Elliott Captures Jockey Made In America 250 In NASCARs Return To Road America

Chase Elliott in victory lane at Road America. [Dave Jensen Photo]

Chase Elliott in victory lane at Road America. [Dave Jensen Photo]

by Paul Gohde

Elkhart Lake, WI – Back in 2020 most of the NASCAR Cup Series drivers were surprised at the number of road courses that appeared on the upcoming 2021 schedule. But each of them also expressed enthusiasm for the upcoming July 4th race at legendary Road America. And their enthusiasm was evident today as a record crowd (some say 100,000) shared the excitement of the drivers, cheering long and loud as Chase Elliott held off a plethora of challengers to stake his claim as the first NASCAR Cup winner here in the past 65 years by winning the Inaugural Jockey Made In America 250 for his 13th NASCAR Cup Series victory.

At times it was Kyle Busch chasing Elliott and at others it was Christopher Bell, but no matter who it was, Elliott was up for the battle. “We started in 34th spot and had to pick our way carefully to the front,” explained Elliott who has won seven of the last eight NASCAR road races. “We got hung up in qualifying when a red flag stopped us from bettering our slow lap and were stuck with starting near the back.” But knowing he had a long day of racing ahead of him, he took his time, taking the lead on lap 38 and held serve (except for one lap) until the checkered, stretching that winning margin to 5.705 sec.

“We struggled yesterday and just couldn’t find any rhythm, but about half-way through the race we got a flow going and got onto the same (pit) strategy as the leaders. The crew made the right adjustments, and I knew we had 62 laps to make it right,” he said. “Drivers are only as good as what they have to drive.”

Busch, who also had qualifying problems, starting last due to having to switch to a back-up car, surprisingly took his time also, taking his first lead at lap 24, but lead just four circuits while mixing it up with his challengers. He finished third.

“I thought we could come back and challenge for the lead in the third stage, but we didn’t have enough. The #9 car was exceptional. I ran hard to put pressure on him but wore out our stuff, (mainly tires). It would have been nice if I hadn’t wrecked my primary car in practice,” he added.

Christopher Bell was another challenger who worked his way near the front (finishing second) from his starting spot of 13th. “We had a really, really great car. The car came alive and we had a good finish. We haven’t been fast the last few weeks.”

Kyle Larson was also strong in his charge to the front, but the series’ points leader was stymied when a traffic jam in Turn 5 with five laps remaining saw Denny Hamlin spin Larson’s Hendrick Cars Chevrolet out, relegating him to a 16th place finish.

Kurt Busch, the “other brother”, also took his time and despite his16th starting spot, he almost caught his brother who finished third. He was pleased with his run but seemed to know where he was destined to finish. “We had a good battle as we were moving up near the end. We were looking for stage points and that was good.”

Pole-winner William Byron and Tyler Reddick were stage winners, while Reddick finished a solid 8th, Byron fell to a 33rd place finish.

The race was as much a Fan Fest as it was a NASCAR race, Fans packed every nook and cranny of the vast Road America facility, coming early for a good spot to watch and staying late to cheer Elliot’s many victory burnouts and congregate for his winner’s interview. “I heard people chanting my name and saw so many of them with #9 shirts and hats. It was amazing,

“You have to enjoy these moments because you never know when they’ll come up again. I was really struck by how many people they had here today and how very enthusiastic they were, not just for me, but for the whole weekend.”

Perhaps Road America President and GM Mike Kertscher summed it up best in a letter that he wrote to fans in the event program when he advised them “to come for the experience and stay for the race.”

They did and they will again next year I’m sure.


Notes: Road America Communications Director John Ewert confirmed Saturday that NASCAR Cup and Xfinity racing will continue at the Wisconsin track in 2022 and beyond as a multi-year agreement has been signed with the sanctioning body. Choosing a weekend date is the only remaining item that needs to be finalized pending the completion of the series’ schedule for next season…Kyle Busch was forced to bring out the Joe Gibbs #18 Skittles back-up Toyota after crashing his primary mount in Cup practice Saturday morning. “The car is killed,” he muttered afterward. He will have to start in the back for the Jockey Made In America 250 Sunday no matter what time he posts in Sunday’s qualifying…A member of the Chicago-area racing media reported that the grandstand at Chicago Motor Speedway in Joliet is being torn down along with the drag strip. If true, another venue for Midwest motorsports will have fallen by the wayside…What today is the NASCAR Cup Series has only raced at Road America once since it opened and that was in 1956. Thus, the track record that Cup drivers were shooting at in today’s qualifying was a slow 73.858 mph set on August 8, 1956 by Tim Flock. By contrast, today’s pole winner, William Byron, ran 110.359 mph. Quite a difference in 65 years…18-year-old Sam Mayer recovered from a hard Xfinity Series crash Saturday to win the TA2 round of the Trans Am Championship race later that day. Several Cup/Xfinity drivers participated in that race as well in order to log track time and learn the nuances of Road America. That group included Ty and Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman and Christopher Bell. Also, Ryan Herbst, Harrison Burton, Ty Gibbs and Adam Andretti…




Share Button