Chase Elliott joined his father, Hall of Famer “Awesome” Bill Elliott, as winner of NASCAR’s annual All-Star race, earning the $1 million prize with Wednesday’s victory at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Elliott won the second and third stages of the event and earned the right to choose which lane he wanted to restart for the final 15-lap sprint to the finish. He picked the outside lane and pulled buddy Ryan Blaney with him on the restart but was never challenged and beat Kyle Busch to the finish line.
Bill Elliott won the race in 1986, the only year it was held at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The race began in 1985 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and was held at that North Carolina track every year but one until it was moved because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tennessee officials allowed NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports to sell 30,000 tickets to the All-Star race so it was moved from Charlotte because North Carolina would not authorize spectators for the race.
“What a better night to have fans back,” Elliott said. “There’s nothing like Bristol. There’s no feeling like it. This speaks for itself, Bristol is an electric atmosphere. We’ll take that million dollars back to Georgia.”
The crowd surged to the fence and chanted “USA! USA!” as Elliott celebrated on the frontstretch. It was the most spectators at a sporting event in the United States since March. Because the speedway is privately owned, attendance numbers will not be released. Tickets were on sale through Tuesday evening and still available on Bristol’s website until the deadline.
Here are my main takeaways.
Elliott Stole The Show, In Uninspiring Main Event
Chase Elliott won the race. That’s great that NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver won the All-Star race. It’s the equivalent to LeBron James winning the Dunk Contest, the All-Star game and MVP all wrapped up into one.
But, did Elliott’s win overshadow and somewhat dud on a NASCAR All-Star Race? I unfortunately think so.
“I think a short race, you look at last week, for the most part it wasn’t a very good race, you had a great finish,” third place finisher Kevin Harvick said of the 46 minute All-Star race. “I think it all depends on how all that goes.
“I think tonight Chase Elliott winning makes it a better race just because he’s obviously the most popular guy here. It’s good for all of us when Chase wins.”
Elliott, was untouchable. In the era of social distancing, he did his best to endure his peers couldn’t close to the bumper of his No. 9 Chevrolet.
“You got to be able to catch a guy to bump a guy,” second place finisher Kyle Busch said. “When there’s no catching them, there’s no bumping them. I don’t know what the rest of the space looked like behind me as far as how separated the rest of the field was. It seemed like once we got strung out, it was just strung out.”
A main reason it got so strung out was due to the lower groove being so dominant and the aero of these cars not allowing for drivers to close up to the bumpers of the cars in front.
“Wish we would have had a couple more lanes to race in is the only thing I would like to see different,” Harvick said. “If we did that, if we raced here again, run all the other races so that the track was 100% run-in so you could run all over the racetrack.
“I think we could definitely have the track prepared better if we did race here again. Heck, they didn’t even clean the outside lane one time. Never really had a chance to even get high enough to get that lane to come in. The second lane came in, a couple cars made a little bit of ground. The bottom was so dominant, you had to run most of your laps down there.
“You didn’t have any options to move around, make your car do different things. A lot of times if you can’t run the bottom, you move up to the top. It seems like the cars have a better chance to fix the problems that they had.
“With the short race tonight, not having an option besides the bottom, just kind of took all those things away of tools that you had to try to race and make your car faster.
“Tonight the 9 hit it. He had the dominant car in the lane we had available.”
The Choose Cone didn’t really pay much dividends. It wasn’t used much and when it was, it didn’t aid in many gains. Plus, as some drivers put it, may have ruined the ending with having only a 15 lap shootout and the fast cars getting able to start where they wanted.
Also, a 15 lap run at Bristol isn’t ideal. Bristol, leads to tire fall off. You won’t have that in 15 laps.
Plus, with only 20 cars, you don’t have lapped traffic slowing the leaders up either.
Combined, it led to us leaving somewhat disappointed in the racing product.
Busch Giving 110% But Results Not There
Kyle Busch snuck up there with a runner up in Wednesday nights All-Star race. But, it’s just another reflection of how his 2020 season has gone. Busch, has had good finishes. He’s finished second in three points paying races. He’s also came home in the top five seven times.
But, most, if not all, of those finishes have been flukes. Busch admitted as much after those races.
His No. 18 Toyota is lacking in speed still. He’s just so skilled that he’s making up for the lack of it and also staying out of trouble.
He’s not a top five car for much of these races. He just sneaks in there in the end.
Wednesday night at the Bristol (Tenn) Motor Speedway was another prime example of that.
“It’s tough, said Busch. “We’re struggling right now. There’s just no speed in our racecars for some reason. I don’t know what’s going on.
“It seemed like tonight, even when we were mired in 10th, I was driving 110% just to maintain where the hell I was, not going forward. That’s usually not indicative of us, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota, whatever.
“It’s certainly been frustrating this year. It seems like any time I fall into a rhythm, I back up myself just a little bit to 90, 95%, I’m going backwards. I’m getting passed, slowing down. You can’t run at 100% all the time every lap. When you do, you start making mistakes.
“We’ve just been run into a lot this year, too. When we’ve had nothing happen, we get run into. Those are bad finishes, as well. I don’t know. We can chalk it up to a whole bunch of things.
“For lack of a better term is we’ve got to be faster.”
Busch though, said this season reminds him of another one. In 2014, he won the fifth race of the season. He go winless in the final 31 races too.
“Yeah, 2014 was really close to this,” Busch said of it any season reminded him of this one. “We struggled super bad when we came out with this new body style, the Gen-6 body style. We were pretty bad as a company at JGR that year. We won one restrictor plate race that year, that was at California. Rest of us didn’t win at all. That was a frustrating season.
“Unfortunately I don’t have a win yet. But it feels just like that year. I don’t know where it’s going at, whatever. We do have six second-place finishes. I think, four, five, six, whatever the hell it is. We’ve been close a couple of times. Many of the other races we’re getting run into.
“We’ve had flat tires, gone two laps down, tried to do the right thing and drive it back to pit road, not drive a caution. It penalizes us in the day. Now I understand why those guys do that.
“Other than that, you get run into by a guy that shouldn’t be pitting on the same pit lap as you, I think, at Talladega. I mean, I can keep going. No point in that.
“We got to fight harder, do better. That’s all there is to it.”
Busch, has just one victory in his last 39 starts. Can he overcome that like he did from 2014 to 2015?
“When I came back Charlotte time a few weeks later, it started to kind of click, everybody started to go in the right direction,” Busch said of his 2015 championship winning season. “We won four, five times. Then it seems like Matt won a couple, Denny won a couple, Carl won a couple. Started to go there.
“It took us a good year and a half to get back up to the top of the circle. I don’t know if that’s what we’re on now. I certainly hope not. It’s definitely frustrating. Trust me, it’s not very fun where we’re at. I know everybody is kicking themselves and trying to do all they can to work harder and be smarter.”