After so many close calls, Chase Elliott is now a NASCAR Cup winner after reigning supreme at Watkins Glen on Sunday.
Elliott held off a hard charge from defending NASCAR Cup series champion Martin Truex Jr. to claim his maiden victory. The triumph comes in Elliott's 99th career race. The 22-year-old driver had finished second eight previous times as he chased that elusive first victory.
"What a thrill. I don't know what to say," Elliott said. "I'm so thrilled, so emotional, so much relief, working on three years and I hadn't won one."
After Elliott took the checkered flag, as fans at The Glen roared their approval, drivers throughout the field passed him on the cool-down flap and flashed a thumbs-up.
It certainly did not come easy. Elliott had a fast car all day — he won the race's second stage — but he also benefited when a couple of strong contenders suffered bizarre mishaps during a pit stop. On a stop on lap 54, leader Kyle Busch's gasman had a problem with a can, preventing him from filling the car. Busch had to immediately pit again, dropping him to 31st in the field.
During that same pit-stop sequence, contender Denny Hamlin was penalized after running over an air-gun hose and dragging it out of his box, allowing tires to escape from his pit stall.
Busch rallied strongly to finish third, while Hamlin finished 13th.
The final stage came down to a battle between Elliott and Truex. Elliott held a consistent lead, and appeared headed for victory. But on the final lap, he lost control briefly, allowing Truex to close in on his bumper. But Truex ran out of gas seconds later, paving the way for Elliott to cruise to the finish line unchallenged.
Elliott's Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet ran out of gas on the cool-down lap. Team-mate Jimmie Johnson pushed him to victory lane.