NASCAR Barometer: Elliott Wins Alsco Uniforms 500

NASCAR Barometer: Elliott Wins Alsco Uniforms 500

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Chase Elliott finally banished his bad luck and got the win he seemed destined for the past few races with an impressive showing in Thursday night's Alsco Uniforms 500. The Hendrick Motorsports driver started the race 19th after finishing second in last week's Coca-Cola 600 but was able to stay on top of his car's settings to reel in leader Kevin Harvick and complete a pass for the win late in the final stage. Elliott now has a spot in the season ending playoffs and could be a legitimate threat for the 2020 championship if his pace so far this season doesn't leave him as the year continues. 

The NASCAR Cup series barely has time to catch its breath from back-to-back races at Charlotte before moving on to the tight confines of Bristol Motor Speedway this Sunday. The teams also have one less day to prepare since Thursday's Charlotte race was actually supposed to have been Wednesday before rain postponed the running. Sunday will be a daytime race at the short and high-banked Bristol track where teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin won last season. 

UPGRADE

Chase Elliott – Elliott's car came to life in the final stage as he chased down Kevin Harvick for the lead, ultimately making the pass on track and then pulling away until the checkered flag gave him the win he had been so close to the past few weeks. Elliott had been in position to win multiple times since NASCAR returned to action, and

Chase Elliott finally banished his bad luck and got the win he seemed destined for the past few races with an impressive showing in Thursday night's Alsco Uniforms 500. The Hendrick Motorsports driver started the race 19th after finishing second in last week's Coca-Cola 600 but was able to stay on top of his car's settings to reel in leader Kevin Harvick and complete a pass for the win late in the final stage. Elliott now has a spot in the season ending playoffs and could be a legitimate threat for the 2020 championship if his pace so far this season doesn't leave him as the year continues. 

The NASCAR Cup series barely has time to catch its breath from back-to-back races at Charlotte before moving on to the tight confines of Bristol Motor Speedway this Sunday. The teams also have one less day to prepare since Thursday's Charlotte race was actually supposed to have been Wednesday before rain postponed the running. Sunday will be a daytime race at the short and high-banked Bristol track where teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin won last season. 

UPGRADE

Chase Elliott – Elliott's car came to life in the final stage as he chased down Kevin Harvick for the lead, ultimately making the pass on track and then pulling away until the checkered flag gave him the win he had been so close to the past few weeks. Elliott had been in position to win multiple times since NASCAR returned to action, and his win in the truck series earlier in the week may have been the boost he needed to overcome the problems that prevented him from finding Victory Lane in the Cup series. Elliott has finished in the top 10 in half of his eight Cup series Bristol starts and has consistently been one of the fastest cars on track each race since racing returned from hiatus.

Ryan Blaney – Luck was not on Blaney's side in the first four races of the season. Multiple times he had a car that could win, but circumstances came together to prevent him from doing so. When racing returned at Darlington he seemed to be behind his two teammates and maybe lost some of that early-season speed. It all came back to him Thursday in Charlotte, though. He ran consistently in the top five throughout Thursday's 300 miles and was running second in the closing miles before losing one position to Denny Hamlin and ultimately finishing third on the night. With a smart pit decision on Sunday and a fast car on Thursday, the Penske Racing driver leaves Charlotte with back-to-back third-place finishes. He has four top-10 finishes from nine Bristol starts.

Alex Bowman – Bowman started on the front row Thursday night but didn't really come alive until the second stage. He worked his way to the front for the final restart of the second segment and then cruised to his fourth career stage victory. While running second in the final stage he got loose and made contact with the outside wall, though. He suffered heavy damage due to the mistake and went to pit road for repairs, ending his chances at winning the race. While he has a win already this season, he was one of the top fantasy choices for Thursday's event and left himself and owners that selected him wanting more. Looking ahead to Sunday, Bowman has two top-10 Bristol finishes. He was 23rd and 15th in the two races at the track last year.

Joey Logano – Logano used the winning strategy from Sunday's race early in Thursday's return to Charlotte to win the first stage. He elected to stay on track in the final caution before the stage finish, which gave him track position that kept him comfortably out front until segment's end. The Penske Fords all had the speed they needed to race at the front on Thursday and Logano used his to finish sixth. He has two wins and four top-10 finishes from the eight races so far this season and is building toward a run for another championship this fall. With two career wins at Bristol and finishes of 16th or better there at every race since 2015, he should be a viable fantasy option again on Sunday.

Kevin Harvick – Harvick and team nailed the setup on their car for Thursday night's race. The Ford driver was one of the fastest cars throughout the night and consistently raced through the field to be in contention for the lead. He was comfortably in the lead in the closing miles when he lost the handling in his car and started falling back in the running order. The speed he had earlier in the race left him in the closing miles as he also backed off the pace to make sure his fuel would get him to the checkered flag. Harvick has two Bristol wins to his credit but had trouble there last season with finishes of 13th and 39th. Prior to that season he was on a roll of Seven straight top-10s at the circuit.

DOWNGRADE

Kyle Busch – Contact at the start of the second stage left Busch with slight rear damage and a flat tire. That sent him to pit road and out of contention. He was two laps down by the time he returned to the track after the incident and had a major hole to dig out of with a damaged machine. With less than 20 laps remaining in the race, he had only gotten one of those laps back and was just barely running inside the top 30. Toyota and Busch have some work ahead of them to return to the heights they achieved last season. Kyle has been one of the best drivers at Bristol, though. He has eight Cup series wins from 29 starts, including three of the last five visits.

Erik Jones – Jones, like his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, had a difficult night in Thursday's return to Charlotte. The winner of last year's Coca-Cola 600 was not able to bring the same magic this year. In the final stage under caution, he pitted with his rear wheels outside of the box, which earned him a one-lap penalty. After that misstep, he never had a chance and spent the remainder of the race circling outside of the top 20 and down a lap to the leaders. Toyota has work to do to compete more consistently with Chevrolet and Ford, and Jones is not immune to that issue. He has two top-fives from six Bristol starts and started on pole in 2017's fall race at the oval. Last season he finished 24th and 22nd, however.

Clint Bowyer – After crashing out of Sunday's Charlotte race, Bowyer had another disappointing night Thursday. He picked up two penalties on pit road before the final stage got underway. Overcoming one penalty in such a short race is a tall order, but Bowyer made his night exceedingly difficult by picking up two. He was able to stay on track and avoid further issues, but his effort in that short span meant he was left fighting for a spot in the top 15. It was another disappointing Charlotte race for Bowyer who continues to search for consistency in 2020. Bristol should be a better venue for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver, though. In 28 starts he has 15 top-10 finishes an has been eighth or better in five of the last six races at the track.

Matt Kenseth – Kenseth was under no illusion that his return to the Cup series in Darlington would be a journey. The top-10 finish he scored in his return at Darlington may have given him some false hope, though. Things have been much more difficult for the veteran since then. In the three races since, Kenseth has not even finished in the top 20. He struggled again Thursday in Charlotte with multiple problems that left him with a 23rd-place finish from the 26th starting position. Fantasy owners may still want to keep an eye on him for Sunday's Bristol race, however. His last two races there were fourth-place finishes and he has a total of four track wins from 36 starts. 

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – After not having much to be positive about so far in 2020 since winning the pole in Daytona, Stenhouse came to life again Thursday night in Charlotte. He had a quick car early in the race and kept on top of the adjustments throughout the distance to race his way into the top five in the final segment. He had a very strong race to climb the order into fourth position by the end of the race to score his best finish so far this season. Bristol historically has been a good venue for Stenhouse, too. He has six top-10s from 14 starts there and finished second twice. He was classified 33rd in both races at the track last season but should be able to take some momentum from Thursday into Sunday's race.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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