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Auto racing roundup: Chase Elliott wins first elimination race of NASCAR playoffs

Chase Elliott poses with the trophy after winning the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina, on Sunday. (Wesley Broome / AP)
Chase Elliott poses with the trophy after winning the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina, on Sunday. (Wesley Broome / AP)
Associated Press

Chase Elliott overcame a costly mistake that nearly wrecked his car to win a sloppy race in scorching temperatures on The Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina.

The Sunday showcase was the first elimination race in NASCAR’s playoffs and attention was focused on which four drivers would be cut from 16-driver championship field. Elliott recovered from an earlier gaffe when he was leading on a restart, locked his tires headed into the first turn and drove directly into a tire barrier.

“I couldn’t believe I did that. That was just so stupid,” Elliott said. “I don’t know that you could have done anything more stupid leading this race than what I did right there. Luckily our car wasn’t too bad … fast enough to drive up through there, got the cautions at the right time, and just didn’t quit.

“If there’s ever a lesson to not quit, today was the example.”

Behind him, the race was for the final spot in the second round of the playoffs with Elliott’s teammate, Alex Bowman, desperately trying to hang on to the 12th slot. He finished second in the race – in a backup car because he crashed in final practice – but his fate was out of his control because he trailed Ryan Newman in the playoff standings.

But Newman, racing Aric Almirola over the final few laps for a shot at advancing, missed a chicane with two laps remaining and the error cost him his shot at advancing. The point difference swung to Bowman, who slumped to the ground next to his car after the race as medical attendants tried to help him recover from heat-related issues.

As Bowman was sitting there, Bubba Wallace approached him for Bowman deliberately spinning him in the race. Bowman had said when he spun Wallace that Wallace had been flipping him the middle finger for several laps and the contact was his retaliation.

They exchanged brief words and Bowman appeared to laugh at Wallace right before Wallace angrily splashed his bottle of water in Bowman’s face. Bowman was later taken to the infield care center for further treatment.

It was that kind of messy day on the hybrid road course/oval at Charlotte, where the championship chances ended for Newman, Almirola, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones.

A late caution led NASCAR to stop the race for a cleanup and the drivers had to sit inside their cockpits, where temperatures hovered around 120 degrees. NASCAR officials went car-to-car handing out water bottles, and Newman was among the many who radioed their crew asking for bags of ice to be waiting for him when the race ended.

Kyle Busch decided he wasn’t going to sit in the heat and drove his car to the garage, calling it a race with seven laps remaining. He was three laps down at the time and already locked into the second round of the playoffs.

Kevin Harvick finished third and was followed by Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer, who was in danger of being eliminated from the playoffs but advanced with his fourth-place finish.

Brad Keselowski was fifth and followed by pole-sitter William Byron, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney as playoff drivers claimed the top eight spots.

Formula One

Lewis Hamilton coasted to a comfortable victory and led a Mercedes one-two finish at the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, Russia, to tighten his grip on a sixth World Championship.

In a calamitous few laps for Ferrari, the Italian team threw away a possible one-two finish of its own after Sebastian Vettel broke down and Charles Leclerc dropped from first to third.

Valtteri Bottas followed teammate Hamilton home at the Sochi Autodrome as Mercedes secured the full quota of points.

Hamilton now leads Bottas in the championship by 73 points with just 130 points left up for grabs. Leclerc is 107 points behind the British driver.

Max Verstappen finished fourth ahead of Red Bull team-mate Alex Albon, who started last after he crashed out during qualifying.

“What an effort, guys,” said a jubilant Hamilton on the radio after the race. “What an incredible job. That is exactly what we needed. We never give up.”

Hamilton crossed the line 3.8 seconds clear of his teammate to claim his ninth win of the season and end Ferrari’s three-race winning streak.

NHRA

Shawn Langdon beat Kalitta Motorsports teammate J.R. Todd in the Funny Car final at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois.

Langdon, a former Top Fuel season champion, is the second driver in NHRA history to win in both nitro classes at the St. Louis-area track. He topped Todd with a 4.068-second run at 310.41 mph in a Toyota Camry for his second career Funny Car win and 16th overall victory.

“What an incredible day,” Langdon said. “Going through qualifying, we had a consistent car. We’ve got such a great group of guys and it was a pretty good day. Anytime you can get a win in this class, it builds momentum. We had to make some big changes coming into St. Louis and the car was flawless for me to drive.”

Billy Torrence won in Top Fuel at the second of six races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Torrence had a 3.835 at 319.67 to beat son Steve for his third victory of the season and fourth in his career.

Erica Enders won in Pro Stock, and Karen Stoffer in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

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