CHICAGO — Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson recorded top-five finishes in the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series street race in downtown Chicago.
After both drivers recorded top-five finishes last weekend at Nashville Superspeedway, Elliott finished third and Larson placed fourth in Chicago. The race was shortened to 75 laps, (which became 78 laps in an overtime finish) due to darkness after inclement weather delayed the start of the event for nearly 90 minutes.
Elliott started at the back after going to the backup No. 9 Hooters Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 following an incident in qualifying. The first two stages were far from smooth sailing for the 27-year-old driver. He hit the tire barrier in turn two on lap 26 and that led to him pitting under yellow for repairs on lap 31. That marked Elliott’s final pit stop as crew chief Alan Gustafson used strategy to get his driver track position.
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After finishing stage two in 25th, Elliott restarted third on lap 49 and was able to maintain a top-three position over the final 29 laps. He got up to second before eventual race winner Shane Van Gisbergen used fresher tires to pass him on lap 68. The third-place result for Elliott is his third consecutive top-five finish and his fifth top-five of the season.
"I appreciate the effort and the willingness to keep fighting by everybody on our team," Elliott said. "I appreciate that and looking forward to going back to work and trying to get better."
With eight races left in the regular season, Elliott is 55 points outside of the playoffs and is 24th in the standings. He is the defending race winner at Atlanta Motor Speedway – site of next weekend’s race. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native also has a win at Pocono Raceway and two wins at Watkins Glen International – two of the next eight tracks on the schedule.
"I am still of the mindset that we need to win," Elliott said of how he is approaching his position on the outside of the playoffs. "I need to do a lot better job than I did this weekend to go win. We were gifted an opportunity there at the end and I just could not comfortably outbrake someone enough than really putting myself in a vulnerable position. I felt like when we got the track position, I was trying to get Justin (Haley) as quick as I could. I knew Shane (Van Gisbergen) was coming and I needed to get that pass done quicker and try to get going there."
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Larson’s fourth-place finish is his third top-five in the last four races – a span that has also seen him finish in the top 10 in all of those races. The driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Patriotic Chevy started seventh and spent the bulk of the 78-lap race in the top 10. After finishing seventh in the opening stage, Larson’s car came on strong once the team put on slick tires. He drove up to second in the second segment to earn a total of 13 stage points on the day. After pitting under yellow on lap 47, the Elk Grove, California, native restarted 13th and worked his way both into the top 10 and the top five over the final stage. Larson moved up to eighth in the point standings.
"I was trying to get my confidence built up while it was wet and I knew as long as it didn’t rain, it was eventually going to dry out," Larson said. "Just didn’t want to hurt my car in the wet and tried to maintain the best I could, which we did. As soon as the lanes started to dry out, we were much better than the people braking. We just had a lot more confidence than the people braking around me. ... A great points day for our team and we needed that."
William Byron started at the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments after the team discovered an issue after qualifying that needed repair. Crew chief Rudy Fugle used strategy to get the driver of the No. 24 Valvoline Chevy track position by having him pit under yellow prior to the end of stage two. Byron restarted fifth after the field pitted after stage two following NASCAR made the call to shorten the race length. Unfortunately, the 25-year-old got into the tire barrier in turn 11 on lap 53. That incident caused a bit of a stack up that saw NASCAR go back to the last scoring loop to determine the order. From there, Byron stayed in the 11th to 13th range of the running order and finished the event in 13th. He is nine points back of the points lead and sits second in the standings.
In his 200th start at Hendrick Motorsports, Alex Bowman spent nearly all the opening stage in the top 15. After pitting on the last lap of stage one, he charged hard and was up to 11th. Contact from Denny Hamlin in turn 11 sent the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 around. Mechanical issues would bring an early end to the day for Bowman. Following his 37th-place finish, he is 26 points outside of the playoff picture and is 20th in the standings.
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The event on the 12-turn, 2.2-mile course marked the first street race for the sport’s top series. The course ran against the backdrop of Windy City landmarks Grant Park, Lake Michigan and the start-finish line was in front of Buckingham Fountain. The course was developed via iRacing and used in an eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series event (run by Cup Series drivers) in 2021. Single-file restarts were in effect for the entire race. Teams started on wet tires, but started going to slicks during pit stops in stage two.
"It was an amazing experience and I hope everybody here enjoyed it as much as I did," Larson said of the first street race in NASCAR Cup Series history. "I hope the fans here that maybe had never been to a race before enjoyed it. I hope the city enjoyed it enough to welcome us back because I felt like the buzz around the city last handful of days was amazing."
The Cup Series will next be in action on Sunday, July 9, at Atlanta. Coverage of the 19th points-paying race of the 2023 season will be at 7 p.m. on USA Network, NBC Sports App, PRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).