After coming off pit road in sixth spot late in the race, it looked as though Chase Elliott’s chances of winning were gone. However, once the green flag dropped, Elliott weaved his way through the traffic and passed Elliott Sadler on the outside to take the lead. Elliott then drove his No. 9 NAPA Know How Chevrolet to the checkered flag to take his second straight victory in a row.
The 18-year-old becomes the youngest driver to ever win two races in the series, and the youngest winner ever at Darlington Raceway. He also becomes only the fourth driver – first since 1952 – to win in his first trip to Darlington.
“Holy cow! I don’t know how I won that! That was crazy,” Elliott commented in victory lane. “First off I just want to thank NAPA Auto Parts for their support for us. That had to be fun to watch – I know it was fun to be a part of. I didn’t know what to expect starting sixth, but it worked out for us.”
Elliott had led a chunk of the race earlier, though fell back in track position as a result of issues on pit road. The caution flew with seven laps to go for Kyle Larson spinning Tanner Barryhill while Elliott ran second behind Kyle Busch.
Elliott Sadler and Larson chose to take two tires, while the rest of the leaders took four with Busch leading Kenseth, Harvick and Elliott off pit road. Sadler got the run off of the corner to clear Larson, while a hole opened up just enough for Elliott to shoot through and move into second behind Sadler.
“Elliott (Sadler) got loose off of two and I was where I needed to be there,” Elliott commented. “Just blessed to be here.”
Watching his father Bill Elliott win at Darlington Raceway multiple times, the younger Elliott said it was unbelievable to be in victory lane.
“I can’t believe it. I couldn’t believe last week – must less here at Darlington,” Elliott said. “This is a dream come true. This has been my favourite track to watch races and this is going to mean a lot.”
Sadler would hold on to finish second for his fifth top-10 of the season.
“It was a great call from Chris to put me in that position,” Sadler commented. “He actually told me to coming pit road that everyone was taking two – and my pit crew did what they did best. I got real loos there going through one and two, got sideways off of two and just did everything to save that car and he got to my outside. I’ve finish second here too many times. Second is a good finish, of course, but it isn’t what we want at this place. It wasn’t what I wanted tonight for sure.”
Matt Kenseth finished third, followed by Kyle Busch and Joey Logano.
Kyle Larson finished sixth after having to start the race at the rear of the field due to getting into the wall during qualifying. Kevin Harvick finished seventh, followed by teammate Regan Smith who came back after spinning on lap 88 of 147 due to a flat tire. Trevor Bayne and Ty Dillon rounded out the top five.
Rookie Chris Buescher looked like he could’ve joined fellow rookies Elliott and Dillon in the top five, when he got taken out at lap 69 by fellow rookie Dylan Kwasniewski. Kwasniewski got loose and into the wall, making contact with Chris Buescher not once but twice. David Starr was also collected.
“Just racing hard out there – I really thought we’d have a little more give and take this early in the race,” Buescher commented. “Our mustang was really good. We had a little hick up early, but we’re coming back just trying to buy our time and this unfortunately isn’t how we need to go out.”
It wasn’t a good night to be a Buescher as Chris’ cousin James got into the wall at lap 72 due to a flat tire.
After a strong start to the season, Ryan Sieg brought the first caution out on lap 17 after getting into the wall significantly while racing with rookie Cale Conley. Conley got sideways and managed to save it, but Sieg slid cross the track and into the wall.
With the win, Chase Elliott extends his points lead to 13 points over teammate Regan Smith heading into the Easter break.