Chase Elliott was able to get a jump on Brad Keselowski on the final restart and easily stayed ahead of Kyle Busch over the final 11 laps to win Wednesday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race and claimed the $1 million winner’s purse.
“I can’t believe it. What a better night to have fans back than tonight - y’all are awesome," Elliott said. "There’s nothing like Bristol. There’s nothing like the lights here. There’s nothing like racing here. I’ve never won here – what a race to do it.
"Just really proud of our team tonight and rebounding. We’ve had a really tough couple of weeks and just felt like we had kind of gotten off base and I felt like I was struggling. Just tried to hit the reset button this week, and came out and put on a great performance – great car. Just can’t thank all our partners enough, everybody that makes this happen. All those No. 9 hats and t-shirts up in the stands – love to see it.”
Asked about the significant crowd for the first time since NASCAR resumed racing, Elliott said, "There’s no feeling like it. There’s nothing like it – this speaks for itself. And like I said, Bristol is an electric atmosphere that is unlike any other that we go to. Couldn’t be more excited.
"We’re going to celebrate this one for sure. And we’ll take that million dollars back to Georgia, why don’t we!”
Elliott has already locked in a spot in this year’s Cup Series playoffs with his win in the 500k race at Charlotte in May but had finished 23rd or worse in three of the last five races.
The race was first since NASCAR resumed competition following a two-month hiatus for the COVID-19 pandemic to feature a significant number of fans in attendance.
Tennessee officials allowed up to 30,000 fans to attend the event and local officials estimated a crowd of over 22,000 – the most to attend a sporting event in the United States since the pandemic began.
And by and large, they were extremely happy with the result, with one fan even climbing the catchfence before being removed by security.
Busch ended up second, 0.418 seconds behind Elliott. Kevin Harvick was third, Keselowski was fourth and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five.
Following the break between Stages 3 and 4, most lead-lap cars remained on the track but several elected to pit for new tires with Harvick the first off pit road.
On the restart for the final 15-lap dash for the All-Star title, Elliott led the way followed by Keselowski, Hamlin, Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones.
On Lap 129 of 140, Kyle Busch powered into second and set his sights on Elliott for the lead.
With five laps remaining in the final segment, Elliott maintained a steady advantage over Kyle Busch as Keselowski ran third.