NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott held off three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart to take the victory in the Camping World SRX Series season finale Saturday night at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.
Elliott crossed the stripe .439 seconds ahead of Stewart after battling his father, Bill Elliott, for much of the 77-lap race around the .596-mile oval in Music City.
“I had a ball. I got to race against two of my heroes,” Chase Elliott said. “I got to race against Dad there throughout the race and those are moments I will cherish forever. Just super thankful to be here.”
Chase Elliott started fourth in his No. 94 machine and by lap 32 was second to his father, who led from the start. Chase Elliott took the lead from Bill Elliott for the first time on lap 53, only for Bill Elliott to take it back a lap later.
“I don’t know who lit a fire under him,” Chase Elliott said about his father. “I had not seen that in him in years. It was amazing and a lot of fun. I thought it was going to be between he and I. I think he just got a little high into one and missed that restart. Other than that, it was so much fun.”
As the two continued to race side-by-side, Chase Elliott crossed the stripe ahead of Bill Elliott on lap 55 and then never relinquished the point. That didn’t mean Chase Elliott wasn’t challenged.
Stewart, who clinched the Camping World SRX Series championship before the second heat race ended, drove from fifth in the 12-driver field to begin engaging the Elliotts just past the midpoint of the race. Stewart passed Bill Elliott for second on lap 61 and promptly set his sights on Chase Elliott. While Stewart got close, Chase Elliott held onto the lead and held off Stewart.
“How could you ask for more than to finish between two Elliotts?” Stewart said. “That’s pretty badass in itself, and we really appreciate NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports for letting Chase come run with us. It means a lot to us, it means a lot to Bill.”
Chase Elliott’s car number for the race was No. 94, which holds a special place for him and the entire Elliott family.
“My late cousin Casey Elliott ran the 94 for years and years,” Chase Elliott said. “It’s always special to run that number and glad we could get it into victory lane here at Nashville.”
Both Chase Elliott and Bill Elliott had prior experience at Nashville. Chase raced at the half-mile speedway countless times in a Super Late Model, winning the prestigious All American 400 in 2013. Bill Elliott competed in seven NASCAR Cup Series races at the track with a best finish of fifth in the 1983 Marty Robbins 420.
“I didn’t need to happen what happened there (on the final restart). I just didn’t get all the stuff off my tires like I needed to. I just rolled up the hill, I was in it, then I got in it, then I was fighting. I was trying to get back to Tony but then I lost my drive up off and I was really having a hard time controlling my wheel spin up off the corner,” said Bill Elliott, the 1988 NASCAR Cup Series champion who won the night’s first heat race by .218 of a second over Chase.
“Man, I tell you what, it was a lot of fun. I knew the way the tires were on these cars and the way Chase manages his stuff, he was going to be hard to beat. I know he didn’t have the best car, but he knows how to get it to the end.”
Nashville marked only the second time Bill Elliott and Chase Elliott had raced against each other. The first time came on Oct. 20, 2013 in the Alabama Pro 125 Late Model race at South Alabama Speedway, where Chase Elliott won and Bill Elliott finished fourth.
“I’ve raced here before and I kind of had an idea of what I needed, and I think that helped as much as anything,” Bill Elliott said. “It was such a cool deal to be able to come here and do this and have a crowd like this.
“For me, I finally got what I wanted out of a racecar and I felt good out there. I thought, I’m on Medicare and I’m trying to keep up with these young kids. You’re trying to learn and gain, and every time you get into a racecar you learn something, you learn from your mistakes. Not being in one in a long time and kind of making a mistake in turn one, not cleaning up my tires good, that was it.
“To me, it was a great night. My hat’s off to everyone at SRX for what they did and I’m proud of those guys. I just hope that we, as a racing community, can embrace this and learn from it, especially what we saw here tonight at the Nashville Fairgrounds. I haven’t seen a crowd like this here in many, many years.”
Stewart won the Camping World SRX Series championship by 45 points over runner-up Ernie Francis Jr. Two feature race wins, June 19 at Knoxville (Iowa) Speedway and June 26 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, propelled Stewart to the championship, as he was the only multi-race winner.
“Winning this championship is awesome,” Stewart said. “I really appreciate Marcus Lemonis and everyone at Camping World for stepping up and helping us when we needed to get this thing off the ground, and all of our partners that have come on board. On all of these cars there are different sponsors, so a lot of people made this happen.
“Most of all, I’m really proud of this trophy from Cold Hard Art from Indiana that made that thing. To be the last guy to win an IROC championship and the first guy to win a Camping World SRX championship means a lot.”
Chase Elliott, Tony Stewart, Bill Elliott, Bobby Labonte, Paul Tracy, Ernie Francis Jr., Michael Waltrip, Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, Hailie Deegan, Marco Andretti, Willy T. Ribbs.