Elliott wraps up ‘fantastic Saturday’ with Daytona victory

Photo by Jeremy Thompson/TheRacingExperts.com
Chase Elliott leads the field during the PowerShares QQQ 300 at Daytona International Speedway.


By Justin Melillo Staff Reporter February 21, 2016 jmelillo@theracingexperts.net




DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—Chase Elliott isn’t racing for an XFINITY Series championship anymore, but that didn’t stop him from capturing victory in the PowerShares QQQ 300 at Daytona International Speedway Saturday.


Elliott, driving the No. 88 TaxSlayer Camaro, was able to hold off a final lap charge from last year’s Daytona 500 champion, Joey Logano, who drove the No. 22 Discount Tire Mustang. The two drivers made contact entering the tri-oval, but both drivers crossed the line without incident.


On the final restart with 14 laps remaining, race leader Logano chose to start up high, relegating the low line to Elliott. As the field got up to speed, Elliott took the lead ahead of his new teammate, Elliott Sadler, who tucked up behind him for the next 13 laps.


Logano was able to hook up with Kasey Kahne in the No. 5, getting enough momentum to reach the No. 88’s bumper on the final lap, but Elliott threw a block on the backstretch. Logano pushed Elliott through turn three, making a move to the outside out of turn four. Elliott moved up, made contact, and stopped Logano’s momentum, claiming victory for the first time in his career at Daytona.


“Just a fantastic Saturday to start the weekend of the Daytona 500,” Elliott said post-race. “What a great day. Fast racecar. Big thanks to TaxSlayer and everybody at JR Motorsports for letting me drive.”

Logano, who led a total of 40 laps, talked about finishing runner-up post-race in the media center.

“Second’s not bad, but kind of sucks at the same time,” Logano said. “Better way to put it. Man, just so close once again. It’s three races, I’ve been so close to winning one of them. Want to get out there and make it happen.”


THROUGH THE FIELD


Photo by Jeremy Thompsoni/TheRacingExperts.com
Blake Koch races Ross Chastain Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.

JR Motorsports had a strong day overall. Sadler and teammate Justin Allgaier, both running for points in the 2016 XFINITY season, ran up front for most of the day along with Elliott and Kasey Kahne, who ran today’s race in the No. 5 Hellmann’s Camaro.


Along with Elliott’s victory, Kahne finished 3rd, Sadler came home in 4th, and Allgaier, after serving a speeding penalty on the final green flag pit stop, rallied back to finish 12th. Sadler finished highest of the XFINITY Series regulars, and will lead the points after Daytona.


The same cannot be said for Joe Gibbs Racing, whose drivers all started in the top 6, but finished scattered though the field. The highlight of the day for JGR was Daniel Suarez, who finished in 8th. Erik Jones, in the No. 20, and Bobby Labonte, in the No. 18, were both involved in the second caution of the day, and both fell laps down due to damage. Labonte finished in 23rd, 2 laps down, and Jones finished 31st, 5 laps down.


The series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway next week for the Heads Up Georgia 250.






EXCLUSIVE QUOTES
Darrell Wallace Jr., 6th
Q. Assess your run and talk about Atlanta next week.
A. “Just glad to come out of here with a top-six and get to carry that momentum into Atlanta. It’s been a kind of a tough road for us here at Daytona, but  just got the good vibe going for this season.

“We’ll go have some fun at Atlanta and carry it on to the next races after that.”

Blake Koch, 9th
Q. Can you put it into perspective, scoring your first top-ten finish?
A. “It’s awesome; I had to get one eventually. Thanks for the formation of Kaulig Racing and Matt Kaulig for starting the team, and our primary sponsor, Leaf Filter Gutter Protection.

We were able to assemble a great group of guys, align ourselves with RCR, and ECR engines, and everything came together to get me my career-best day.”


Jeremy Clements, 15th
Q. Starting off the season top-ten in points, what are some short-term goals over the next four to five races?
A: “To keep us in the top-15, top-20 hopefully in owner’s points, and top-12 in those driver’s [points], because we’re going to make that Chase. I’m glad we get to go to a racetrack next week where the driver matters again, so that’s going to be fun. I love Atlanta.

“Now, we’ve got to crank off some more top-15s.”


David Starr, 18th Q. Can you break down and assess your race?
A: “We were having a great race. We got a little tight and we lost the draft a little bit, but we were in the first 13, lost the draft a little bit, but we regrouped, got back in the pack.

“Logano was pushing me pretty hard and for a long time. We had a great car, just unfortunate. We pitted for fuel, and we got a speeding ticket; they said towards the end of pit road there, pretty much took us out of the race.

“We ran out of fuel during the race, and that put us at the very back at the end. Just circumstances, but hey, a good effort by everybody. We got 18th, and we’ll take it. It could have been a lot worse.”


Photo by Jeremy Thompson/TheRacingExperts.com
David Starr's No. 44 on-track at Daytona International Speedway.



Eric McClure, 30th
Q. Is this it for Eric McClure?
A: “Well, I hope not. You never want to go out like that. We’re going to work as hard a we can to try and find some partnersjust to run a few more. Obviously, the timing makes that challenging.

“In this industry, it’s really hard to complain. I’ve had a really long career at this, so I’m prepared if it is. I’ve got some other things were moving on to, but just can’t thank these guys enough for the opportunity and the effort they gave us.”


Dominic Aragon and Joe Laracuente contributed to this article.


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