NASCAR & Auto Racing

Chase Elliott wins NASCAR’s Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

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Bank of America Roval 400

Expanded coverage of the NASCAR playoff race at Charlotte Motor Speedway

With Chase Elliott winning the Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Alex Bowman slipping into the second round of NASCAR’s playoffs by finishing second, Sunday was quite a day for Hendrick Motorsports at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Elliott recovered from a near-disastrous wreck that saw him go nose-first into a foam barrier in Turn 1 of the first lap of the final stage of the race. With minimal damage to the front end of his No. 9 Chevy, Elliott’s crew made a few adjustments and he roared back through the field and grabbed the lead from Kevin Harvick with six laps to go

Harvick finished third and Clint Bowyer — also on the outside of the playoffs entering the race but now is advancing — was fourth. Brad Keselowski was fifth, followed by Hendrick’s William Byron in sixth. Martin Truex Jr., who won the first two races of the first round, was seventh. Hendrick’s fourth driver, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson who’s not in the playoffs, was ninth.

Elliott heads to Dover (Del.) International Speedway next week to open the 12-driver second round with plenty of momentum. Joining Elliott and Bowman in the second round were third-place Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman, Ryan Blaney and William Byron.

Dropping out of the playoffs are Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch.

Bowman, who was two points outside the top 12 heading into the race, had to overcome other kinds of odds to advance. After wrecking Saturday in practice, he started the race from the rear of the field. Working his way to the front, Bowman worked so hard to squeeze into the second round that he was treated for hydration at the infield care center after the race.

“Nobody tries any harder than Alex does,” team owner Rick Hendrick said. “He just didn’t give up. He was quick; he refused to lose today.”

The complexion of the third and final stage changed when race leader Elliott completely misjudged the hard left angle of the first turn on the race restart, plowing into a foam barrier head on.

“I was just thinking, ‘You idiot, what did you just do?’ “ Elliott said. “It was a stupid mistake; I’m not sure you can do anything that’s more stupid. If there’s ever a notebook of things not to do, that would be No. 1 in that book.”

3 who mattered

Chase Elliott: From the foam barrier to victory lane, Elliott wins and moves on in the playoffs.

Alex Bowman: Was on the outside of the playoffs and looking in well into the race until he found some speed in the third stage and finished second.

Kyle Busch: Blew a tire in the third stage, didn’t finish the race and was 37th. Even so, he’ll be the top seed as the playoffs head to Dover for the second round.

Stage roundup

Stage 1: Kyle Larson passed pole-winner William Byron on a late restart to take the stage. Byron had opened up as much as a 7.5-second lead before a multi-car crash brought out a caution. Larson, starting on the outside row next to Byron on the restart, grabbed the lead and won the stage under yellow.

Stage 2: Chase Elliott passed Brad Keselowski to win the stage. Winning the stage clinched Elliott a spot in the next round of the playoffs. Elliott was the leader before a caution on Lap 43. He went to pit road during the caution, then passed Keselowski with two laps left.

Stage 3: The stage began with a bang — leader Chase Elliott went head-on into the foam barrier in Turn 1 during the restart. He recovered and won.

Worth mentioning

Racing legend Mario Andretti drove the pace car.

Alex Bowman and Bubba Wallace traded paint a few times during the race, with Bowman finally spinning out Wallace during the second stage. Bowman said over his radio that Wallace, who’s not in the playoffs, had been flipping him off whenever they passed each other.

The race for the 12th and final spot in the playoffs was riveting toward the end. Bowman got the spot, but he was helped by Ryan Newman, who missed the backstretch chicane and had to serve a stop-and-go penalty.

The race was briefly red-flagged on Lap 102 because of fluid on the track.