For Chase Elliott – NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver — the search for his first victory of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season is complete, capturing the victory in Monday’s DuraMAX Drydene 400 at Dover Motor Speedway.
The Dawsonville, Georgia-native, who resumed the 400-lap contest from second, led the race’s final 53 laps after grabbing the lead from Ross Chastain on the race’s final restart, holding off Ricky Stenhouse Jr for his 14th victory at NASCAR’s top level.
“Had some good circumstances finally,” Elliott told Jamie Little post-race. “Really appreciate Alan [Gustafson] and our entire team for just sticking with it. We’ve had some tough races over the last – I don’t know — four, five months. Just great to get NAPA back to Victory Lane, great to get Hendrick Motorsports back to Victory Lane.”
Monday’s race – which was postponed from Sunday as a result of inclement weather — resumed at lap 88 with Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott on the front row. From there, Denny Hamlin returned to his post as race leader rather quickly, going on to win the race’s first stage.
However, that’s about as good as things got for Hamlin, after losing his left-front wheel on the pit stop immediately following the conclusion of the race’s first stage, in a similar fashion to Sam Mayer in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event.
Trying to rebound from his 30th-place restart position, Hamlin ran into some more issues at lap 253, when Cody Ware spun exiting the fourth corner, eventually making contact with the rear of Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing entry.
Even though the team was able to continue, the speed in the FedEx Toyota Camry wasn’t as prevalent, with the Chesterfield, Virginia-native finishing in 21st-place, one lap down, denying Hamlin his second top-10 of 2022.
The caution for Ware and Hamlin – the eighth of the event — forced a four-lap dash to the end of the race’s second stage. In an attempt to gather some stage points, and possibly track position, Ryan Blaney and Harrison Burton stayed out, netting them both some stage points.
Much like Hamlin, Blaney ran into similar issues, with the team simply missing the setup on his Ford Mustang for Monday’s event, forcing multiple lengthy pit stops and major adjustments. Blaney ended up in 26th, three laps off the pace.
Blaney’s teammates at Team Penske suffered a similar misfortune, with Austin Cindric and Joey Logano both being involved in incidents throughout the afternoon, finishing 29th and 36th.
After a green-flag pit stop in the final stage, AJ Allmendinger had the right-front tire become detached from his No. 16 Chevrolet Camaro – which similar to Hamlin’s situation, will come with a four-race suspension to the team’s crew chief, jackman, and front tire changer.
Kyle Busch, Alex Bowman, William Byron, Aric Almirola, and Ryan Preece were amongst the drivers trapped one – or multiple — laps behind the leader, as a result of making pit stops. Bowman and Busch would rebound for top-10s, while Byron, Almirola, and Preece finished the race off the lead lap.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – who entered the race outside the top-30 in point standings — recorded a second-place finish at the one-mile oval, a season-best result for him and JTG Daugherty Racing.
After an intense battle with Martin Truex Jr. – which saw the No. 19 spin on the backstretch on the final lap, finishing 12th — Ross Chastain was able to salvage a third-place finish on Monday, his seventh top-five in 11 races.
Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman rounded out the top-five, with Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Chris Buescher, Kevin Harvick, and Erik Jones rounding out the top-10.
After winning at Dover, Chase Elliott exits the 11th race of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season as the points leader, with a 50-point advantage over Ryan Blaney. William Byron, Kyle Busch, and Alex Bowman round out the top-five in points.