Chase Elliott wins ‘wild’ NASCAR race at Talladega to shake up Cup Series playoffs

Chase Elliott did what no other playoff driver has been able to do yet in this postseason.

Did we expect anything else?

Elliott and his No. 9 Chevrolet made a championship move in the final two laps to change the complexion of Sunday’s race and the playoff standings all at once — and he ended up taking the checkered flag at a raucous Talladega Superspeedway.

“How about these fans, man,” Elliott told NBC Sports at the start-finish line, the checkered flag in his hand. The crowd erupted. NASCAR’s most popular driver then added, “You guys are what make this special to me.”

Elliott is now the only playoff driver to win a race in the 2022 Cup Series postseason, breaking a run of non-playoff drivers stunning the field: Erik Jones won at Darlington, then Bubba Wallace won at Kansas, then Chris Buescher won at Bristol.

But the buck stopped with Elliott — the NASCAR Cup regular-season champion and Cup wins leader (five) — and with the win he’s guaranteed a spot in the Round of 8.

Chase Elliott does a burnout after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Talladega, Ala. (AP Photo/Skip Williams)
Chase Elliott does a burnout after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Talladega, Ala. (AP Photo/Skip Williams)

How Elliott won was a display of masterful maneuvering: Stuck on the inside line with two laps to go, he got enough room to clear the No. 43 car of Erik Jones and lead the outside line. And then, somehow, Jones pushed — providing his Chevy teammate with enough momentum to snatch a win from Ryan Blaney that, for most of Stage 3, felt set in stone.

“That was a wild last couple of laps,” Elliott said. “I wasn’t super crazy about being on the bottom. And fortunately I just got clear enough off (Turn 2) to get in front of Erik, and he gave me some great shoves.”

He added: “These things are so hard to win. You gotta enjoy them. And I just appreciate everybody’s effort today.”

Blaney finished second. Michael McDowell finished third.

Ryan Blaney finishes oh-so-close again

For a moment, it looked as if it would all work out for Blaney.

The Team Penske driver of the No. 12 Ford — who has been on both the frustrating and fortunate ends of the unpredictable NASCAR Cup season — ran a race that couldn’t have gone more according to plan at Talladega Superspeedway for 186 laps.

He took a Stage 1 win away from Denny Hamlin by mere feet. He then fell back into the pack during Stage 2, biding his time per direction from interim crew chief Miles Stanley, and then led the bulk of the last 50 laps in a race that featured 57 lead changes and 17 different leaders.

But then came a final restart with six laps to go and that aforementioned Elliott move. Post-race, Blaney was asked if in those final laps he should’ve blocked Elliott, who was gaining momentum on the outside line while Blaney manned the inside.

“I definitely thought about it,” Blaney said, moments after watching the race’s final laps on replay in his camp. “The second lane was the strongest one the second half of the race. I thought about it, but if you go to the middle, and you don’t have a Ford or a teammate behind you, your chances of getting split are just so high. ... So I chose to stay in front of Michael (McDowell), and he was awesome pushing me in the last restart, giving me great shots. And I was just a little bit too late.”

He added with a smile to mask a palpable frustration: “I probably will replay in my head five different things I could’ve done differently, but overall not a bad day.”

The pit crew for Joey Logano run to the car during a pit stop during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Talladega, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
The pit crew for Joey Logano run to the car during a pit stop during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Talladega, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

How did the rest of the playoff field do?

Talladega proved fruitful for playoff drivers on Sunday. Seven of them finished in the Top 10. Beyond Elliott’s photo-finish win — which secured his spot in the Round of 8 despite just barely being above the cut-line points-wise coming into Sunday — and Blaney’s second-place run, here’s where the other 10 ended up:

Ross Chastain finished fourth. He found himself at the front of many draft lines on Sunday, his patriotic paint design easy to spot. “Every point earned is just better,” Chastain said with a smile in a television interview post-race. “It’s never ending. You just always want more.”

Denny Hamlin finished fifth — the only Toyota to finish in the Top 10 on Sunday. “It’s so hard to pass,” Hamlin said post-race. He added, “Our goal going into the day was five stage points, and we got more than five in the first stage. We (decided to) punt in Stage 2, and then go try to get a good finish, and that’s what we did.”

Chastain’s TrackHouse Racing driver, Daniel Suarez, finished eighth. Austin Cindric finished ninth. Chase Briscoe finished 10th. William Byron finished 12th — a tough result considering the fact that he got 25 points deducted from the playoff chase after wrecking Hamlin under caution last week.

Pole winner Christopher Bell (17), Kyle Larson (18) and Joey Logano (27) brought up the back of the pack of the playoff drivers. Alex Bowman did not race after suffering from concussion-like symptoms after his wreck at Texas last week.

Here are the points standings as drivers head into a cutoff race in Charlotte next week, per NASCAR. (Elliott and the other seven drivers with the most points move on to the Round of 8.)

  1. Elliott: 3,103

  2. Blaney: 3,101

  3. Chastain: 3,097

  4. Hamlin: 3,090

  5. Logano: 3,087

  6. Larson: 3,087

  7. Suarez: 3,081

  8. Briscoe: 3,069

  9. Cindric: 3,069

  10. Byron: 3,058

  11. Bell: 3,036

  12. Bowman: 3,015

Chase Elliott celebrates in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Talladega, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Chase Elliott celebrates in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Talladega, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Official results from Talladega Superspeedway

Post-race inspection in the NASCAR Cup Series garage is complete, and there were no issues found, per NASCAR. The No. 4 and No. 19 cars will go back to the NASCAR R&D Center for teardown.

Pos.

Car

Driver

Time behind

Best time

Best speed

1

9

Chase Elliott (P)

--

49.111

194.987

2

12

Ryan Blaney (P)

0.046

49.2

194.634

3

34

Michael McDowell

0.094

49.163

194.781

4

1

Ross Chastain (P)

0.16

49.086

195.086

5

11

Denny Hamlin (P)

0.183

49.191

194.67

6

43

Erik Jones

0.251

49.306

194.216

7

38

Todd Gilliland #

0.284

49.129

194.915

8

99

Daniel Suarez (P)

0.296

49.195

194.654

9

2

Austin Cindric # (P)

0.312

49.077

195.122

10

14

Chase Briscoe (P)

0.322

49.083

195.098

11

77

Landon Cassill(i)

0.344

48.999

195.433

12

24

William Byron (P)

0.381

49.224

194.539

13

3

Austin Dillon

0.407

48.976

195.524

14

10

Aric Almirola

0.446

48.859

195.993

15

31

Justin Haley

0.463

49.127

194.923

16

45

Bubba Wallace (P)

0.464

48.936

195.684

17

20

Christopher Bell (P)

0.531

48.834

196.093

18

5

Kyle Larson (P)

0.534

48.9

195.828

19

48

Noah Gragson(i) (P)

0.599

48.744

196.455

20

18

Kyle Busch

0.601

49.183

194.701

21

41

Cole Custer

0.915

49.412

193.799

22

47

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

1.376

48.733

196.499

23

42

Ty Dillon

1.505

49.2

194.634

24

6

Brad Keselowski

1.78

49.203

194.622

25

17

Chris Buescher

1.932

49.04

195.269

26

19

Martin Truex Jr.

2.348

49.31

194.2

27

22

Joey Logano (P)

3.062

49.341

194.078

28

8

Tyler Reddick

-1

49.641

192.905

29

4

Kevin Harvick

-1

49.488

193.501

30

62

Justin Allgaier(i)

-2

49.014

195.373

31

15

JJ Yeley(i)

-4

49.646

192.886

32

51

Cody Ware

-4

49.44

193.689

33

78

BJ McLeod(i)

-6

49.661

192.827

34

16

Daniel Hemric(i)

-8

49.633

192.936

35

7

Corey LaJoie

-144

50.052

191.321

36

21

Harrison Burton #

-165

49.914

191.85

37

23

Ty Gibbs(i)

-165

49.817

192.224