside the top 10. After results were finalized, the two disqualifications promoted Larson to the fifth position.
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Alex Bowman, No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 11th
Stage one: After firing off from the 17th position, Bowman navigated his way up to the 12th position with the laps winding down in the stage. In an alternate strategy to that of his teammates, Bowman and the No. 48 Ally Racing team chose to pit under green with the intention of staying out under the stage break. Shortly after hitting pit road, the caution flag flew for a spinning Aric Almirola. After completing his stop, Bowman would stay out on the track under the stage break (while the bulk of the field pitted then) and move inside the top 10 for the restart of the race.
Stage two: With the track position he gained from short pitting, Bowman stuck around inside the top 10 at the start of stage two. With a flurry of caution flags, he fluctuated inside and outside the top 10 before the race settled down after Corey LaJoie’s accident on lap 46. On the ensuing restart, the 29-year-old driver maneuvered his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 into eighth, where he would remain until pitting on lap 59. With several different pit strategies at work throughout the field, Bowman was one of the first drivers to hit pit road with the intention of getting to the end of the stage on fuel. Following the caution on lap 84, though, that changed. The winner of the first Pocono race in 2021 restarted in the 20th position and ended the stage in 18th.
Final Stage: Despite the late-stage caution throwing a wrench into the team's pit strategy, Bowman worked his way into the top 15. On lap 115, the Tucson, Arizona, native radioed his team saying the car was a "little tight in one and two," and asked the team to prioritize track position if possible. He made his way down to the pits on lap 123 for four tires and fuel. After the caution came out on lap 139, crew chief Greg Ives called his driver back into the pits for four tires and fuel with the hopes that adjustments would aid the finish of the No. 48 Ally Racing team. Following two restarts, Bowman made his way up inside the top 15. When the checkered flag flew, Bowman was scored in 13th. Due to disqualifications from post-race inspection, Bowman's official result will go down as an 11th-place finish - his best result since Charlotte Motor Speedway's 600-mile race in May.
William Byron, No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 12th
Stage one: After starting at the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments, the No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 made its way through the pack in dramatic fashion. After gaining several positions at the start and on the first restart, the 24-year-old driver sat inside the top 20 when several competitors ahead of him chose to pit. Shortly after those ahead of him dove into the pits, the yellow flag took to the sky as Aric Almirola spun out on the exit of turn three. The caution ended the stage but saw Byron finish in the eighth position.
Stage two: After gaining two spots on pit road, Byron rocketed all the way up to the sixth position by the time the third caution flag came out. Following several more yellow flags, the No. 24 team remained inside the top 10 and cracked the top five by lap 54. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native also assisted teammate Kyle Larson with a heavy bump draft down the front straightaway. On lap 62, crew chief Rudy Fugle called his driver down pit road for four tires and an air pressure adjustment. Byron ran closer to Larson throughout stage two and moved up the order as those ahead of him pitted for service. When the caution came out on lap 84, the No. 24 gained six spots on pit road and lined up in the sixth position on the restart. As the race went back to green, Byron had a scary moment in turn one when he radioed the team saying, “Got loose into one and tight off." Thankfully, the No. 24 avoided trouble and finished the stage in the seventh spot.
Final stage: The two-time winner in 2022 took off as the final stage began. Byron's speed on restarts saw him take the No. 24 Chevrolet into the fourth spot. With 40 laps to go, he continued his top-five run, further cementing Pocono as one of his best tracks. Fugle called his driver to pit road on lap 123 for four tires and fuel. The No. 24 team suffered an equipment interference penalty that required the driver to serve a pass-through penalty. He would rejoin the race in 27th before making his way up to 21st by lap 133. After Ryan Blaney crashed on lap 139, Byron would take advantage of the ensuing restart. With the help of fresh tires, he gained plenty of ground into the top 15. Following the restart for the caution on lap 145, Byron's momentum stalled out as he dropped outside the top 15. The No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 would rebound to make its way back into the top 15, finishing 14th. Upon the completion of post-race inspection, Byron was credited with a 12th-place finish.