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Top-10 Breakdown: Quaker State 400 at Atlanta

HAMPTON, GEORGIA – JULY 10: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Milestone Chevrolet, Ross Chastain, driver of the #1 Jockey Chevrolet, and Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Wabash Ford, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on July 10, 2022 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

HAMPTON, GA. — Chase Elliott pulled off his third win of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season – and in the last nine races – in Sunday’s Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The full top-10 finishers are as follows: Chase Elliott, Ross Chastain, Austin Cindric, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Daniel Suarez, Justin Haley, Aric Almirola, Cole Custer, Harrison Burton.

Cindric, Jones, Suarez, Haley, Almirola and Custer all failed to earn stage points before finishing in the top 10 while Elliott, Blaney and Chastain were among the top stage points earners Sunday.

Chase Elliott – 1st

HAMPTON, GEORGIA – JULY 10: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on July 10, 2022 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Elliott swept both stages and won Sunday’s Quaker State 400 at Atlanta but it wasn’t easy, even after leading 97 of 260 laps.

Elliott lost the lead with 20 to go as Corey LaJoie battled to score an upset win against Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. However, with two to go, Elliott spoiled the upset as he made the 27th and final lead change by passing LaJoie with two to go.

LaJoie tried to pass Elliott on the outside in turn one with one lap to go, but LaJoie spun and triggered a multi-car wreck that ended the race under caution.

Chase Elliott is the first three-time winner of the season. Chase and father Bill are the third father-son duo to win at Atlanta, joining the Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jr. duo and the Ned and Dale Jarrett duo.

“This one is up there for sure, man. To win at your home track is a really big deal,” Chase said. “What a car. I’m not sure we’ve ever had a speedway car that good. If we have, I’ve probably wrecked it down at Daytona. What a few weeks it’s been. I feel like I gave one away last week and to come back and to put on a performance like that, I’m really proud of that.”

Ross Chastain -2nd

AUSTIN, TEXAS – MARCH 27: Ross Chastain, driver of the #1 ONX Homes/iFly Chevrolet, celebrates by eating a watermelon after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Echopark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on March 27, 2022 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Chastain finished second, narrowly missing out on being the first three-time winner of 2022.

Chastain recovered after staying on the lead lap following two notable wrecks.

On Lap 90, Chastain bumped Martin Truex Jr. and spun him in front of the field, which set off a multi-car wreck. Chastain sustained left-front damage and then, on Lap 245, his right-front fender made contact with Denny Hamlin’s left-rear quarter panel, which spun Hamlin.

While Chastain didn’t address the contact, Hamlin clarified his frustrations after finishing 25th, one lap down.

Photo: Feliz Vigil/TRE

“Things just work themselves out in the end. We certainly aren’t cutting any breaks,” Hamlin said in response to Dave Burns’ question about retaliation. “As a driver, you make decisions and you pay for those decisions. We’re gonna race him hard for the rest of the year.”

Still, Chastain earned a comeback second-place finish where he led 20 of the first 21 laps and 12 laps in Stage Three.

“I hate that I took the best car here and I tore it up a couple of times. Hats off to Chevrolet and Trackhouse Racing for bringing this fast of a Jockey Chevrolet,” Chastain said. “Our road crew and our pit crew did an awesome job to rebound through all of the damage repair. We had a shot and I got inside of the No. 9 (Chase Elliott) coming off of (turn) two coming to the checkered and the caution came out. I hope everyone is alright back there.

While he awaits payback, he remains third in the regular-season points, three points away from Blaney, who sits second in the regular-season points and in a position to earn two more playoff points than Chastain.

Austin Cindric – 3rd

Photo: Feliz Vigil/TRE

Cindric started Sunday’s race by falling to 36th – last – 14 seconds off of the lead before a competition caution flew on Lap 25.

During the caution, the team made air pressure adjustments, added wedge and raised the front of the car to fix loose handling. Still, he struggled with the handling and finished 32nd with no points in Stage One.

In Stage Two, Austin Cindric’s handling improved and he finished the stage in 12th. After the running order shook up following the stage, Cindric found himself in second. He survived six cautions in the final 100 laps and finished third – his best result since winning the Daytona 500 in February.

“We had to do a little CPR there early.  We were struggling pretty bad.  We were pretty loose to start the race and I’m just proud of the effort from the guys on the 2 car, being able to make the right adjustments and get us out of a hole there,” Cindric said. “We went from not being able to go full throttle by myself on the racetrack to being able to run close behind other guys wide-open, so I’m proud of that effort and proud of a top-three finish.”

Erik Jones – 4th

Photo by Feliz Vigil/TRE

Jones led 10 laps and, like Cindric, didn’t earn any stage points. However, Jones had more consistent speed in the first two stages as he finished 14th and 16th in the stages.

Jones pitted for fuel only at the start of Stage Three, which vaulted him into the top 10 and then the lead with 85 to go.

“We needed a tick more speed. I think we had to do some things for handling that slowed us down a little bit,” Jones commented. “We were up there, but I couldn’t really break out and do much. When I got in the lead there, I wasn’t really quick enough to hold it myself.”

Jones dropped back but stayed inside the top 10 and was sixth with six to go. He made the right lane decisions and missed the final-lap wreck to finish fourth, his best result since finishing third and leading 18 laps at Auto Club Speedway.

“We were close. It feels good to just have a good race,” he said. “We’ve had a rough month, so it’s nice to get a top-five and get some points.”

Ryan Blaney – 5th

Photo by Dominic Aragon/TRE

Unlike Cindric and Jones, Blaney earned 14 stage points – the second-most of any driver – with a pair of fourth-place stage finishes.

Despite the good race where Blaney ran inside the top 10 all day, he lost ground to Elliott for the regular-season championship. Blaney was -33 points to Elliott but dropped to -47 after Atlanta. Still, he gained a point on Ross Chastain, who sits third in points, -50 to Elliott.

Blaney commented post-race, “We got back in traffic there a little bit and it was just hard to make it back up.  You just can’t go anywhere.  It gets two-wide and you’re just stuck and you can’t really go anywhere, unless you were the 9 and you were the fastest car out there by a mile.  It was pretty easy for him to go wherever he wanted.  That looked fun, but, I’m just happy to end up decent.”

Daniel Suarez – 6th

SONOMA, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 12: Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Onx Homes/Renu Chevrolet, celebrates with a Mexican flag after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 12, 2022 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Suarez started seventh and had an otherwise quiet race Sunday. In Stage One, he fell back and earned a 24th-place stage finish. He recovered to finish 11th in Stage Two but continued his quiet race until a quick Lap 235 pit stop. This put him into position for a top-10 finish he seized on during the final restart, netting a sixth-place finish.

Justin Haley – 7th

Photo by Erick Messer/TRE

Haley started 24th and quickly moved up to 12th in the first 25 laps. He sat between 12th to 15th until he fell back to 17th at the end of Stage One.

In Stage Two, he missed the eight-car wreck in turn 2 on Lap 90 and hung near the back of the lead pack, finishing 20th in the stage.

Haley’s only issues in the final stage involved troubles getting the car into gear during a two-tire pit stop under a Lap 188 caution. However, the pit stop helped as he made it to the top 10 by the next caution on Lap 235.

Haley hung onto his top-10 spot and finished seventh, his second top-10 finish of 2022 and best since finishing third at Darlington in May.

“It was a good day again here in Atlanta. I feel like this No. 31 LeafFilter Chevrolet team has succeeded in finding a good, fast, stable setup for the new Atlanta track,” Haley said. “So overall it was a good day and just a little bit better than where we were in the spring.”

Aric Almirola – 8th

Photo by Chris Salazar/TRE

Almirola started 22nd and entered the race 12th in the regular-season points but 47 points out of a playoff spot – held by Christopher Bell – and 27 points behind competitor and teammate Kevin Harvick.

In the race, Bell finished 10th and sixth in the stages and earned six points while Almirola earned no points for finishing 15th in each stage. Harvick also did not earn stage points.

However, as Bell had issues on Lap 235 and 252 and Harvick showed little speed, Almirola stayed consistent and finished eighth overall, while Harvick and Bell finished 12th and 19th, respectively.

“We just didn’t have the speed we needed to go up and compete.  That one restart where I was leading the bottom lane we didn’t have what we needed to keep up,” Almirola said. ” Our car was pretty good.  We got it driving good there at the end, but we couldn’t muster up the speed we needed to go hang with those Chevrolets.  The Chevrolets were really, really fast.”

Almirola was one of three Fords to round out the top ten. Five of the top seven finishers piloted a Chevrolet.

Almirola is now 23 points behind Harvick and 42 points behind Bell, with seven regular-season races left.

Cole Custer – 9th

Photo by Chris Salazar/TRE

Custer started 18th and led no laps after finishing 30th and 23rd in the first two stages. He worked his way to the top 10 by the final run and still finished ninth despite being caught up in the final-lap wreck with LaJoie and Kurt Busch.

“We got the car way better.  By the end, I thought we were just as good as anybody.  We could have had a shot to win there,” Custer said. “I think we were running in the top five on the last lap but somebody wrecked in front of us and we got knocked back a little bit, but overall it was a good day of hopefully finding a direction and I think it was nice to go up there and run with those guys and show that we can have some speed.”

Custer’s ninth-place finish is his best Cup finish since finishing ninth at the Charlotte Roval in Oct. 2020.

Harrison Burton – 10th

AVONDALE, ARIZONA – MARCH 13: Harrison Burton, driver of the #21 DEX Imaging Ford, greets a young fan during the red carpet prior to the Ruoff Mortgage 500 during at Phoenix Raceway on March 13, 2022 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Harrison Burton had the best run of his young NASCAR Cup Series career as he finished a career-best 10th after starting 27th.

Burton ran 29th but stayed out on Lap 25 and restarted in the top 10. He ran inside the top 15 for the rest of the stage, then fell back to 19th at the end of the stage.

On Lap 80, he pitted and then stayed out during a Lap 92 caution. He took the lead for four laps, then lost it to Ricky Stenhouse Jr., but retook it for five more laps before losing it to William Byron.

During a caution on Lap 108, the winless rookie received some drafting coaching and tucked in line ahead of fellow winless rookie Todd Gilliland.

Burton rode out Stage Two near the rear of the top 10 and finished seventh in the stage.

In the final stage, Burton hung around in 14th and missed the final-lap wreck which moved up to 10th at the finish.

The next race for the NASCAR Cup Series is the July 17 Ambetter 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET; TV: USA; Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Ch. 90). Aric Almirola is the defending winner.

LOUDON, NEW HAMPSHIRE – JULY 18: Aric Almirola, driver of the #10 Smithfield Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 18, 2021 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

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