Apr 4, 2014, 11:24 PM EDT
Another member of NASCAR’s new generation has arrived.
Two weeks after Kyle Larson held off Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick to earn his inaugural Nationwide Series win at Auto Club Speedway, 18-year-old Chase Elliott has shown that he too will be a star to watch for years to come with a win tonight in the O’Reilly 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.
After running up and toward the front all night, Elliott got an outside run on Harvick and passed the Sprint Cup veteran for the lead with 16 laps to go.
He went on to take the checkered flag by 2.66 seconds over Kyle Busch, who was forced to start from the back after inspection issues kept him from setting a qualifying time.
Larson followed up his Fontana triumph with a third-place result. Harvick faded back to fourth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed the Top 5.
“Unbelievable, man. I just – I can’t believe it,” a flabbergasted Elliott said to ESPN in Victory Lane. “Just to have the opportunity to come and race with these guys with JR Motorsports…To have this opportunity is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any racer that wants to try and make it to the top.
“It means the world for me to be here.”
In attendance for Elliott’s breakthrough were his parents, 1988 Sprint Cup champ Bill and Cindy, who were thrilled with their son’s performance.
“I felt like Chase could do it,” Bill said. “I’ve watched him run a Late Model car too much – I know. I feel like I know how good the kid really is, and I tell you what, to come here – I keep saying it – for never having been to some of these places like [Las Vegas], [Auto Club Speedway], and now here at Texas and come out and beat the kind of guys you’ve beat – I tell you what, you’ve done a heck of a job.”
Cindy, a longtime NASCAR photographer, said that she knew tonight belonged to her son.
“I can’t even describe it,” she said on pit road. “This is just a night to remember.”
Additionally, Elliott has taken a two-point lead in the Nationwide points standings over teammate Regan Smith, who finished seventh to ensure that JR Motorsports got all four of its cars in the Top 10.
Starting on pole, Harvick withstood several restarts to lead the first 87 laps of the night before Busch completed his charge by taking the point on Lap 88 shortly before a cycle of green flag stops.
Busch would regain the lead after the cycle ended. A caution at Lap 121 bunched the field up, however, and shortly after the restart with 75 laps to go, Elliott put on an impressive display to go to the front.
On Lap 133, Elliott was able to complete a pass of teammate/boss Earnhardt on the outside for second. Then, two laps later, he hunted down Busch on the inside of Turn 3 to become the new leader.
Around 50 laps to go however, Earnhardt began to reel in Elliott and was eventually able to pass him for P1 with 46 laps to go, showing his strength on the long runs.
But after falling back in the middle stages due to a “plowing” car, Harvick re-inserted himself into the battle for the win after a caution for a multi-car crash on Lap 169.
The subsequent pit stops under yellow brought the leaders to the pits, and benefiting from having the first stall out of pit road, Harvick leaped three spots to the lead by beating out Elliott, Earnhardt, Larson, and Busch.
With 23 laps to go, the green emerged again with Busch jumping to third position behind Harvick and Elliott with a great inside move.
He would peel second off of Harvick shortly after he gave up the lead to Elliott, but that would be as far as he got.
NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES
O’REILLY 300 – TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
1. Chase Elliott, led 38 laps
2. Kyle Busch, led 38 laps
3. Kyle Larson, led 1 lap
4. Kevin Harvick, led 101 laps
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr., led 15 laps
6. Matt Kenseth, led one lap
7. Regan Smith
8. Ryan Blaney
9. Ty Dillon
10. Elliott Sadler
11. Brendan Gaughan
12. Brian Scott
13. James Buescher
14. Dylan Kwasniewski
15. David Starr, one lap down, led 2 laps
16. JJ Yeley, one lap down, led 2 laps
17. Ryan Sieg, one lap down, led 2 laps
18. Jeremy Clements, two laps down
19. Jeffrey Earnhardt, two laps down
20. Ryan Reed, four laps down
21. Josh Wise, five laps down
22. Dakoda Armstrong, five laps down
23. Trevor Bayne, five laps down
24. Eric McClure, six laps down
25. Kevin Lepage, six laps down
26. Joey Gase, nine laps down
27. Chris Buescher, Lap 167, Accident
28. Jamie Dick, Lap 164, Accident
29. Mike Harmon, Lap 131, Suspension
30. Tanner Berryhill, Lap 120, Wheel
31. Chad Boat, Lap 119, Accident
32. Mike Bliss, 81 laps down
33. Landon Cassill, Lap 66, Vibration
34. Robert Richardson Jr., Lap 52, Accident
35. Tommy Joe Martins, Lap 34, Brakes
36. Derek White, Lap 29, Transmission
37. Mike Wallace, Lap 23, Electrical
38. Derrike Cope, Lap 6, Engine
39. Matt Dibenedetto, Lap 5, Vibration
40. Blake Koch, Lap 2, Vibration
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