Chase Elliott’s top-two streak ends at Indy after late-race spin

SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Chase Elliott entered Sunday with a brilliant streak of five consecutive races with top-two results. It all tallied up to a pristine 1.4 average finish, dotted by three wins in that span.

The stellar streak ended with a not-so-sweet 16th after an eventful Sunday for the NASCAR Cup Series points leader on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. The 2.439-mile mixing bowl of a circuit gave the 38 cars fits, and Elliott – streak and all – was not immune.

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Elliott recovered from an early spin and a mid-race pit mix-up to put the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in a position to challenge Tyler Reddick for the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard win – nearly reprising their 1-on-1 battle from earlier this month at Road America. But bedlam on the next-to-last restart with three laps left in regulation sent the No. 9 Chevy looping in Turn 1, knocking him from contention and sending the race to overtime.

“I just … I crashed,” Elliott told NASCAR.com as he exited the historic track. “Don’t know why.”

Part of the reason was the calamity that hovered on Turn 1 most of the day, especially on restarts. A Stage 1 spin with lesser harm claimed Elliott in that same right-hander, but the late-race repeat carried harsh consequences.

Elliott started second alongside Reddick when the green flag flew on Lap 80 of a scheduled 82, inching ahead before Reddick took control in the preferred inside line. Behind him, a thicket of cars was bearing down on his No. 9, and contact from the No. 24 of teammate William Byron and the No. 12 Ford of close friend Ryan Blaney ate up the remaining real estate.

Elliott took the worst of it, collecting Byron’s car in his wake. He continued at the back of the pack and drove back to pit road.

“Green-white-checkered,” spotter Eddie D’Hondt said over the No. 9 team communications, signaling the overtime restart.

“Good, I need about 10 more here,” Elliott quipped.

At the end, 28 cars finished on the lead lap, and Elliott wound up near the middle of those. Crew chief Alan Gustafson talked about what could have been.

“Just sloppy. A sloppy day. I didn’t do a very good job, and we made too many mistakes and just too far behind the whole day,” Gustafson told NASCAR.com. “Certainly, I was happy with the improvements we made to the car all weekend, so that was a positive. We got the car better but it was just behind the 8 ball all day long. Certainly, we’re not happy with that.”

The remarkable recent run of consistency still has Elliott a whopping 125 points clear of second-place Blaney atop the Cup Series standings. As for the top-two streak’s demise, that ended without fanfare.

“Doesn’t matter,” Gustafson said. “It’s about today.”