Race Weekend Central

Chase Elliott Charges to Xfinity Win at Charlotte

Well, Chase Elliott hasn’t lost his step in the Xfinity Series.

The 2014 Xfinity champion held off a hard-charging Brandon Jones to take the win at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday (May 25). The win is his first in the Xfinity Series since winning the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway way back in 2016.

Elliott and crew chief Greg Ives found themselves with a set of new tires late in the race, which helped propel the No. 17 to its second victory of the year after Kyle Larson won in the ride at Circuit of the Americas.

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“Greg made a good call,” Elliott told FOX Sports 1 after the race. “I think ultimately, that’s what won us the race. […] Hats off to everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. Super special to win with the [No.] 17 on the car for the boss […] obviously a great honor here with the Ricky Hendrick scheme. It means a lot to all of us that get to be a part of this whenever it runs.”

Behind Jones were his teammates Sammy Smith in third and Sam Mayer in fourth. AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top five. Kyle Busch, Ryan Sieg, Josh Williams, Ty Gibbs and Noah Gragson completed the top 10.

Gibbs started on pole and led the opening 23 laps, but was then passed by Busch on lap 24, making his first start in a Richard Childress Racing-owned Xfinity car.

The first caution came out on lap 30 when Riley Herbst was turned off of turn 2 by Allmendinger, sending the No. 98 hard into the inside wall and ending his day.

“He had a run off the top,” Herbst said after being released from the infield care center. “Which is fine. And he could’ve tried to slide me back and get some momentum, but instead he just got my left rear and hooked me.

“So, [it’s] unfortunate, but probably unfortunate for him.”

Gibbs won the race off of pit road, but varying strategies caused him to start back in fifth. However he was able to make quick work of those who stayed out, as he put himself back in the lead in two corners. The No. 20 soon found pressure from Justin Allgaier, who was able to get the lead with four laps to go and hang on for the stage one victory.

Allgaier sailed out to the lead in stage two as both Gibbs and Allmendinger smacked the wall in separate incidents within the opening laps. Stage two ran green until lap 73, when Parker Kligerman got loose and spun his No. 48 in turn 4 to bring out the third caution of the afternoon. Contact with the wall broke Kligerman’s steering and he was therefore unable to continue.

Unlike the lap 30 incident for Herbst’s crash, a lot more drivers stayed out under the ensuing pit stop. Allgaier and Busch restarted all the way back in 17th and 18th while the front row consisted of Sheldon Creed and Elliott, the latter of whom stayed out under the Herbst caution as well.

Creed jumped out to the lead on the lap 80 restart but Busch and Allgaier both sliced their way through the drivers with older tires. Busch eventually passed Creed with just five laps remaining in stage two, bringing Allgaier with him. Allgaier was able to pass Busch’s No. 33 with three laps to go, again hanging on to complete the stage sweep for the 13th time in his career.

Unfortunately for Allgaier and Austin Hill ā€“ the first two drivers off of pit road on the following pit stop ā€“ they were both caught speeding and had to restart at the tail end of the field to begin the final stage.

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Gragson, driving for Rette Jones Racing’s brand new Xfinity team, was the lone car to stay out under the caution, and was quickly swallowed up by the field as Jesse Love found his way to the lead. Just as teammate Busch made the pass for the lead on lap 108, Kyle Sieg spun in turn 2 and brought out another caution.

Busch was able to take the lead on the restart with 87 laps to go, but Love, Gibbs and Mayer stayed right on his tail in the following laps. Meanwhile, Creed was forced to retire from the race after a broken rotor cut a tire and ended his afternoon shortly after the restart.

Mayer eventually cleared the rest for second, and eventually took the lead from Busch with 80 laps to go. Busch took the lead right back a lap later, as the two crossed each other over several times in the span of two laps. Mayer finally passed Busch convincingly with 73 to go and began driving away from Busch and Gibbs, who had closed considerably on the two leaders while they battled.

Green flag pit stops commenced with 56 laps to go. Mayer pitted with 54 laps to go, while Busch decided to run longer and pit with 51 to go. Sieg then temporarily cycled into the lead, but hadn’t made his final pit stop yet. Mayer surged around the No. 28 to take the lead back with 44 laps to go.

Mayer was able to maintain around a 1.5-second lead over Gibbs, but that lead was wiped away when Ryan Ellis crashed in turn 2, bringing out a caution with 32 laps to go.

That brought everybody to pit road, where Allgaier was able to win the race off. However, Elliott had an extra set of sticker tires, whereas nearly everyone around him had scuffs. Despite coming off pit road sixth, Elliott was in the best position tire-wise. However, Gragson again was the lone car to stay out under the caution, therefore inheriting the lead for the restart with 25 laps to go.

Gragson nearly got turned by Mayer on the restart, but was able to save it. Unfortunately, just like the last time he stayed out, he was swallowed by the field. Allgaier then took the lead, but crashed off of turn 4 after squeezing Gibbs into the wall and clearing himself. At the same time, Shane van Gisbergen found himself squeezed in the wall by Taylor Gray in turns 3 and 4.

That set up a restart with 18 to go between Mayer and Elliott. Elliott was able to use his fresher tires and newfound track position to take off with the lead coming out of turn 2.

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The caution came out yet again a lap later when Hill and Cole Custer crashed in turn 2. After the two made contact on the frontstretch, Hill got loose and slid up the banking into Custer, putting both in the wall.

Hill, frustrated with the contact, locked on to Custer’s rear bumper and did not let off until the No. 00 was turned backward down the backstretch.

The contact ended Custer’s day, while Hill and Chandler Smith, who also got a piece of the contact, were able to continue.

Custer was very upset with Hill at the care center, saying that Hill drove “like a pissed off teenager” after the initial contact.

“He tried to kill me on the backstretch and just held it full throttle until he wrecked our car and killed the rear clip,” Custer said.

Hill contested that Custer shouldn’t have door slammed him down the frontstretch, but did apologize for getting “too carried away” and intentionally spinning the No. 00 down the backstretch.

That set up a restart with 12 to go, where Elliott again drove away with the lead, opening up a one-second lead over Jones. However, Jones was able to close the gap, trailing the No. 17 by as close as a half-second, but Elliott was able to hang on to take the victory in NASCAR’s backyard.

Xfinity Charlotte Results

The NASCAR Xfinity Series will now head to Portland International Raceway for the Pacific Office Automation 147. Coverage begins Saturday, June 1 at 4:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

About the author

Anthony Damcott joined FrontstretchĀ in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time.Ā 

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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