The NASCAR Cup Series' first-ever trip to Circuit of the Americas on Sunday was an illustration of why the art of racing in the rain is a difficult one to master. And at the end of a wet and wild day, NASCAR's reigning road course king was the one who ended up displaying his mastery of turning left and right on a soaked track.
After taking the lead late in the race, Chase Elliott won the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas, a race which presented considerable challenges due to inclement weather. The race was stopped after 54 of 68 laps due to heavy rains and poor visibility with Elliott in the lead.
Elliott's win is the first of the season for the defending Cup Series champion, and the sixth road course victory of his career. Six of Elliott's 12 career wins at the Cup level have now come on road courses.
"Couldn't be more excited. I've never won a rain race before, so it's kind of cool," Elliott told Fox Sports. "Just super proud of our team for just continuing to fight. We kind of started the day and weren't very good, and just kept pushing myself, kept making some good changes throughout the day, and got to where I thought we were on pace with those guys there at the end. So really proud of that."
After NASCAR started Sunday's race on a damp racetrack, variable rains persisted throughout the race, creating hazardous racing conditions before heavier rains created a dangerous situation mid-race. Due to standing water on the back straightaway, two major crashes occurred due to lack of visibility.
First, Christopher Bell crashed after running into the back of Ryan Blaney, and then Bubba Wallace drove underneath Kevin Harvick's car, as Wallace was unable to see Harvick slow down for the crash On the ensuing restart, a similar and more frightening crash occurred when Martin Truex Jr. ran into the back of Michael McDowell, and was then run into by Cole Custer coming at full speed. Custer's car drove underneath Truex's and then slammed the inside guardrail driver's side before catching fire. None of the drivers were injured, but multiple -- most notably Harvick -- were openly critical of the racing conditions from a driver safety standpoint.
The race was red-flagged so that NASCAR could remove standing water, and the race continued without major incident until conditions deteriorated late in the event. The red flag came out just in time for Elliott, as he was unlikely to make it to the end of the race on the load of fuel he had aboard his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. In addition to Elliott's own career milestones, the victory was the 800th for Chevrolet in NASCAR and the 268th for Hendrick Motorsports, which puts them one win shy of tying Petty Enterprises for the most wins by a race team in NASCAR history.
Elliott is now the 11th different driver to win a Cup race this season in 14 races, with 12 races still remaining to determine the field of 16 drivers fore the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in the fall.