I don’t even know. I can’t even describe. This is just a night to remember.” – Cindy Elliott
With 15 laps to go, Chase Elliott made an “awesome” pass on Kevin Harvick around the outside to take the lead. From there on, the high-school student pulled away from the field and would claim his first career Nationwide Series victory in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.
“Unbelievable. I can’t believe it,” the Dawsonville, Georgia commented in victory lane. “Just to have the opportunity to come with these guys here is a once in a million opportunity. I can’t believe it. Just a great night. It was a good weekend for us.”
Elliott, scoring the win in his sixth career start, becomes the second-youngest winner in series history, at 18 years, 4 months and 8 days. Joey Logano currently holds the record as the youngest winner.
“I’m speechless,” his dad Bill Elliott said. “I can’t thank Rick Hendrick, HMS and JR Motorsports for putting everything together. Everything was on the edge all the way up till January. To come here to never been to a place like this and beat these guys, you’ve done a heck of a job.”
Well it marked Elliott’s first time at Texas, the young driver leaned on Kevin Harvick for advice, whom he passed for the lead.
“That’s crazy. I definitely went to him for a lot of advice this week and he helped me out; he gave me some tips that helped,” Elliott said. “To pass him for the lead is really crazy. Can’t thank everybody enough. We have a great team.”
Helping Elliott learn is crew chief Greg Ives, who worked with Regan Smith all last season.
“As far as set-up goes, we’ve been trying to work on the basics,” Ives commented. “We’ve shown up at each track with a basic set-up and work on it. We just try and get it to where he can get on track and make some solid laps. When he got on track, he goes, ‘It feel goods. We just need laps’. We kept working on it and getting it better.”
Busch, who was one of the four drivers forced to start at the back of the field due to missing qualifying, finished second. Busch, Ty Dillon, Kyle Larson and Chris Buescher missed qualifying due to being stuck in pre-qualifying inspection as a result of rear-end issues. 17 drivers in total had issues, but the rest were able to get out before the first round ended.
“I hate to lose – but it’s cool to see the younger guys win races, and when they win, they do it in style so congratulates to Chase,” Busch commented. “I’ve watched him over the last couple of years in late models, ARCA and truck and its nice to see it pay off.”
Larson also made his way through the field as he finished third.
“It was fun,” Larson said. “I was expecting to follow Kyle (Busch) up around there and I got by him and stayed in front of him. I had a lot of fun getting through there and making my way to the front.”
Elliott’s JR Motorsports teammates Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five. Kevin Harvick said post-race he was just trying to block the bottom when Elliott behind him and was not surprised Elliott was able to make that move to take lead.
“That’s pretty awesome to see,” Earnhardt Jr. commented. “He’s very talented and we’re proud to see him win. He’s learning faster than we can teach him. He’s not arrogant about what he’s doing, he’s not over confident – he just seems to understand what’s happening around him and understand it. He’s got a real smooth demeanor that should take him far down the road. It’s pretty impressive, to be honest. I’m looking forward to working with him in the future.”
Matt Kenseth finished sixth, followed by Regan Smith, Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon and Elliott Sadler.
The race featured one big incident when Jamie Dick and Chris Buescher wrecked on backstretch on lap 169. James Buescher would get into Jamie Dick, causing Dick to go around and leave Chris with no where to go. Other drivers unfortunately experiencing bad luck were Robert Richardson Jr., Tanner Barryhill and Chad Boat.
Six races into the season, JR Motorsports drivers Elliott and Smith top the point standings with Elliott leading Smith by two points. Trevor Bayne came into the race sharing the points lead with Smith, though finished 23rd as a result of a flat right rear on lap 42.