NASCAR Barometer: Elliott Wins on Third Consecutive Road Course

NASCAR Barometer: Elliott Wins on Third Consecutive Road Course

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Chase Elliott won his third consecutive road-course race in the first visit to the Daytona International Speedway road course in NASCAR Cup series history. Elliott's speed was evident from the start, and he took advantage of the pit strategy of other leaders to move to the front and win the first stage. Staying out for the stage victory put him behind for the second stage, but he still managed to get into the top 10 to pick up more stage points in the second segment. The final segment was where his strength really showed, however. He consistently turned quick laps out front with zero mistakes to build a seemingly insurmountable lead and then pulled off a perfect restart to retain his lead in the final restart of the race. After that, he just need to run mistake-free to hold of Denny Hamlin to notch his second win of the season.

Sunday's race might have been good preparation for the Charlotte road course in the playoffs, but this week the series returns to oval racing with a double-header weekend at Dover International Speedway. Jimmie Johnson has amassed an incredible 11 career wins at the track, but Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson were the two who won there last season. Kevin Harvick swept the last double-header at Michigan, while he and Denny Hamlin shared the spoils at Pocono Raceway earlier this summer.

UPGRADE

Chase Elliott – Elliott opted not to pit just prior to the end of the first stage, which

Chase Elliott won his third consecutive road-course race in the first visit to the Daytona International Speedway road course in NASCAR Cup series history. Elliott's speed was evident from the start, and he took advantage of the pit strategy of other leaders to move to the front and win the first stage. Staying out for the stage victory put him behind for the second stage, but he still managed to get into the top 10 to pick up more stage points in the second segment. The final segment was where his strength really showed, however. He consistently turned quick laps out front with zero mistakes to build a seemingly insurmountable lead and then pulled off a perfect restart to retain his lead in the final restart of the race. After that, he just need to run mistake-free to hold of Denny Hamlin to notch his second win of the season.

Sunday's race might have been good preparation for the Charlotte road course in the playoffs, but this week the series returns to oval racing with a double-header weekend at Dover International Speedway. Jimmie Johnson has amassed an incredible 11 career wins at the track, but Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson were the two who won there last season. Kevin Harvick swept the last double-header at Michigan, while he and Denny Hamlin shared the spoils at Pocono Raceway earlier this summer.

UPGRADE

Chase Elliott – Elliott opted not to pit just prior to the end of the first stage, which enabled him to cycle to the lead and win the opening segment of Sunday's road course race. He went on to dominate the final stage and build a comfortable lead that he held until one late restart erased the gap he had built. His impeccable run back to the green flag gave him the advantage he needed to weather everything Denny Hamlin could throw at him. The win was Elliott's third consecutive road course victory and will firmly put him atop the fantasy favorites at these tracks in the future, too.  The momentum gained from a return to Victory Lane could give Elliott the boost he needs just ahead of the championship playoffs.

Denny Hamlin – Hamlin started on the front row alongside Harvick in Sunday's road course race. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver spent most of the first stage among the leaders but opted to pit just before the stage finish. That move left him in position to capitalize and win the second stage for another important championship point. Hamlin again found his way back to the front in the final stage, spending a good distance battling with Johnson before moving into second position. A late caution offered him one final chance to make a charge for the lead, but his effort came up just short, as he couldn't make a move for the lead. Up next is a track at which Hamlin has never won, but he started from pole there last fall on his way to a fifth-place finish.

Martin Truex Jr. – A penalty for speeding on pit road just prior to the end of the second stage put Truex at the end of the longest line for the restart and at a severe disadvantage for the final stage. The importance of track position on a road course made it an extremely heavy penalty that left Truex climbing through the field to salvage anything he could. However, Truex is one of the best road course racers in the series, and he used that talent to climb all the way back to third position for the finish in a stunning drive through the field. That performance should give him plenty of confidence heading into Dover this week where he has three wins, including last spring. He finished first and second at the track that season and only has one finish outside of the top 10 there in his last eight starts.

Jimmie Johnson – Johnson looked every bit the former champion in an impressive race on the Daytona road course. The Hendrick Motorsports driver had plenty of experience on the course due to his Daytona 24 Hours starts, which showed Sunday. He started the race 11th, but he quickly worked his way into the top five and spent the entire afternoon there. While Johnson never showed the pace to catch teammate Elliott, he was able to give Hamlin a run for his money, and ultimately slipped to fourth position behind Truex in the final miles. It was a confidence-building afternoon with some stage points to help his playoff chances. That confidence could be a difference-maker as he heads to Dover, arguably his best track, for next week's double-header.

Michael McDowell - Fantasy players should have expected McDowell to have a good afternoon at Daytona, but his performance arguably exceeded expectations. A top-15 finish after starting 30th would have given fantasy players plenty to cheer about, but he did even better to score his third top-10 finish of the season. This has been a good year for the driver who's smaller team has a slightly more level playing field this season with the lack of practice and qualifying. McDowell has taken advantage of the opportunities that have presented themselves, including this past week where he pieced together an amazing race with another top finish. McDowell may not be a driver for fantasy rosters every week, but fantasy players should take advantage at his stronger tracks.

DOWNGRADE

Kevin Harvick – Harvick started on pole for Sunday's race by virtue of his performance a week prior at Michigan. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver did his best to remain cautious and careful, which earned him a spot in the top five until the start of the final segment when his early braking caught Christopher Bell by surprise and sent Harvick spinning. Harvick quickly found himself at the back of the field with just over 30 laps to recover all the valuable track position. A second spin with just over 20 laps remaining eliminated any dim hopes he may have had of racing back to the front again. Harvick has won twice at Dover in his career and finished fourth in the two races there last season. A return to oval racing next week will be a welcome change for him.

Kyle Busch – Sunday presented a great opportunity for Busch to score his first win of the 2020 season. Through the first 40 laps of the race, it looked like he might be able to get the job done, too. Busch was one of the fastest cars Sunday and spent most of the afternoon in touch with the lead until the luck that has plagued him this season struck once again with a brake issue. After racing to move into second position, Busch suddenly couldn't brake, missed a chicane and headed for the pits. The crew assessed the issue and sent the car to the garage for repairs, leaving Busch with no chance of recovering a top finish. Busch has put himself in position to win this season but hasn't had things fall his way. Desperation may be starting to take hold with just three regular-season races remaining.

Christopher Bell – A trip to the Daytona road course should have been an opportunity for Bell to join fellow teammate Cole Custer with a first-year win and a ticket to the championship playoffs. The Leavine Family Racing driver started 15th and was working his way toward the top of the running order throughout the first two stages. The final stage saw the wheels come off his charge, however. Multiple incidents and spins left Bell struggling to regain composure, and the positions he lost. In the end it was too much to overcome and he finished the day 10 spots worse than he started in a frustrating afternoon of missed opportunity. Bell will be transitioning to the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 machine next season, but in that car, he'll be required to avoid the mistakes he made last week.

Ryan Blaney – Blaney had a Sunday to forget. The Penske Racing driver started deep in the field and played the strategy game to earn some stage points in the second segment. Aside from that, Blaney was nowhere to be found. None of the Penske drivers were truly competitive on the road course, but Blaney's 31st-place finish was the worst of the bunch. The team could have viewed the race as a test session considering their playoff spots are safe and the track won't be part of the playoffs. However, there is one road course race in the playoffs, and Sunday's disappointment doesn't bode well for that cut-off race for the round of 12. Blaney and team need to recover quick to regain momentum at Dover with only three races remaining before the playoffs commence.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Chris Buescher – Buescher hasn't had many bright spots on which to build this season, but he may have found the spark for which he was searching. He hasn't been known as one of the great road course racers in the series, but he looked like one of them on Sunday. He started 21st, which is right about where he has run much of the season, but he made no mistakes in a smooth run all the way up to fifth. That finish was his best since finishing sixth at Talladega and his best on any track other than the two superspeedways this season. While it hasn't been a consistent season for him, his run from Sunday should be something on which he can build better results in the future, perhaps starting at Dover this week where his best finish was 18th in 2016.

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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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