Elliott holds off Bayne for Nationwide win
JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — Chase Elliott is proving to be a quick study. A few questions for his teammates and a couple practice laps, and he was ready to roll in his first race at Chicagoland Speedway.
Elliott held off Trevor Bayne to earn his third Nationwide Series win of the season Saturday night, putting the rookie on top of the standings.
“We had an awesome race going,” Elliott said. “I try to make the most of my practice laps. They gave me a good car. That gives me time to learn the track in practice.”
Elliott had a strong car all day long for JR Motorsports, qualifying third and leading a race-high 85 laps. Bayne tried to chase him down on fresh tires in the final laps, but ran out of time.
“The gap was closing,” Bayne said. “Probably 10 more laps, but we’ll never know.”
Elliott, the son of former NASCAR champion Bill Elliott, also won in his first trips to Texas and Darlington this year. He leads the standings by seven points over Regan Smith.
Chase Elliott said Smith and Kasey Kahne provided some importance advice about the track.
“I did have some questions that I asked, and I definitely think that helped tonight,” he said. “So thankful to have a couple great teammates and good to have something to lean back on with those guys.”
Kyle Larson was third, followed by Kahne and Ty Dillon to round out the top five.
Brian Scott, who started on the pole, finished sixth and earned $100,000 in the second event of the four-race “Dash 4 Cash” bonus program.
Kahne and Larson were the lone Sprint Cup regulars in the field on an off weekend for NASCAR’s top series. Everyone comes back to Chicagoland in September on the same weekend that the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins at the 1.52-mile oval.
The night began with a pair of Richard Childress Racing teammates in front after Scott and Dillon had the best showing in qualifying. It was Scott’s second pole of the season and No. 4 for his career. He won his first Nationwide Series pole at Chicagoland on Sept. 17, 2011.
Scott led for 20 laps before Elliott moved in front.
Erik Jones finished seventh in his Nationwide debut, driving Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota. The 18-year-old Jones won the Truck Series race last week at Iowa in the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota he shares with Busch. Jones also won a Truck race last year in Phoenix.
Jones is expected to make two more Nationwide starts in Matt Kenseth’s car this season.
“It was definitely a learning experience for me and everybody involved,” he said. “I feel like I learned a lot the whole night and really picked up on some things that will help me through the next couple.”
Jones got some advice from Busch in preparation for his first run in the series.
“A lot of what we talked about was working through traffic and it definitely helped out,” Jones said. “It was something I was able to apply right away tonight and use to my advantage.”
Smith, who led the series standings by eight points over Elliott Sadler coming into the day, started 15th after a disappointing qualifying session, and it just got worse during the race. He never got into the mix on his way to 16th place.
It was similar to last year, when Smith was on top of the series heading into the first stop at Chicagoland, and then slid into the infield on Lap 129 and finished 13th. He had the same finish in the September race at the same track.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap