Chase Elliott staged an incredible block on an attempted slingshot by Joey Logano while heading toward the checkered flag to claim victory in Saturday’s Xfinity Series season-opening race at Daytona.
The two Sprint Cup Series regulars finished side by side at the finish line, with Elliott ousting Logano by 0.043 seconds after making contact heading into the tri-oval, as NASCAR Xfinity showed:
Here is an aerial view of the exciting climax, courtesy of NASCAR Xfinity:
Here is a look at the full results:
|6||Darrell Wallace Jr.|
|17||John Wes Townley|
|29||Scott Lagasse Jr.|
|33||Ray Black Jr.|
And here is a look at the top 10 in the Xfinity Series points standings, featuring those who do not compete full time in the Sprint Cup Series:
|2||Darrell Wallace Jr.||35 (-3)|
|3||Brandon Jones||34 (-4)|
|4||Daniel Suarez||33 (-5)|
|5||Blake Koch||32 (-6)|
|5||Brendan Gaughan||32 (-6)|
|7||Justin Allgaier||29 (-9)|
|7||Ty Dillon||29 (-9)|
|9||Dakoda Armstrong||27 (-11)|
|10||Jeremy Clements||26 (-12)|
Logano had been mired in a separate pack for most of the final laps before gaining momentum after the white flag waved. Occupying an outside lane that couldn’t keep pace with the lower lane, Logano finally found a drafting partner in Kasey Kahne and pulled his pack to the front.
As the group of 14 lead-lap cars barreled into Turn 3 on the final lap, Logano moved down to Elliott’s bumper and pushed the 2014 Xfinity champion through the corners to create separation, setting up their showdown on the front stretch, which saw Elliott capture his fifth career Xfinity Series win and first at Daytona.
Elliott took fuel only on his final pit stop with 25 laps to go, opting for track position over tires as the race remained under green. Logano, who led a race-high 40 laps, had the same strategy, pitting as the leader, but was marred by a lengthy stop.
Dustin Swedelson of SiriusXM Radio noted Elliott’s JR Motorsports team made a major difference while helping him get out in front for the final run to the finish:
Chase Elliott's pit crew was flawless on that stop— Dustin Swedelson (@dustinswedelson) February 20, 2016
The race featured just four cautions for 17 laps, but given the early trouble, it seemed as though drivers were in store for a wild afternoon.
Bobby Gerhart brought out the first yellow on Lap 6 after colliding with Ryan Preece, which left both with significant body damage that they couldn’t recover from. The two finished 39th and 40th, respectively.
After going to the garage, Preece shared an image of his cut tire, which collected debris in the process:
Unfortunate, must have ran debris over, nothing we could do pic.twitter.com/l1WsfMdGAJ— Ryan Preece (@RyanPreece_) February 20, 2016
The second caution waved on Lap 13, when Bobby Labonte and Jeb Burton slid and spun heading into Turn 3. Elliott hit Labonte’s rear bumper with a head full of momentum, which sent the No. 18 car sliding into teammate Erik Jones, creating a chain-reaction crash, as NASCAR showed:
Given the high speeds and limited real estate, it’s surprising that more cars weren’t involved and the wreck wasn’t more violent.
The fourth caution waved with 19 to go, when Ray Black Jr. stalled on the backstretch after running out of fuel, as NASCAR Xfinity showed:
Given the slew of late-race wrecks during Speedweeks, Jeff Gluck of USA Today was afraid that there would be more cautions:
Welp...there's going to be a late restart in the Daytona Xfinity race. Gulp.— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) February 20, 2016
Yet the drivers kept it clean over the rest of the way, with the only major contact coming between Elliott and Logano on the final lap, which didn't lead to a wreck.
Elliott, 20, will look to continue his remarkable week with a win in his first Daytona 500 on Sunday, when he will start from the pole in the iconic No. 24 Chevrolet after taking over for Jeff Gordon.
"It was a heck of a battle. … We just found ourselves in the right place at the right time at the end, and luckily just barely had enough to get in front of Joey,” Elliott said in a Victory Lane interview with Fox Sports 1.
Logano elaborated on his assessment of his attempted pass in a post-race interview with FS1:
I was sitting there thinking [Kasey Kahne] is not going to push me by his teammate, so my next move is right here to lie it down to the 88 [Elliott], try to shove him ahead and then make a move last minute. He knew I wanted to go to the top. I wanted to get to the top to pull him back. He blocked it. I got there a little bit late and then I got hooked onto his right-rear and that actually killed my momentum.
Logano was the bridesmaid for the 20th time in his Xfinity career, and wasn’t particularly thrilled about it.
"I’m sick of finishing second,” Logano said. "Hopefully we’re saving it all for tomorrow [in the Daytona 500]."
Kahne, who finished third, said he’s seen major improvement in Elliott’s blocking ability on the restrictor plate tracks, per Bob Pockrass of ESPN.com:
Not clear on previous tweet ... Kahne said Chase Elliott learned how to race w/mirrors in this type of racing & work w/Cup spotter D'Hondt— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) February 20, 2016
FS1 telecaster and 2014 Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick echoed that sentiment:
"That’s really what superspeedway racing has come to—you have to make blocks at the right time, and you have to make them aggressively,” Harvick said. "Nine times out of 10, that turns into a wreck at the start-finish line."