CONCORD — Chase Elliott overcame a case of indigestion, pulling himself out of a pile of tires to end a long, hot day that left the sport exhausted.
The son of Bill and the heir to everything, Elliott had a car so fast that he managed to come back from a head-on collision, only to reenact it after taking the checkered flag at the Bank of America ROVAL 400.
It was a seminal moment in racing history.
With a rainbow at one end of the race track, Elliott returned to the scene of his crash for a burnout, then stood on his car, which emerged from the smoke coasting backward on its own.
He stole the show after stealing the race.
“Holy moly,” he yelled to a screaming frontstretch crowd. “Y’all like that?”
While leading the race on a restart on lap 66, Elliott wrecked into the first-turn barrier, nicknamed “heartburn turn” and sponsored by Tums antacid tablets.
“What a mistake,” he said. “You talk about messing something up. Don’t do that. I don’t think you can something more stupid.”
That led to everything that followed. A lot of things followed.
With heat inside the cars approaching 130 degrees, tempers flared, fenders became weapons and threats became confrontations on and off the track.
The best was between Bubba Wallace and Alex Bowman, who followed the 43 car around the track while Wallace held his middle finger out of the window, lap after lap.
Finally, Bowman decided he’d seen enough.
“You can only flip me off so many times in a lap for not doing anything,” he said.
Bowman stuck the nose of his Chevrolet inside the Ford of Wallace and spun him. After the race, while Bowman received medical attention for dehydration, Wallace walked up with a water bottle and tried to throw it in Bowman’s face. Bowman deflected it, Wallace stalked off, and Bowman ended up in the infield care center.
This is not sport for thin-skinned men.
The wild race came at the end of a wild week that saw rules controversies and NASCAR reticence over its own rule book. We saw drivers lose their rides for next year and others making changes.
Ricky Stenhouse was caught off guard when car owner Jack Roush informed him that he was basically fired at the end of the season, their 11th year together.
Other drivers, particularly Kevin Harvick, slammed Roush for the cold-blooded decision.
Chris Buescher will replace Stenhouse, which will leave two seats open next season. Richard Childress will part ways with Daniel Hemric after only one year together.
In other transctions this week, Michael McDowell passed a kidney stone. He finished 12th.
The 109-lap race around a quirky 14-turn track saw nine drivers take the lead, 10 cautions and a red flag before Elliott blew past Harvick to win one of the most exciting races of the year.
Ultimately, it meant four drivers would not continue in the playoffs. Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones fell out of the playoffs, and now only 12 drivers remain in contention for the Cup championship.
The final laps, with white-knuckled drivers knocking their friends and competitors out of the way and crew chiefs doing the math with a thunderstorm in the distance, Elliott worked his way from 20th place, catching cautions at the right time and finally running down the leaders with five laps to go.
“I pretty well blew it,” Elliott said. “Then I got the cautions at the right time.”
The race left drivers gasping for oxygen and took a toll on NASCAR, too. There were 39 infractions the sanctioning body ruled on. And that didn’t include Kyle Busch quitting.
Under the red flag, in which drivers are forbidden to start or even touch their cars, Busch started his, turned it around on the track and drove backward to the garage. He was done.
NASCAR might not be. There will be repercussions from this one.
As several drivers confronted each other on pit road and NASCAR did its own math to make sure it had the finishing order and the points standings correct, Elliott drove slowly down the frontstretch, following his skid marks from lap 66 and slammed the nose of his Chevy into the tires again.
The burnout for the ages ended with him standing on his car like something out of a racing movie, the hero amid the smoke and chaos in the pits.
It was the end of a wild and sweltering day that looked as if it might not end at all, and it was a shame it had to.
It’s going to be an entire year before we get to come back.