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Bounty acquired: Elliott holds off Busch for Charlotte Trucks victory

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200
CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA – MAY 26: Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 iRacing Chevrolet, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 26, 2020 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Chase Elliott did something on Tuesday night that no driver has been able to do since the middle of the 2018 season… beat Kyle Busch in a NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series race.

Chasing the bounty set forth first by Kevin Harvick, and then doubled by NGROTS sponsor Marcus Lemonis, Elliott was originally slated to go for it at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The COVID-19 pandemic prevented that from happening more than two months ago, but when it was announced that the trucks would return to action the Tuesday after Memorial Day, Elliott was signed up once more, and likely more determined than ever.

Almost a week ago, in the closing laps at the second race at Darlington Raceway, Elliott and Busch were involved in an incident battling for second place. Busch attempted to move back into line just a scosh too soon, and turned Elliott into the inside wall and out of the race.

The two were seemingly good after reconciling in the following days, and after Elliott suffered a heartbreaking loss to Brad Keselowski in the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, Busch was the first one to console him post-race.

Regardless, the two showed up for battle on Tuesday night, the first Tuesday night Truck Series race in NASCAR History. When it was all said and done, Elliott took a bow, a page out of Busch’s book, and celebrated the win in the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I enjoyed just to have a chance to race against (Kyle Busch),” Elliott said post-race in the NASCAR Media Zoom conference. “Like I said there on TV, I was glad that I had the chance to race with him for the win, instead of him finishing tenth or having a problem, or one of us having a messed up night.

“For us to be able to go head to head for the win like that I thought was really cool. Certainly felt good to come out on top. It doesn’t make up for Sunday by any means, but it was a fun night and I appreciate these guys letting me do it.”

***

After Kyle Busch won his seventh NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series race in-a-row over 90 days ago at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the bounty was raised by Harvick on Twitter after a fan defended having Busch and other NASCAR Cup Series stars race in the lower division.

That bounty was doubled by Gander Outdoors CEO Marcus Lemonis, the title sponsor for the NASCAR Truck Series, and the stipulations were set that the first Cup driver to beat Busch would earn the bounty.

After the COVID-19 pandemic sidelined everything, the bounty was altered just before the green to restart the 2020 Truck season. If a NASCAR Cup Series driver could defeat Kyle Busch, Harvick and Lemonis would donate $50,000 each towards COVID-19 relief.

For Elliott, it was about the challenge more than the money, but now, the money earned would go to a great cause.

***

The field was set by a random draw, as qualifying and practice were cancelled due to the safety precautions taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the race track.

Ben Rhodes started up front, but Austin Hill quickly took control and led the first 19 laps, through the competition caution.

Ross Chastain, however, put on a show early and often, and was able to pass Hill for the lead to take the victory in the first stage. In the second stage, differing pit strategies began to shape the running order.

The running order finally settled itself out, and it was Chase Elliott coming out on top in the short stage, quickly finding the green-checkered flag to win it.

When the final stage began, the gloves came off for the whole field.

The first non scheduled caution flew at lap 81, and from there, a barrage of cautions quickly followed.

When the field finally settled down after having four cautions in about 20 laps, Elliott found himself near the front, while Kyle Busch found himself in a slight hole after pitting a caution after Elliott had made his final stop.

Elliott took the lead from Johnny Sauter with just under 25 laps to go, and soon after, Busch made his way around to take the second position after an intense battle with Tyler Ankrum and others.

Busch closed the gap to within three truck-lengths, but a slew of lapped trucks along with what Busch described to be a broken part from the beginning of the race on his Toyota Tundra, kept him at bay, and Elliott soared to the victory.

“It doesn’t help showing up to the race track with broke parts on your truck,” Busch said. “That was a problem from the get-go. Didn’t have our right-front stopper right so we were all over the splitter.

“We came in and didn’t know it was broke so had to fix it with a make shift piece and it was way too high. Then we tried to fix it and just never was right. We were out in left field the whole night. Never really had a great feel for the truck or a great driving truck. Just salvaged what I could.”

Elliott now has won in his last two truck appearances in-a-row, dating back to his last start in the series at Martinsville Speedway back in 2017.

It’s Elliott’s third career victory in only 13 career NGROTS starts.

***

NORTH CAROLINA EDUCATION LOTTERY 200 RESULTS

Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 47 Mins, 42 Secs.
Average Speed: 111.978 MPH
Margin of Victory: 0.627 Seconds

Stage 1 Top 10: 42, 16, 21, 88, 45, 24, 38, 99, 26, 23
Stage 2 Top 10: 24, 99, 8, 88, 51, 23, 21, 38, 42, 16

Caution Flags: 7 for 37 laps; Laps: 17-20 (Competition Caution [33]); 32-37 (Stage 1 Conclusion [33]); 62-68 (Stage 2 Conclusion [7]); 81-86 (#52, 30, 33, 26 Incident Frontstretch [44]); 88-92 (#44, 30 Incident Turn 3 [49]); 97-100 (Debris Frontstretch [10]); 103-107 (#38, 8 Incident Turn 4 [44]).

Lead Changes: 19 among 10 drivers; B. Rhodes 0; A. Hill 1-19; M. Crafton 20; A. Hill 21-26; R. Chastain(i) 27-32; Z. Smith # 33-36; R. Lessard # 37-38; M. Crafton 39-43; C. Elliott(i) 44-63; B. Rhodes 64; C. Elliott(i) 65-67; B. Rhodes 68; K. Busch(i) 69-86; B. Moffitt 87-88; K. Busch(i) 89-92; A. Hill 93; K. Busch(i) 94-96; Z. Smith # 97-107; J. Sauter 108-110; C. Elliott(i) 111-134.

Mobil 1 Driver of the Race: Chase Elliott, #24
Sunoco Rookie of the Race: Zane Smith, #21

Next Race: June 6, 2020 – Atlanta Motor Speedway

SOURCES:
NASCAR Media
Toyota Racing

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Justin Melillo View All

Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com

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