(MRN) Martin Truex Junior made a serious bid for his second straight Watkins Glen victory on Sunday, but it was Chase Elliott who withstood a furious charge from the defending Monster Energy Series champion to notch his first career win. Elliott spent the final laps of the afternoon with a rear-view mirror full of Truex, who closed to the race leader’s back bumper on the final circuit before running out of fuel two turns short of the checkered flag. Elliott’s final margin of victory, seven-and-a-half seconds, belies the battle that was waged with Truex throughout the final stage of the race.
The win, coming in Elliott’s ninety-ninth start, is Chevrolet’s first victory since Austin Dillon claimed the season-opening Daytona 500 – twenty-one races ago. It also served as a most special birthday gift for Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Alan Gustafson, who turned 43 on Sunday.
Elliott started third, won the second stage and led a race-high fifty-two laps. Truex held on for second place with Kyle Busch, Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones completing the top five. Pole winner Denny Hamlin led just two laps and finished thirteenth in the thirty-seven-car field.
Busch started second, dominated the opening stage and led laps early in each of the final two stages. But he was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop to take on more fuel after a snafu on the previous lap left him ten gallons short of a full tank. Busch led a total of thirty-one laps en route to his third-place finish.
Sunday’s race included nine lead changes among just five drivers: Hamlin, Busch, Truex, Elliott and Jimmie Johnson.
NASCAR CUP SERIES
Top 10 Finishers in the Go Bowling at The Glen
DRIVER STARTING POSITION LAPS LED
1. Chase Elliott (3) 52
2. Martin Truex Jr. (4) 4
3. Kyle Busch (2) 31
4. Daniel Suarez (21) —
5. Erik Jones (9) —
6. Kyle Larson (5) —
7. Jamie McMurray (14) —
8. William Byron (R) (16) —
9. Kurt Busch (36) —
10. Kevin Harvick (15) —
RACE NOTES …
Two members of this season’s “Big Three,” which have combined to win sixteen races, fared pretty well on Sunday with Martin Truex Junior and Kyle Busch coming away from Watkins Glen International with top-five finishes. Kevin Harvick was a little further down in the running order, placing tenth with no stage wins and no laps led … The 2018 Monster Energy Series Playoffs open next month in Las Vegas and Busch still holds the provisional top seed with thirty-five bonus points – two more than Harvick and eight up on Truex … Alan Gustafson wasn’t the only Hendrick Motorsports crew chief celebrating a birthday on Sunday. Chad Knaus turned 47.
NASCAR CUP SERIES Playoff Push After 22 Races
1. Kyle Busch 6 Wins and 35 Playoff Points
2. Kevin Harvick 6 Wins and 33 Playoff Points
3. M. Truex Jr. 4 Wins and 27 Playoff Points
4. Clint Bowyer 2 Wins and 10 Playoff Points
5. Chase Elliott 1 Win and 8 Playoff Points
6. Joey Logano 1 Win and 7 Playoff Points
7. Austin Dillon 1 Win and 5 Playoff Points
8. Erik Jones 1 Win and 5 Playoff Points
WINLESS DRIVERS POINTS
9. Kurt Busch 705
10. Brad Keselowski 670
11. Kyle Larson 660
12. Denny Hamlin 650
13. Ryan Blaney 639
14. Aric Almirola 602
15. Jimmie Johnson 563
16. Alex Bowman 523
17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -62
18. Paul Menard -72
19. Daniel Suarez -89
20. Ryan Newman -92