Chase Elliott suffers early exit after Stage 1 crash at Darlington

A spin on Lap 113 by Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott resulted in race-ending damage for him and significant damage to Chase Briscoe in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs opener at Darlington Raceway.

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Elliott, the Regular Season Champion, lost control of his No. 9 Chevrolet at the entrance of Turn 1 and spun his car in the middle of Turns 1 and 2. As the vehicle looped back toward the infield, the lapped No. 14 Ford of Briscoe had nowhere to go and contacted the right-rear quarter of Elliott’s car. Both cars are competing in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, where Elliott was the top seed.

The result was damage to the suspension of Elliott’s right-rear wheel, breaking a lower control arm and toe link that proved too significant to repair. The pit crew worked feverishly to repair the suspension under the Damaged Vehicle Policy’s allotted 10 minutes but to no avail.

NASCAR increased the allotted times for teams to fix damage from six minutes to 10 ahead of Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500.

Briscoe was able to continue and soldiered his battered car to a 27th-place finish, four laps down.

“When the 9 spun out, I had a split-second decision there. I just chose the wrong way,” Briscoe said. “So for us, we just had to keep going at that point. We got lucky that a lot of them guys had issues. If you would have told me we were only gonna be 10 points below the cutoff line after that wreck, I would have gladly taken it.”

Elliott was the second Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to suffer an issue at Darlington. Defending series champion Kyle Larson pitted at Lap 79 with suspected engine troubles, following a motor failure one week ago at Daytona International Speedway. The No. 5 team lost three laps on the exchange but was able to return to the race.

Larson found more trouble at Lap 191 when his car broke loose at the exit of Turn 4. Larson, who won twice during the regular season, lightly backed into the outside SAFER barrier at the start of the frontstretch but continued two laps down.

Despite those issues, Larson rallied to a 12th-place finish on the lead lap.

Elliott, who entered the playoffs with a 15-point lead over Joey Logano in the standings, plummeted to ninth and sits just 14 points ahead of the cut line with two races remaining in the Round of 16. Thanks to Erik Jones’ upset victory at Darlington, no driver locked himself into the Round of 12 on Sunday night.

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The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs continue on Sunday, Sept. 11 at Kansas Speedway (3 p.m. ET, USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).