DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman came up just a few spots short in their must-win NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
Elliott earned a fourth-place finish in the No. 9 LLumar Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the regular-season finale. While that result did not get him into the driver playoffs, it did get the No. 9 team into the owner playoffs. The 27-year-old driver wasted no time moving forward from his 23rd starting spot as he got to 15th within eight laps and finished the opening 35-lap stage in 11th. He continued to march forward and grabbed the lead for two laps on lap 50.
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After finishing the second stage in seventh, Elliott pitted at the stage break and restarted the final stage in ninth. Following a fuel only stop on lap 147, he came out of the pits in second. When caution came out with four laps to go in regulation, the Dawsonville, Georgia, native was scored in fourth. He chose to line up on the second row of the inside lane behind race leader Kevin Harvick and with Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and William Byron lined up right behind him for the overtime restart. However, they couldn't get around the duo of Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski as Buescher won the race. Elliott finished the race in fourth for his seventh top five of the season and 10th top 10.
"I feel like we had an OK chance there, but Brad (Keselowski) and the No. 17 (Chris Buescher) just worked so well together there and they were able to stay locked on," Elliott said. "They just had a stranglehold on the top lane. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get to Kevin (Harvick) and stay there like that and make the bottom lane work. I kind of bottled it up there and just couldn’t get enough momentum going forward.
"It was a valiant effort and I appreciate the effort from everybody – from the No. 9 team, Team Chevy, Hendrick Motorsports. I thought we all worked really well together tonight. Obviously, we came up a little short, but nonetheless proud to get the car into the owner championship. It’s a big deal to get in on the owner side, so hopefully we’ll try and go make some noise on that front. Just keep progressing and pushing to be better for next year. We’ll be better through all of this down the road."
Bowman took sixth in the final running order in the No. 48 Ally Arena Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. He started 31st and finished the opening stage in 18th. Early in stage two, Bowman rode in the back of the pack to save fuel and was in the top five following a late stage stop for fuel only, He finished stage two in fourth. Restarting in the final stage from the fourth position, the 30-year-old driver fell to the back of the top 10.
With a batch of Chevrolets starting to get lined up towards the back of the field, Bowman fell a few spots back to 20th. He was in the last group of cars to hit pit road for gas only on lap 147 and came out of the pits in sixth. For the overtime finish, the Tucson, Arizona lined up sixth and on the inside of the third row behind Elliott and Harvick. When the checkered flag was waved, he had his eighth top-10 finish of the season and second this year at Daytona.
"It’s a bummer the last restart just didn’t work out," Bowman said. "I feel like we could have been in a little better spot prior to that caution.
"... Appreciate everybody on this No. 48 Ally Chevy team. Wish we could have come out a little bit better."
William Byron took home an eighth-place finish in the No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet Camaro for his 13 top-10 result of the season. The finish also secured his third-place finish in the regular season standings, which sets him up to be tied atop the playoff standings with Martin Truex Jr. at 2,036 points at the start of the postseason.
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Byron started from 27th and finished the opening stage in 21st. He restarted in 19th in stage two and like Bowman, ran near the back in the opening stretch of the stage to save fuel. After pitting for gas only late in the stage, he worked with Bowman to maintain a spot in the top five. Byron finished fifth in stage two and after pitting, restarted eighth in the final stage. He positioned himself in the back of the pack with several Chevrolets for the first part of the last segment, before moving up. When the 25-year-old driver came out of the pits for another fuel-only stop on lap 147, he was scored in eighth. That was the exact spot the five-time winner in 2023 was in for the overtime restart and that would be where he finished the race.
Kyle Larson started seventh in the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, which was the best starting spot among the quartet of Hendrick Motorsports drivers. He moved up to fourth early in the opening stage, but the gains of the outside lane dropped him outside of the top 10. The 31-year-old driver finished the opening stage in 20th. In the second stage, he worked together often with Elliott to get him to the front. Their efforts got each of them in the top 10. Unfortunately, Larson was involved in a 12-car incident in turn four at the close of the stage. He had multiple flat tires and was stuck on track before getting a tow to pit road. Larson pitted multiple times for repairs. Later in the race and while down two laps, Larson was a loyal pusher to Elliott and worked to try and get him to the front. After the race, Larson was scored in 27th.
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That finish dropped Larson to seventh in the final regular season standings. He will start the playoffs with 17 bonus points and be seeded sixth.
Next up for the Cup Series is the start of the playoffs at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, Sept. 3. Tune in at 6 p.m. ET on USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90) to catch the action of the Southern 500 and the start of the Round of 16.