The NASCAR Cup Series started its final stretch of ten regular season races today with the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway. With twelve different race winners going to Nashville and sixteen playoff berths, there’s a big chance this season will break the “win-and-you’re-in” playoff qualification system and potentially have a race winner missing the playoffs.
Denny Hamlin dominated the race from pole position until the first caution near the first stage’s halfway point. Hamlin’s Toyota Camry was five seconds clear of the field when the yellow flag was thrown for Josh Bilicki’s disabled Camaro. Bilicki was able to refire his car, but a nearby lightning strike necessitated the red flag to be thrown, halting the race for over a half-hour.
When the race resumed, Hamlin was quickly joined up front by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. Truex would take the lead with Hamlin staying within a few car lengths of Truex’s rear bumper until the end of the first stage. Penske’s Joey Logano would only stop for two tires during the stage break and restart the race in the league. Though, Logano faded back to ninth place as Truex remained in control of the lead.
As the race progressed, Joe Gibbs Racing proved to have the dominant package for Nashville. All four Gibbs cars filtered to the front as Hamlin led with Truex in tow. Their teammates Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell reached third and fifth, respectively. The only thing that seemed able to stop the Toyota team was the weather. The second stage has cautions for a passing showing and another nearby lightning strike.
During the delay for lightning, the cloud cover unleashed heavy rainfall on the track. The race was stopped 20 laps short of the halfway point, so NASCAR couldn’t end the race early and declare the race results official. Nearly two hours later, the skies cleared, the track dried and the race resumed. The Gibbs Camrys were still the quickest on track despite the lower temperatures and rubber being washed off the racing surface.
Martin Truex Jr. won the second stage, but the final stage wouldn’t end as successfully for the Toyotas. Hendrick’s Chase Elliott fought his way to the front ahead of the three leading Camrys. Elliot’s victory was jeopardized when the Johs Bilicki’s Camaro engine exploded late in the race. The Gibbs cars pitted for fresh tires and hoped to scythe their way back to the front in the few laps left. But too many cars stayed out on track, giving Chase Elliott enough of a buffer to hold on and win the Ally 400.
- Chase Elliott
- Kurt Busch
- Ryan Blaney
- Kyle Larson
- Ross Chastain
- Denny Hamlin
- Austin Cindric
- Christopher Bell
- Joey Logano
- Kevin Harvick
The NASCAR Cup Series returns next week at Road America.