The NASCAR Cup Series‘ Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway proved that the pit crew is a driver’s biggest ally as pit gaffes resulted in contenders suffering greatly or gave others a boost. Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch were favourites for much of the night, but electing to pit before a late restart blew up in their faces as they finished outside the top twenty while their main adversary Chase Elliott ran relatively unopposed to his second win of 2022.
Busch and Truex combined to lead 136 of 300 laps, the latter also winning the first two stages in dominant fashion, but respectively finished twenty-first and twenty-second after their failed strategy. With the two out of the picture, Elliott handily led the final five laps, continuing the lead that he assumed on lap 262, with Kurt Busch unable to keep up. Although Brad Keselowski wrecked on the penultimate lap, NASCAR elected to keep the race green which enabled Elliott to pull away.
The Busch/Truex duo was not the only Toyota drivers to suffer on pit road as fellow JGR driver Denny Hamlin, who led 114 laps, lost six spots on a slow stop though he was able to salvage a top ten. Hamlin’s employee and Kurt Busch’s partner Bubba Wallace, whose strong performances have disappeared multiple times throughout the season due to pit crew struggles, helplessly watched his top ten pace be repaid with an improperly tightened wheel that forced him to pit again; after making up lost ground, he was pinned a lap down when a caution came out while pitting, forcing him to once again work his way back up before settling for twelfth.
Other victims of pit strategy or errors came in the Ford camp as Kevin Harvick also pitted prior to the last restart, though he was able to get a top ten; crew chief Rodney Childers later tweeted at a fan who said he should have stayed out, “No shit Sherlock”. Chris Buescher‘s right-rear wheel came off on track on lap 255, which will result in his crew chief Scott Graves and the tyre changer being suspended four races.
As his opponents dropped, Elliott was in position to win. By the end, he had won his fifteenth career Cup race.
“I was really proud of a couple things,” began Elliott in his press conference. “One, proud of having the past month and a half, two months that we’ve had been horrendous. I’ve crashed about ten times and we’ve had a lot of stuff happen to end up having bad finishes, and you never want that, especially when it’s in a string of races or not, you don’t want that, period. So proud to be able to bounce back from a really rough stretch.
“And then proud to have struggled as bad as we did, as bad as we were at the beginning of the race, to be able to adjust on it, take advantage of the opportunities we had to try to fix it and then to hit on it and be able to execute on it after we hit on it to be able to finish the event strong is not an easy thing to do.”
Interestingly, both of his 2022 victories have come on tracks with concrete surfaces as he won at Dover, which was also rain delayed, in May.
“I don’t know that it has anything to do with the Next Gen,” he continued. “I feel like we’ve had good runs in the past at Bristol and Dover, and not necessarily here, but at least at Bristol and Dover, to where we’ve had shots at winning and haven’t.”
Hendrick Motorsports also remains the only team to win a Cup race at Nashville as Kyle Larson took the inaugural edition in 2021. The organisation has also claimed the last three Cup races in the Nashville area as Geoff Bodine won the final race at the Nashville Fairgrounds in 1984. Elliott is a longtime proponent of the historic Fairgrounds, where he won in the Superstar Racing Experience last year, and had raised concerns about the superspeedway possibly supplanting the Fairgrounds when NASCAR announced plans to race at the former and went as far as to threaten a “snooze fest” would kill the market’s interest in the short track.
The Fairgrounds is currently the target of a renovation project by NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports.
“I didn’t think the race was terrible tonight,” he commented. “At least we could get up off the bottom and move around, which I thought was encouraging. I was even more surprised that we still moved up after the sun went down. I thought at that point it was going to be really one lane, and it really wasn’t. You could still be in at least a couple different lanes. It was way more racy than I thought it would be.
“But it still doesn’t mean I prefer this over the Fairgrounds and what that could be. I don’t want people to get a sour taste about that. It’d just that race track and the history of that race track and its location is just something that we’re never going to replicate again. For the most part, all these facilities that we have are forty-five minutes to an hour outside whatever said market is we’re trying to reach. If it’s Michigan or here or Atlanta is thirty, forty-five minutes south of the city. All these places we go, Homestead is an hour outside Miami. All these places we go you’re drawing from an area that is forty-five minutes to an hour away. With the Fairgrounds, you’d be drawing from an area that is fifteen blocks away or so. Correct me if I’m wrong on that, but it’s a hell of a lot closer than it is here, and that’s just not something that in today’s society.
“You’re never going to build a race track in a city like that again. That’s why I think as an industry, we need to take advantage of that. We don’t need to let that place die. I know they built that big soccer stadium right next door, but use that as positivity because the infrastructure is now there to house all the people. Now they have ideas and ways to get people in and out.
It’t too good of a place, too good of an opportunity for us to not be utilising that in my opinion. I think it would be the best location and best event of the year if they could pull that off.
“I still worry about [the Fairgrounds’ future] a little bit. But it sounds like they’re at least working on it. Unfortunately, I can’t do a ton other than just voice my support for it. I understand all the different sides of the puzzle there, and I respect that. But selfishly for us, I think it would be a great event.
“They’re already racing there. Folks seem to be doing just fine with the races that are going on, and you’d be talking about one big event there a year for us to come and be a part of it. I think the positives outweigh the negatives, and I think there’s a way to be respectful in doing so of the folks that live in the area and be able to do it in a positive light.”
The race, the first of 2022 for NBC, was delayed twice due to lightning.
|1||4||9||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||300||Running|
|2||19||45||Kurt Busch||23XI Racing||Toyota||300||Running|
|3||6||12||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||Ford||300||Running|
|4||3||5||Kyle Larson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||300||Running|
|5||7||1||Ross Chastain||Trackhouse Racing Team||Chevrolet||300||Running|
|6||1||11||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||300||Running|
|7||24||2||Austin Cindric||Team Penske||Ford||300||Running|
|8||9||20||Christopher Bell||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||300||Running|
|9||2||22||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford||300||Running|
|10||8||4||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||300||Running|
|11||23||43||Erik Jones||Petty GMS Motorsports||Chevrolet||300||Running|
|12||30||23||Bubba Wallace||23XI Racing||Toyota||300||Running|
|13||18||34||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||300||Running|
|14||20||3||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||300||Running|
|15||5||99||Daniel Suárez||Trackhouse Racing Team||Chevrolet||300||Running|
|16||25||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||300||Running|
|17||11||10||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||300||Running|
|18||16||8||Tyler Reddick||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||300||Running|
|19||14||16||A.J. Allmendinger*||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||300||Running|
|20||22||7||Corey LaJoie||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||300||Running|
|21||36||18||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||300||Running|
|22||10||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||300||Running|
|23||21||31||Justin Haley||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||300||Running|
|24||33||38||Todd Gilliland||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||300||Running|
|25||26||21||Harrison Burton||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||300||Running|
|26||17||41||Cole Custer||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||300||Running|
|27||31||51||Cody Ware||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||298||Running|
|28||32||15||J.J. Yeley*||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||298||Running|
|29||27||6||Brad Keselowski||RFK Racing||Ford||298||Running|
|30||15||17||Chris Buescher||RFK Racing||Ford||297||Running|
|31||29||42||Ty Dillon||Petty GMS Motorsports||Chevrolet||297||Running|
|32||35||78||B.J. McLeod*||Live Fast Motorsports||Ford||295||Running|
|33||34||77||Josh Bilicki*||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||285||Engine|
|34||28||14||Chase Briscoe||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||269||Running|
|35||13||24||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||262||Running|
|36||12||48||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||49||DVP|
* – Ineligible for points