An event that produced superspeedway-like racing, Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway almost provided a superspeedway-like winner, in the form of Corey LaJoie and Spire Motorsports.
However, as in most superspeedway events, there was one key move that cost the 30-year-old journeyman his first victory at NASCAR’s top-level, instead handing it on a silver platter to hometown boy Chase Elliott.
Elliott – whose hometown of Dawsonville, Georgia, is located about four miles from the 1.5-mile facility — was able to secure the lead on the penultimate lap of the event, as LaJoie moved to the inside to anticipate a move from the 2020 Cup Series champion.
Surprisingly, that wasn’t everything that LaJoie had to say about the outcome of the event, as the Charlotte, North Carolina-native was able to rebound and barely to the outside of Elliott in the first corner on the final lap.
Elliott was somehow able to block the move by Corey LaJoie, which sent the No. 7 Raze Energy Chevrolet Camaro up the track and into the outside wall, causing LaJoie to spin and crash on the final lap, collecting multiple others.
The multi-car accident forced NASCAR to effectively end the event by throwing the 13th caution of the event, giving the win to Chase Elliott and Hendrick Motorsports.
Sunday marks the 16th victory in the NASCAR Cup Series for Elliott and his third of the season, all of which have come within the last nine events. Additionally, Hendrick Motorsports has swept both races at the newly-reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway, after William Byon won the track’s event in March.
After triggering two separate accidents and accruing significant damage to the front end of his Jockey Chevrolet Camaro, Ross Chastain finished in the runner-up position, marking his 10th top-five finish of the season.
Austin Cindric, who tumbled down the order in the race’s initial run, rebounded to finish in third place, with Petty GMS’ Erik Jones finishing in fourth. Ryan Blaney completed the event’s top-five finishers.
Daniel Suarez, Justin Haley, and Aric Almirola finished sixth through eighth place, all recording solid top-10 results at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Cole Custer picked up his first top-10 finish of the season, finishing ninth.
Harrison Burton, in his rookie season for Wood Brothers Racing, recorded his first career top-10 finish in the NASCAR Cup Series, making him the first driver born after January 1, 2000, to record such a finish at NASCAR’s top level.
Are you feeling a bit old right now?
With his 10th-place finish in Sunday's #QuakerState400 at @amsupdates, @HBurtonRacing becomes the first driver born after 01/01/2000 to score a top-10 finish in the NASCAR Cup Series.#NASCAR | #SrigleyStats Served by @DoorDash pic.twitter.com/f3aUHQIcLl
— Joseph Srigley (@joe_srigley) July 10, 2022
Corey LaJoie, after leading a career-high 19 laps in Sunday’s event including seven of the last nine circuits, was credited with a 21st-place finish, after being involved in an accident on the final lap, which also collected Kurt Busch.
With the victory on Sunday, Elliott leaves Atlanta Motor Speedway with a 47-point advantage on Ryan Blaney for the regular-season championship, with Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, and Kyle Busch rounding out the top five in points.
Next, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, an event that really shook up the Playoff Grid last season, with Aric Almirola’s victory. Could the series have its 14th different winner of the season, as the Playoffs rapidly approach?