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AP photo by Jeffrey Phelps / Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott celebrates after winning Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — Even starting near the back of the pack couldn't prevent Chase Elliott from continuing his uncanny success on road courses.

Elliott was 34th in the starting lineup but still found a way to win Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race at Road America. The 25-year-old Hendrick Motorsports driver has seven career victories on road courses, putting him in sole possession of third place in series history.

"I feel like it's just good cars," Elliott said. "Our team as a whole has been good at road courses the whole time, too; Kyle (Larson) won at Sonoma. I feel like drivers are only as good as what they have to drive. Fortunately, I feel like I've got the best stuff and just got to make it work."

Elliott, who won his first Cup Series championship last year, started so far back at Road America because a couple of cautions hampered his qualifying attempts Sunday morning. It ended up not mattering as Elliott won by 5.705 seconds over Joe Gibbs Racing's Christopher Bell. JGR's Kyle Busch was third, followed by Chip Ganassi Racing's Kurt Busch and JGR's Denny Hamlin.

Bell had his first top-five finish since placing fourth at Richmond Raceway in April.

"It's been a trying last two months, but we feel like we're getting back on track here," Bell said. "There's no reason why we can't be running up front every week."

Kyle Busch briefly led after a restart on the 46th of 62 laps, but Elliott caught up to him at the 11th turn and had passed him by the next one. The restart followed a caution that came when Anthony Alfredo spun off course.

Elliott stayed in front the rest of the way, and his only trouble came as he was celebrating his victory.

After he already had done one burnout on the front stretch, Elliott heard fans asking him to do another. Elliott said afterward that "I don't know if I ever felt that much peer pressure in my life to do a burnout."

He gave the people what they wanted — and wrecked his tires in the process.

"All these people were chanting 'Burnout!' at me," the Georgia driver said. "I wasn't going to say no. So I did. I blew the back tires off of it, then ran out of gas and had to have a push."

Elliott gave team owner Rick Hendrick his seventh victory in the past eight Cup Series points races, with Kyle Busch's win at Pocono Raceway on June 27 the exception, and Hendrick drivers have won 10 of the 20 races on the top circuit so far this year.

Elliott needs only two more wins on road courses to catch Jeff Gordon, whose record nine are one more than fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart. Elliott already is the first person to win Cup Series races on five road courses: Watkins Glen, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Circuit of the Americas, Daytona International Speedway and Road America.

"I think he's a very intelligent race car driver," said Elliott's crew chief, Alan Gustafson. "I think that's what puts him in a really good position at road courses, where there's a lot to process and a lot that goes on. It takes him a bit of time to kind of get that all together and figured out, and then when he does, it's not just a feel; he knows what he's doing. There's a lot of thought and process behind what he does, so it's very repeatable."

NASCAR had three road courses on its Cup Series schedule from 2018 to 2020 and never had more than two in any year before that. This year's schedule has seven.

NASCAR's top series was at Road America for the first time since Tim Flock won a rainy Grand National race in 1956, and the long-awaited return attracted more than 100,000 spectators for the entire four-day visit that included a second-tier Xfinity Series race Saturday won by Kyle Busch.

Fans braved Fourth of July temperatures that reached the 90s at the 4.084-mile, 14-turn course that is surrounded by close to 1,600 campsites.

"This is a massive road course, and there were people everywhere around the course," Elliott said. "It's exciting, man. When we change the schedule up and go to new places, you bring energy and excitement that our series deserves to have. I think we saw that today."

 

IndyCar: Newgarden's fortunes finally change

LEXINGTON, Ohio — On the final warmup lap before Sunday's IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Josef Newgarden heard "an audible vibration" in his engine that concerned him enough to alert his team.

Had he cut his warmup one lap short, another race weekend might have been ruined.

Team Penske and Chevrolet pulled Newgarden's engine ahead of the race, saving him from a potentially disastrous third consecutive defeat. Instead, he snapped his streak of late race misfortunes and won for the first time this season, earning Penske's first IndyCar victory of the year on the same weekend the storied organization celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first win.

"If we had cut warmup one lap short, who knows? The engine could have gone on the parade lap for all we know," Newgarden said. "That just would have been demoralizing."

Newgarden started from the pole position and led all but seven of the 80 laps at Mid-Ohio to earn an overdue victory. The two-time season champion had dominated the two races leading into Sunday, but late cautions altered the outcome and denied Newgarden two trips to victory lane.

The 29-year-old Tennessee native insisted nothing needed to change on the No. 2 team because the performance was just fine. After all, he had started from the pole and led 99 of 125 laps in the two races he lost after late restarts.

Now he has led 172 of 205 laps in a three-race stretch and finally put Team Penske in victory lane in the 10th race of the season. The last time the Penske organization went this late in the year without a victory was its winless 1999 season.

Team owner Roger Penske was one of the first to greet Newgarden in victory lane, where he celebrated his 19th victory, an IndyCar record for an American driver.

This one again seemed to be in the bag for Newgarden — particularly after a pair of slow pit stops took fellow front-row starter Colton Herta out of contention — but a hard charge from Marcus Ericsson put Newgarden on the defensive. He had to hustle his way through the 13 turns over the final two laps to hold off the Swede by 0.8790 seconds.

IndyCar points leader Alex Palou finished third and was followed by six-time and reigning series champion Scott Dixon as Honda cars owned by Chip Ganassi went 2-3-4. Palou pushed his lead in the season standings to 39 points over Pato O'Ward, with Dixon third and 56 points out of the lead and Newgarden fourth and 69 back.

There are six races remaining on the schedule, with the next event the inaugural Music City Grand Prix on July 18 in Nashville.

 

Formula One: Change of guard?

SPIELBERG, Austria — Max Verstappen is driving in the same dominant way that Lewis Hamilton did for so long — and even starting to sound like him.

"When you go into the weekend and everyone sees you as a favorite, it's not easy to deliver," Verstappen said after winning the Austrian Grand Prix for his fifth victory of this Formula One season.

He extended his advantage in the season standings to 32 points over Hamilton, who is shooting for a record-breaking eighth F1 title overall after winning the past four. Verstappen leads the 36-year-old British driver 5-3 for wins and 5-2 in pole positions this year.

"I'm enjoying it, but I'm very focused for the rest of the season," the 23-year-old Dutchman said after his 15th career win and 50th top-three finish. "It's still very long."

He started from the pole for the third straight race and led throughout.

Hamilton missed the podium Sunday, when he dropped from second to fourth late in the race after going too wide on a turn and rolling over a curb, damaging the underside of his car.

"A lot of points lost today," said Hamilton, who has not won for two months and will try again to end his slump July 18 at the British GP.

Hamilton's Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, finished second ahead of McLaren's Lando Norris, the only driver to have scored points in every race this season. He could have finished second but was given a five-second time penalty for an incident on the first lap with Sergio Perez, Verstappen's Red Bull teammate.

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