Chase Elliott was able to get a jump on Brad Keselowski on the final restart and easily stayed ahead of Kyle Busch over the final 11 laps to win Wednesday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race and claimed the $1 million winner’s purse.
“I can’t believe it. What a better night to have fans back than tonight - y’all are awesome," Elliott said. "There’s nothing like Bristol. There’s nothing like the lights here. There’s nothing like racing here. I’ve never won here – what a race to do it.
"Just really proud of our team tonight and rebounding. We’ve had a really tough couple of weeks and just felt like we had kind of gotten off base and I felt like I was struggling. Just tried to hit the reset button this week, and came out and put on a great performance – great car. Just can’t thank all our partners enough, everybody that makes this happen. All those No. 9 hats and t-shirts up in the stands – love to see it.”
Asked about the significant crowd for the first time since NASCAR resumed racing, Elliott said, "There’s no feeling like it. There’s nothing like it – this speaks for itself. And like I said, Bristol is an electric atmosphere that is unlike any other that we go to. Couldn’t be more excited.
"We’re going to celebrate this one for sure. And we’ll take that million dollars back to Georgia, why don’t we!”
Elliott has already locked in a spot in this year’s Cup Series playoffs with his win in the 500k race at Charlotte in May but had finished 23rd or worse in three of the last five races.
The race was first since NASCAR resumed competition following a two-month hiatus for the COVID-19 pandemic to feature a significant number of fans in attendance.
Tennessee officials allowed up to 30,000 fans to attend the event and local officials estimated a crowd of over 22,000 – the most to attend a sporting event in the United States since the pandemic began.
And by and large, they were extremely happy with the result, with one fan even climbing the catchfence before being removed by security.
Busch ended up second, 0.418 seconds behind Elliott. Kevin Harvick was third, Keselowski was fourth and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five.
Following the break between Stages 3 and 4, most lead-lap cars remained on the track but several elected to pit for new tires with Harvick the first off pit road.
On the restart for the final 15-lap dash for the All-Star title, Elliott led the way followed by Keselowski, Hamlin, Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones.
On Lap 129 of 140, Kyle Busch powered into second and set his sights on Elliott for the lead.
With five laps remaining in the final segment, Elliott maintained a steady advantage over Kyle Busch as Keselowski ran third.
Elliott continued his strength in the race, easily holding off Blaney to claim the Stage 3 win.
Keselowski was third, Kyle Busch fourth and Harvick rounded out the top-five.
Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, the lead-lap cars all pit except for Blaney who remained on the track and inherited the lead.
On the restart on Lap 91, Blaney was followed by Elliott, Keselowski and Matt DiBenedetto.
On Lap 94, Keselowski, Harvick and Elliott went three-wide battling for second place which allowed Blaney, on older tires, to drive away to a big lead.
With 25 laps remaining in the stage, Blaney maintained a small lead over Keselowski while Elliott settled into third.
On Lap 104, Elliott moved into second and on Lap 110 Elliott passed Blaney off Turn 2 to retake the lead.
With 10 laps to go in the stage, Elliott opened up a nearly 1-second lead over Blaney as Keselowski remained in third and Kyle Busch fourth.
After grabbing the lead on a restart, Elliott easily claimed the Stage 2 win over Harvick, clearing him by 1.7 seconds at the finish.
Blaney was third, Keselowski fourth and Alex Bowman rounded out the top-five.
Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, the lead-lap cars pit with Harvick the first off pit road. On the restart on Lap 56, Harvick was followed by Blaney, Joey Logano and Elliott.
Jones had to restart from the rear of the field for having a crew member over the wall too soon during his pit stop.
Ryan Newman wrecked on the frontstretch on Lap 57 to bring the caution back out. The race returned to green on Lap 62 with Harvick still in the lead.
Shortly after the restart, Elliott powered around Harvick and into the lead for the first time in the race.
With 10 laps remaining in the second stage, Elliott maintained a small but steady lead over Harvick with Blaney in third and Bowman in fourth.
Blaney easily held off fellow Ford driver Harvick to win the first stage of the All-Star Race.
Elliott was third, Bowman fourth and Jones rounded out the top-five.
With Martin Truex Jr. moving to the rear at the start, Bowman grabbed the early lead only to see Blaney work his way around and into the top spot on Lap 3.
On Lap 8, Kurt Busch spun off Turn 2 after contact from Keselowski to bring out the first caution. Blaney remained in the lead when the race returned to green on Lap 15.
With 30 laps remaining in the first stage, Blaney maintained a small but steady lead over Harvick with Bowman running in third.
On Lap 38, Elliott got around Bowman to take over the third position.
With 10 laps to go, Blaney’s advantage had grown to almost a second over Harvick with Elliott closing fast from third.
Truex was forced to start from the rear of the field after his No. 19 Toyota twice failed pre-race inspection.
Aric Almirola, William Byron and DiBenedetto won the three stages of the NASCAR Open to transfer into the main event. Clint Bowyer won the fan vote to earn a spot in the field.