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Was Chase Elliott's late Charlotte pit stop a mistake? He still nearly won Coca-Cola 600.

Alex Andrejev, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

CONCORD, N.C. -- Chase Elliott was two laps away from claiming his first victory at the Coca-Cola 600. Instead, it ended in devastation after a late-lap caution and call to pit by his No. 9 team.

No. 2 driver Brad Keselowski emerged as the first-time race winner.

"At the end, we caught a break," Keselowkski said after the race. "Made the most of the break. Life is just as much about catching the breaks as it is making the most of them. Today, we did both."

Elliott led Keselowki by half a second in the final two laps when a caution was called for No. 24 driver -- and Elliott's Hendrick Motorsports teammate -- William Byron, who spun out around a turn. With the race forced into overtime, Elliott's team then had a decision to make, and pitting for new tires didn't work out.

"Damned if you do, damned if you don't," Keselowski said about the call to pit. "Just a tough spot to be in. I've been in that spot. Lost races that way. It stinks. It hurts."

Eight leading drivers stayed out instead of pitting, including Keselowski. Elliott veered into pit road to have all four tires changed.

 

"You just make the best decision you can based on the information you have," Elliott said. "When you are leading the race like that, people behind you are going to do the exact opposite of what you do."

Elliott said his crew chief Alan Gustafson made the call.

"We stuck with it, and it didn't work out," Elliott said.

The No. 9 driver then fell to 11th place after re-emerging from the pit stop, but raced his way back to a third-place at the checkered flag.

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