Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Nationwide Series championship standings.
18-year-old NASCAR Nationwide Series rookie Chase Elliott comfortably held off five experienced Sprint Cup regulars to claim victory in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300, under the floodlights at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday night in what was just his sixth race in the series, making him the second-youngest winner in series history.
"I can't it believe it, man," said Elliott after the race. "I can't believe it. It's awesome, and I can't thank everybody enough," he said, the high school senior quipping that he'd have "a bunch of homework" to do when he got home on Monday to keep him grounded.
Elliott's achievement was lauded by his father, veteran longtime NASCAR driver Bill Elliott, who professed himself "about speechless" with the evening's result. "I'll tell you what, you've done a heck of a job," he marvelled. "I keep saying it: never to have been at some of these places like Vegas, California and now here at Texas, and to come out and beat the kind of guys he beat..."
Elliott's JR Motorsports teammate Kevin Harvick earlier took his first pole position at Texas after sweeping all three rounds of the elimination format, finally clinching top spot with a lap of 29.195s (184.963mph) at the 1.5-mile oval. His 25th pole in 305 Nationwide starts put him alongside Joe Gibbs Racing's Matt Kenseth on the front row of the grid. Kenseth's team mate Kyle Busch was among several drivers caught out by an unusually high number of issues passing through technical inspection. In the end, Busch along with Ty Dillon and Kyle Larson were all too late to run a qualifying lap and were duly relegated to the back of the grid for the start of Friday night's race.
It took Busch only ten laps to move all the way forward into the top ten, but it was Harvick who maintained the lead for the first 87 laps which included three different cautions, the first for a spin by Trevor Bayne in turn 4 that left the #6 dropping debris on the track on lap 43, and the second for Robert Richardson hitting the wall in turn 2 on lap 54. The third yellow was sparked by a tyre blow-out for Tanner Berryhill leaving debris on the frontstretch.
Busch had moved into second place behind Harvick for the restart on lap 69 but was beaten by Kyle Larson, who had followed Busch through the pack on his own recovery drive from the back of the grid, while immediately behind them were two drivers who had started in the top six and continued their qualifying form into strong race pace - Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr. However the man to beat in this stint was Kyle Busch, and he pipped Harvick to the line on lap 88 by one thousandths of a second and then proceeded to complete the pass and move into the lead, although that state of affairs only lasted a dozen laps before the #54 was obliged to pit at the midway point of the 200-lap race and Busch was forced to wait ten laps for the cycle to play itself out before he regained the top spot again.
Busch was still leading on lap 122 when Chad Boat spun out while exiting turn 4, and at the restart Elliott worked his way past Harvick and Earnhardt to put himself into contention for the lead, which he claimed on lap 135 as Busch lost his earlier edge and dropped back to fourth. Elliott quickly pulled out a second over Earnhardt, in what was only his second time out in front in a Nationwide race (having previously led two laps at Fontana a fortnight ago.) This time he made it 20 before finally being forced to turn over the spoils to his team mate and boss Earnhardt on lap 155.
The fifth and final caution of the night materialised on lap 169 when James Buescher and Jamie Dick made contact and Dick then crashed on the backstretch, collecting Chris Buescher in the process. That enabled Harvick to take the lead off pit road, having earlier dropped back complaining of tight handling in the #5. Despite improving significantly, the car was still unable to hold off sustained pressure from Elliott who passed on the outside to go to the front on lap 185, setting himself up as the bullseye for all Cup regulars were massing up to aim for.
“It just seemed like he throttled up and drove right past him,” said an impressed Kyle Busch, who had a ringside seat for the move. "He was just that strong ... Once he got by Harvick, he was just so good. He was in a league of his own for about the last 70 laps."
Busch also quickly passed Harvick to take up the position of pursuer-in-chief, while Larson, Earnhardt and Kenseth also did their best to ensure the leaders didn't get away. Behind them, Regan Smith led the challenge from a pack of Nationwide Series regulars including Ty Dillon, Elliott Sadler, Brendan Gaughan, Brian Scott and James Buescher. Ultimately though, Chase Elliott really was in a class of his own and more than up to the challenge of staying out of reach of his would-be usurpers, and when the chequered flag came out he was over two and a half seconds ahead of Busch and Larson. His victory means that he takes over the points lead of the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship by two points from Regan Smith, while Ty Dillon remains in third place ahead of Elliott Sadler.Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Nationwide Series championship standings.