Editor’s note: Full scores, race notes, and updated driver standings are at the bottom of this file. And don’t forget to check out Part Two – the ugly part of Sunday’s race.
If Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race were to be made into a movie, it would have been an updated version of a reel classic, titled It would be a no-brainer: “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”
Instead of starring Clint Eastwood, it will be a 2022 edition starring Chase Elliott (The Good), Corey LaJoie (The Bad), and Ugly (Ross Chastain).
We’ll give you two columns about Sunday’s race here at AutoRacingDigest.com. The first will be about good and evil. The second column will be about ugly – and it certainly was and is likely to lead to more ugliness as the season goes on.
First, it was good.
Sunday’s Quaker State 400 match was a finish that was as good as it gets, with Elliott emerging with the win, tipping runners-up Chastain, who was denied another last-second attempt to take the lead when a warning on the last lap frozen the win. And give Elliott the win.
There’s more good news for Chase: His father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, joined as the second father and son only to win at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the other being Dale Earnhardt and son Dale Jr.
Elliott became the first driver in the Cup this season to achieve a third win, with four others having two wins each and eight drivers having won only once so far. Sunday’s race was 19The tenth of the season, which means there are only seven races left to make it to the end of a “regular season” of 26 races – in other words, the lead-up to the 10-race, 16-driver qualifiers.
It wasn’t a perfect race for Elliot, but he was close to there. Not only did he win the race, but he also captured both the first two stages.
“That guy’s right there, sure, man,” Elliott replied when asked by NBC/USA about his first cup win on his home racetrack—he grew up 90 miles north of Atlanta Motor Speedway in tiny Dawsonville, Georgia—. It was ranked among the 15 other races he won in his cup career.
“Winning on your home circuit is really a big deal for any race car driver,” said the younger Elliott. “I’ve watched a lot of guys do that (win at their home circuit) over the years, like Jimmy (Johnson) in California. We haven’t really had a good run here, so I felt like today was a great opportunity for us.
“Obviously home to me, home to a lot of amazing fans who made a lot of noise today, the home of NAPA, right on the road in Atlanta. I couldn’t be more proud of our team.
“What a car. I’m not sure we’ve ever owned a Speedway of this quality. If we had, I probably destroyed it in Daytona. Oh man, what a few weeks. I feel like I gave up on one of them last week, and to come back and perform like that, I’m really proud of that.”
Young Dawsonville was proud of Elliot in return, as the infamous pool hall sounded the well-known emergency siren after Elliott’s win, a tradition going back to the time when Bell drove and sirens sounded in his honor with every cup win. . It’s a tradition that has continued since Chase reached full-time cup level in 2016.
Atlanta Motor Speedway, which was remodeled and repaved after last season, has been fantastic from a racing point of view. In fact, many of the individuals I spoke with during and after the race all said the same or a derivative of it: If you didn’t know it, you’d think the race was on a shorter version of the Talladega Superspeedway, the race that was close and competitive.
And yes, we also had a great one – but we’ll cover that in the Part 2 column.
Then there was the bad.
Cory Lagoy led the race in his Cup career, driving 19 laps and looking as though he was the only driver left with plenty of chances to overtake Elliott on the last lap.
But that’s when the bad things happened – bad luck, that is.
Unfortunately, LaJoie washed out the track after Elliott stopped him, lost control of his Chevrolet Camaro, wiped the exterior wall and then bounced back into traffic, collecting several other drivers. NASCAR immediately cast caution and Elliott was awarded the winner.
Closer than ever, for sure (to win),” Lagoe said after the race. “It was fun. It was nice to take this thing out in the wind for once.
LaJoie went from what appeared to be an almost guaranteed runner-up or third place – if not a win – and ultimately finished a disappointing 21st.Street due to debris.
“I made my move and it didn’t work,” he lamented. “(Chase) made a good block and the sirens[sound]in Dawsonville, unfortunately. … I wish the seventh car was in Victory Lane. But if we continue to operate in this way and more consistently, our time will come.”
In a sense, Cory – the son of former Busch series hero Randy Lagoy – was in completely uncharted territory. Up until this season, he had only driven a total of 27 laps over the previous 2 seasons.
But he did learn some valuable lessons on Sunday that will help him down the road.
“I was going to school,” he said. “It was my first drive to reboot on a high speed racetrack, how much you have to back out, the timing of the run, the covering of the lanes is all new to me.
“Next time I’m in that position again, I’ll be a little more prepared and hopefully we can do a little better and we can throw blocks instead of having the person taking that late sprint move because usually the guy in that position is in the catbird seat. I was having fun. , I know that, and I hope we’ll have a 7 on top more often.”
LaJoie admits that his attempt to beat Elliott—if the meltdown hadn’t occurred—was a long shot at best.
“Obviously I knew he was going to have a big run,” said Lagoy. “I didn’t really want to give him the bottom. I tried to give her a real good aggressive mass. I felt like I had enough room to give her a second.
“And there it was on the right side of my back bumper, far enough on the back side of the bumper to push me forward. I hate we tore some cars, but I don’t know what to do. Either you go to win or you don’t. I’ll go to option A every day of weekdays.
“We found out Maryam that we tried to throw today, but unfortunately we came up with a short mansion. However, I am proud of my men here at Spire (Motorsports) and we will continue to run.”
Next, read Part Two, all about the ugly part of Sunday’s race
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