Fresh off win, Blaney tries to move in NASCAR title hunt

Tilton  Getty Images

Tilton Getty Images

As drivers fired their engines Sunday to begin the pace laps before the Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover International Speedway, team owner Rick Hendrick was most certainly in disbelief. Elliott was third when he stayed out on yellow, and would lead the final 11 laps.

When the field takes the green flag at Talladega for the 500, Elliott will be the lone competitor with a spot clinched for the Round of 8.

"We had a penalty (for speeding in pit lane) there early", Chase Elliott said, "got behind and luckily had a good enough auto and a good strategy to get back".

But once Elliott raced to his first Cup win, the second victory wasn't far behind, and now the Hendrick Motorsports star pegged as NASCAR's next most popular driver is thinking championship. A year ago at Dover, Elliott coughed up the lead with two laps left to Kyle Busch, in what he called the most crushing defeat of his career.

"There isn't any reason why we can't make a run at this deal", Elliott said. Man, it's a great day. He really knows when to race.

The NASCAR season was dominated early by the Big Three of Harvick, Truex and Kyle Busch. Harvick swept the first two stages, as he had done during his June victory at the Monster Mile and appeared headed for another ideal afternoon, but the 2014 series champion had to return to pit road under green for an extra tire change after a flying lug nut knocked the valve stem off Harvick's left rear tire. Harvick rebounded to finish sixth but left Dover disappointed.

Elliott was the surprise victor in a race that had been dominated by Stewart-Haas Racing drivers until a pair of wrecks over the final laps jumbled the field and set the stage for Elliott. "We were lucky there avoiding that crash but maybe that makes up for losing the race with an absolutely dominant vehicle". The only laps Elliott led were the last 11.

"I could have been conservative and probably could have finished third or fourth", Almirola said. "I'm frustrated with our day, obviously. We came in here poised to not run very well, and that's how we did".

Elliott was the surprise victor in a race that had been dominated by Stewart-Haas Racing drivers. "We'll study and see how that goes, but I think we'll have some rules in place for sponsorship, for what betting looks like, and continue to see what happens in the landscape overall". He had that race won. "I'm really fortunate to have him in our camp".

Kyle and Jeff will break down all 12 playoff drivers, but their time is limited. They are becoming more and more evident every time he slips through his car's window opening. "I don't know. I'm frustrated and mad and angry". Instead, I'm complaining about having cars that are capable of winning and not going to victory lane. Moments later, the Motor Racing Network reported from the garage that the No. 48 Chevrolet suffered a broken lower ball joint.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 122.404 miles per hour.

Busch and Harvick lead NASCAR with seven wins as the series shifts into the second round of the playoffs. Keselowski 342-348;A. Almirola 349-393;C. Elliott 394-404. Drivers can earn points by performing well throughout a race and finishing in the top 10 at the conclusion of each of the first two stages (10 points for first, nine for second, etc.). 1 time for 7 laps; Joey Logano 1 time for 2 laps; Clint Bowyer 1 time for 1 lap.

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