By Ethan Miller ‘23
It had been 26 races since his last win, and even longer since he had last won on an oval- nearly a year and a half. But on a sunny Monday afternoon at Dover Motor Speedway in Dover, Delaware, Chase Elliott won on an oval for the first time in 540 days. Elliott, driver of the no. 9 NAPA Chevrolet Camaro for Hendrick Motorsports, won for the second time of his career at the 1 mile, high-banked concrete track, and boosted his career Cup Series win total to 14. The 2020 champion has led the regular season points standings since the March 20th race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but was without a win until Monday’s race.
Following a Tyler Reddick crash on lap 343, Elliott pitted with the rest of the field for 4 fresh Goodyear tires and fuel, and assumed the lead on the subsequent restart. He led the final 53 laps (he totaled 73 for the race) and crossed the finish line ahead of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell, and Alex Bowman. Kyle Busch, who led a race-high 103 laps, finished 7th. Him and Alex Bowman were the consensus favorites as the laps wound down, but a poorly timed caution flag brought out by AJ Allmendinger losing a wheel while Busch and Bowman were on pit road put them behind the curve for the remainder of the race, and both had to fight to get back into the top 10. Pole sitter Chris Buescher led the first 18 laps before losing the lead early, and finished in 8th for his 3rd top 10 of the season. Erik Jones, who narrowly missed a victory last week at Talladega Superspeedway, finished in 10th and vaulted himself into the top 16 in points; if the playoffs started today, he’d be in.
Featuring 13 cautions for 75 laps, the race was competitive and never got strung out and single file. Multi-groove racing was possible, and passing wasn’t too difficult for the drivers. Goodyear brought a good tire, which punished drivers for using up their stuff early in runs. Tire wear and car handling played a big part in the Dover race. Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Tyler Reddick and Austin Cindric all crashed and finished poorly; Martin Truex, Jr. joined them on the last lap of the race. Racing Chastain for third place entering the final corner, Truex attempted a move to the outside to pass for the position. Chastain blocked, and Truex lost control, slipping from 4th place to 12th, which was where he finished.
The Dover race was one of the better ones in recent memory- a packed grandstand on Sunday was very promising for the track and its new ownership, Speedway Motorsports Incorporated (SMI). SMI purchased the track during the offseason, and it appears to have paid off. Crowded fan areas and a near sell out for the race on Sunday before the rain came are promising for the future of the speedway. Said Elliott following his Monday win,
“That was a great crowd we had yesterday. Biggest crowd I have seen here personally since I’ve been racing, which I thought was really cool. Proud to see that.”
An offer for a free gift to all who registered their tickets for the 2023 race all but confirms that NASCAR will return to the track that they’ve raced at since 1969 once more next year, a promising development. Dover put on a good show with the NextGen car and the fans showed up. The future is bright for the Monster Mile.