Chase Elliott rallied past Ryan Blaney off the final turn in a two-lap shootout at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday to advance to the next round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, winning the YellaWood 500 in Talladega, Alabama.
Restarting fifth and on the bottom line, Elliott maneuvered his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to the top in front of Erik Jones, setting up the charge Elliott needed to pass Blaney for his 18th career triumph.
“I wasn’t super crazy about being on the bottom,” Elliott said. “Fortunately, I got just clear enough off (Turn) 2 to slide up in front of Erik. He gave me some great shoves.”
The victory was the fifth of the season for NASCAR’s reigning Most Popular Driver award winner and moved him into the Round of 8 for next week’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s “roval” layout.
Blaney finished second in his No. 12 Ford on Sunday and said he thought about throwing a block.
“I definitely thought about it,” said Blaney, who considered sliding up and perhaps up in the middle three-wide with Elliott at the top. “When you go to the middle and you don’t have (help), your chances of getting split are so high.
“As much as I trust Chase, I don’t trust him not to take me three-wide and leave me in the middle. … I’m probably going to replay in my head five things I could’ve done different, but not a bad day.”
Rounding out the top five were Michael McDowell, Ross Chastain and Denny Hamlin.
Playoff contender Joey Logano — the 2018 Cup champion — caught minor contact in a Lap 24 multi-car incident, as did the No. 48 of Noah Gragson, who was driving in place of championship competitor Alex Bowman (concussion).
On the final turn of Stage 1, Blaney’s Ford roared off Turn 4, got a strong run and edged Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota by less than two feet for the 10 bonus playoff points. William Byron, who was leading with four laps to go, finished 12th and received no extra points.
Another playoff driver — pole-sitter Christopher Bell, who started the race below the Round of 12 cut line — spun his Toyota coming too fast to pit road, had to change plans and replace his tires and lost valuable position in the draft. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver slid back to 32nd and finished 17th.
Running 1-2 on the final circuit of Stage 2, Kyle Larson led teammate Elliott off Turn 4, but Elliott moved his No. 9 Chevrolet out of line and swooped past Larson’s No. 5 and beat him to the checkers for the playoff bonus points.
–Field Level Media