JOLIET – Only two Sprint Cup drivers were at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday night for the NASCAR Nationwide EnjoyIllinois300.com.
But Kyle Larson and Kasey Kahne joined some of the best Nationwide regulars to put on quite a show.
On a night filled with line changes and lead changes, Chase Elliott, who contended all night, regained the lead after the final round of pit stops and led for the final 20 laps to earn a visit to Victory Lane.
The victory made him eligible for next week’s Dash 4 Cash at Indianapolis. Meanwhile, pole-sitter Brian Scott, who finished sixth, earned the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash Bonus. Next weeks’ qualifiers for the Dash, in addition to Elliott and Scott, are Trevor Bayne and Ty Dillon.
“We made some great adjustments overnight,” Elliott said. “We had speed sometimes in practice, and sometimes we didn’t.
“This was a great night for us at Chicago. Racing against Kyle [Larson] and [Ryan] Blaney, we had an awesome race going.”
Bayne, with a strong late run, finished second. Larson claimed third, Kahne fourth and Dillon fifth.
“We struggled through the first part of the race,” Bayne said. “We made a really good adjustment under caution that last pit stop. I’m really proud of our team. We’ve struggled a lot over the summer. The guys on our team have been working so hard and not getting the results they deserved.”
Larson and Kane put on a strong finishing show, jockeying for the third and fourth spots in the stretch run.
“We had a really, really good long-run car, but every time we stopped we came out tight,” Larson said. “I had fun, it’s just frustrating because I thought we had a car to win. It seemed like every time we got to the lead, we had to pit right away.”
Elliott, who won back-to-back this year at Texas and Darlington, takes over the series points lead. He started the night 13 points behind Regan Smith, while Elliott Sadler was eight points back.
Smith continued to struggle at Chicagoland.
He came to town hoping to stay in the running for a $1 million bonus. Instead, he struggled with his car and finished 16th. He still has not finished better than 13th here.
Elliott, who passed Scott on the 21st lap, continued to lead the way through the first run of pit stops around Lap 55, with Blaney his nearest pursuer.
On Lap 69, the second caution came out as Richard Harriman scraped the wall.
On the restart, Blaney moved into the lead, with Scott in second and Elliott dropping into third.
A couple of laps later, Larson moved head of Elliott and into third place.
Larson continued his surge, gaining second place at Lap 81. Elliott nudged back into third and Scott dropped to fourth.
Blaney continued to lead until Lap 109, when Larson passed him, just before the second round of pit stops began. Once that ended, Blaney had he lead back, followed by Elliott and Larson.
Moments later, on Lap 123, debris on the track forced the third caution of the night. When racing resumed, Larson regained the lead, followed by Elliott and Ty Dillon, while Blaney dropped to fourth. Larson stayed up front until Elliott executed a pass on Lap 143.
Blaney, meanwhile, had some contact that caused some damage to the left rear of his car, causing him to drop back in the field. He did battle back late to finish ninth.
On Lap 159, Larson executed a pass of Elliott to take the lead again.
Most of the leaders then began making their final pit stops, setting up a potential race to the finish. When the stops were over, Elliott re-established control, with Bayne second and Larson third. Kahne moved up to fourth and Scott was fifth with less than 20 laps remaining.
At the other end of the spectrum, Sam Hornish Jr., who always has found Chicagoland to his liking, was responsible for the first caution on Lap 8 when his engine began smoking. He drove directly to the garage and his team called it a night. His hauler left the premises long before the race was over.
“I thought we had a great opportunity to lead laps and move up to the front,” Hornish said. Previously, he had three top-five finishes and five top-10s in five starts at Chicagoland.