After scoring his first-career NASCAR Nationwide Series win a week earlier at Texas Motor Speedway near Fort Worth, Chase Elliott made it two in a row by winning the VFW Great Clips Help a Hero 200 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway on Friday. It was the second win in only seven-career series starts for the 18-year-old high school senior.
“Just blessed to be here; this is unreal,” Elliott said. “I couldn’t believe last week, much less here at Darlington.”
Elliott was followed across the start/finish line by a three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers, with Elliott Sadler finishing second, Matt Kenseth in third, and Kyle Busch in fourth. Joey Logano rounded out the top-five.
Sadler got the race lead by getting off pit road first after taking only two tires during the seventh and final caution of the race that came out with seven laps to go in the 147-lap event. Kyle Larson also took only two to restart second. Elliott was running second to Busch prior to the caution, but a slow pit stop resulted in Elliott restarting the race six with only two laps of green-flag racing to go.
When the race restarted for the final time, Kenseth quickly moved from fourth to second, and then Elliott moved up quickly to take second from Kenseth as Larson dropped back, eventually finishing sixth. Sadler was able to maintain the lead, despite taking on only two tires until Elliott was able to get him loose and get by him on the final lap.
“That was crazy,” Elliott said of the final two green-flag laps. “That had to have been fun to watch. It was fun to be a part of.”
Busch led a race-high 84 laps, while Elliott led most of the others for a total of 52 laps led. Busch started on the pole and led all but two of the first 33 laps, losing the lead temporarily when Kevin Harvick took the top spot on a restart on lap 24. Busch retook the lead two laps later.
Elliott got to the front for the first time when he passed Busch for the lead on lap 34. Frodm there, Elliott dominated until he lost positions on pit road during a lap 88 caution. Busch got off pit road first to retake the lead, while Elliott restarted fifth. Elliott then moved his way up to battle Larson for the second spot for several laps before taking the position with 39 laps to go. Busch and Elliott then ran first and second until the final yellow flag of the race.
Harvick finished seventh, Regan Smith was eighth, Trevor Bayne ninth, and Ty Dillon was 10th.