Chase Elliott wins NASCAR Cup race at Watkins Glen again

Chase Elliott celebrates his victory with his pit crew after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Watkins Glen International, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in Watkins Glen, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Munson)
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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) — Make it two in a row for Chase Elliott at Watkins Glen International.

A year after racing to his first career NASCAR Cup victory at The Glen, Elliott won a second time in the No. 9 for Hendrick Motorsports, besting Martin Truex Jr. just as he did a year ago. The Glen hadn’t had a repeat winner in nearly a decade, since Marcos Ambrose in 2011-12.

It was a two-car race for more than half the 220.5- mile distance and the entire final 40 laps around the high-speed 2.45-mile natural terrain layout.

Truex began to exert some pressure after sitting behind Elliott for more than 10 laps in the final segment. Elliott held his ground until Truex’s No 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota closed with six laps to go, waiting to pounce on a mistake that never came.

With two laps left, Truex still couldn’t get close enough to make a move as Elliott drove flawlessly, winning by 0.454 seconds.

Elliott, the pole-sitter, led 80 of 90 laps and snapped a long slump.

Denny Hamlin was third, Erik Jones fourth for Gibbs and Ryan Blaney fifth in his No. 22 Penske Racing Ford after starting from the rear of the field.

Seven-time champion Jimmy Johnson finished 19th as he struggles to make the playoffs.

Truex was chasing a sweep of the two traditional road races on the schedule. He won at Sonoma in June for the second straight time and has five straight top-two finishes on road courses.

Elliott won the first two stages, dominating the first, and Truex moved into contention about a third of the way through the race.

Truex began to challenge Elliott for the lead entering the first turn on Lap 55, moving briefly inside on the 90-degree, downhill right-hander but backed off to wait for another shot. They were alone at the front of the field, 12 seconds ahead when Elliott dived to pit road on Lap 60 for his final stop. Truex followed suit the next time around and was back behind Elliott, a bit farther back this time.

Truex stayed back but like last year began to close the gap with 20 laps left. Elliott, who overcame some mistakes in the closing laps a year ago that nearly opened the door for Truex, maintained a steady lead of just a few car-lengths ahead for almost the entire stage, the two 5 seconds ahead of Hamlin in third.

The race was stopped when Johnson, desperate for a good finish, spun out coming out of the carousel turn, a sweeping right-hander, and seconds later Bubba Wallace spun Kyle Busch, who was running 10th on Lap 62. Busch and Wallace had banged each other while racing down the front straightaway before Wallace had the last tap, sending Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota around entering the first turn. Busch, who started third, finished 11th.

Elliott and Truex were back in front for the restart on Lap 66, but Truex challenged right off the green flag, the two exchanging bumps speeding up through the esses as Elliott never relinquished the lead.