Some late-race dramatics and a decision not to pit put Elliott in the lead and he held off Denny Hamlin in overtime to win Sunday’s Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
Joey Logano ended up third, Erik Jones fourth and Kurt Busch completed the top-five.
Rounding out the Top 10 were Kevin Harvick – who won the first two stages in dominating fashion, Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ninth and Daniel Suarez.
The win is Elliott’s second of the season and second of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career and he automatically advances to the third round of the playoffs regardless of his performance the next weeks at Talladega, Ala., and Kansas.
Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, Harvick was the first off pit road and continued to hold the lead when the final stage went green on Lap 248. He was followed by Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola and Logano.
During pit stops, Kyle Larson was penalized for speeding on pit road and had to restart the stage from the rear of the field.
With 125 laps remaining in the race, Harvick held an almost 2-second advantage over Almirola with Clint Bowyer not far behind in third. Kurt Busch was running fourth and Brad Keselowski was in fifth.
Harvick’s lead increased to over three seconds with 100 laps left in the race as Bowyer moved back into second and Almirola dropped to third.
On Lap 319, several of the lead-lap cars began a cycle of green-flag pit stops. The stops proved costly to Harvick, who had to make a second stop when a lug nut knocked the valve stem off his left-rear tire.
In addition, Kyle Busch got penalized by NASCAR for speeding on pit road and had to make a pass-thru penalty.
Once the stops were completed on Lap 326, Almirola had moved into the lead, followed by Bowyer and Truex. Harvick had dropped to 14th and the first car one lap down. Kyle Busch fell to 17th, also one lap down.
On Lap 339, NASCAR threw a caution for debris on the backstretch and another on the access road to pit road. Harvick, being the first car one lap down, received the free pass back to the lead lap.
All of the lead-lap cars elected to pit and this time, Keselowski was the first off pit road after taking just two new tires and took over the lead on the restart on Lap 349. He was followed by Almirola, Bowyer and Kurt Busch.
Truex originally came off pit road fourth but was penalized by NASCAR for speeding on pit road and had to restart from the rear of the field. “It’s my fault,” Truex said over his team radio.
Almirola quickly grabbed the lead back in Turn 4 of the restart lap as Keselowski dropped to second and Kurt Busch moved into third.
With 47 laps left, Kurt Busch moved into the second position as Harvick made his way back into the Top 10.
Almirola held a more than 1.5-second lead over Kurt Busch with 40 laps remaining. Keselowski was in third and Elliott had moved to fourth.
With 20 laps left, Almirola’s lead over Kurt Busch remained at 1.6 seconds. Keselowski remained in third and Elliott fourth.
With 17 to go, Bowyer was forced to pit with what may appeared to be a loose wheel. He returned to the track in 20th and two laps down.
On Lap 392, Bowyer slammed into the Turn 3 wall to bring out a caution. Most of the lead-lap cars pit but Elliott, Keselowski and Truex remained on the track. Hamlin was the first off pit road followed by Alex Bowman, Almirola, Kurt Busch and Logano.
The race returned to green with four laps to go.
On the backstretch, Almirola hit the wall off Turn 2 and hit Keselowski. Bowman, Ryan Blaney and Truex also got collected in the incident. The race was immediately red-flagged to clear the track of debris.
When the race returned to green in overtime, Elliott remained in the lead followed by Hamlin, Logano, Jones and Kurt Busch.
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