Chase Elliott took his first win of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season on Sunday after winning the rain-shortened EchoPark Texas Grand Prix from Circuit of the Americas in Austin.
Elliott qualified eighth for the first-ever NASCAR Cup Series event at COTA and stayed out of trouble as rain clouds descended on the 3.4-mile road course just three laps into Stage 1. He fell out of the Top 10 as the first stage ended, however, with Team Penske’s Joey Logano going on to take his first stage win on a road course.
Chaos ensued shortly after the green flag came out for Stage 2. As the rain began to come down harder on Lap 19, Blaney was forced to check up due to low visibility. This caused Christopher Bell’s No. 20 Toyota Camry to hit the back of Blaney’s No. 12 Ford Mustang, in turn forcing Kevin Harvick to check up in his No. 4 Mustang. Bubba Wallace then clobbered the back of the slow-moving Harvick in his No. 23 Camry. The wreck ended all four drivers’ days and brought out the caution, setting up a low-visibility wet weather restart.
A second wreck caused by low visibility occurred shortly after on Lap 25 when Truex Jr. hit the back of Michael McDowell. This caused Cole Custer to hit the back of Truex with considerable force, sending the No. 19 Toyota up in the air and forcing Custer into the barrier. The wreck brought out the red flag and convinced NASCAR to bring out the air titans to try and dry the track before restarting. The series also implemented single-file restarts for the remainder of the race in an effort to avoid similar wrecks.
A closely fought battle for the Stage 2 win materialized once the green came back out, with Kyle Busch holding off a hard-charging Elliott to take the stage victory by 2.5 seconds. Busch then led Elliott to the green flag for the third and final stage, with Elliott getting passed by Austin Cindric for second early on. As the other front runners dipped into the pits for fuel and tires, Elliott’s team elected to leave him out. NASCAR then threw the caution for standing water before finally calling the race with 14 to go. This left Elliott the lucky winner of the rain-shortened race, handing the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion his first win of 2021.
“Yeah, man, I couldn’t be more excited,” Elliott said post-race. “I’ve never won a rain race before, so it’s kind of cool. Just super-proud of our team for continuing to fight.”
The win was also Chevy’s 800th NASCAR Cup Series victory and the 268th Cup win for Hendrick Motorsports – tying the organization with Petty Enterprises for the most wins of all time.
Check out the video embedded below for complete highlights from COTA. NASCAR heads to Daytona next for the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, May 30th.