AUSTIN, Texas — Chase Elliott managed the slipping and sliding, the standing water and the poor visibility that made it hard for drivers to see just a few feet in front of them.
And when NASCAR's debut at the Circuit of the Americas ended early because of poor racing conditions in the rain Sunday afternoon, Elliott had not only earned his first victory of the season, the reigning Cup Series champion had also made history for Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet.
Elliott's victory in the Texas Grand Prix — after 54 of the expected 68 laps on the road course — was win No. 800 for Chevrolet and No. 268 for Hendrick Motorsports, which tied Petty Enterprises for most by a team in Cup Series history.
"I never thought we'd win this many races," said team owner Rick Hendrick, whose organization had also earned wins No. 400, 500, 600 and 700 for Chevrolet. He called it "an honor" to tie Petty.
"I'm so proud for Chevrolet," Hendrick said. "I've never raced anything but Chevrolet."
When pressed on what wins stand out over the years, Hendrick said: "It takes every one of those wins to get to the number we got to now. There's just so many. All of them are special."
Sunday's race will be notable for ending Elliott's winless drought — and for putting the drivers through a soggy and occasionally muddy mess before it was ended under the second red flag of the afternoon as the rain only got worse.
Hendrick's Kyle Larson finished second, and Team Penske's Joey Logano was third in a Ford. Adding to the good day for Chevrolet were Chip Ganassi Racing's Ross Chastain and Kaulig Racing's AJ Allmendinger rounding out the top five and Tyler Reddick winning the pole position in the morning before winding up ninth.
"It's not the ideal way to win, but we'll take it," said Elliott, who said he also had several close calls in the tricky conditions. "If they say race, we're going to go. If they make the call to say it's not doable or not smart, that's what we'll do."
Elliott earned his sixth career road course victory, and the 25-year-old Georgia driver has won five of the past six such races in the Cup Series. He now has 12 career wins on the top-tier circuit.
He's also the 11th driver to win through 14 races in 2021. A victory has in the past ensured a spot in the 16-driver Cup Series playoffs, but there has never been enough parity to test that scenario.
The race call was a disappointing finish to NASCAR's first weekend — Xfinity and Truck races were held Saturday — at a 3.4-mile course built for Formula One, and organizers will have to decide if they want to make the Austin track a regular stop.
The rain started on the opening lap Sunday. The trickiest section to drive was the long, high-speed straightaway as the drivers risked hydroplaning or not being able to see through the spray kicked up by the cars around them.
The worst crash came on the 25th lap when Cole Custer, seeking a visible racing line, smashed into the back of Martin Truex Jr., who had just hit Michael McDowell. The front end of Custer's Ford briefly burst into a fireball. Both drivers were checked at the medical center and released.
"We don't have any business being out in the rain, period," said veteran driver Kevin Harvick, the 2014 season champion. "All I can say is this is the worst decision that we've ever made in our sport that I've been a part of, and I've never felt more unsafe in my whole racing career, period."
Larson shrugged off some of the concerns. He was in position to challenge Elliott for the win late before the race ended.
"There's nothing safe about being a race car driver," Larson said. "It was getting pretty crazy That's kind of what you have to expect from racing in the rain."
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Despite Sunday's rain, the drivers seemed to like the course and its more challenging sections through its 20 turns and steep elevations. Marcus Smith, the head of Speedway Motorsports who brokered the deal with track president Bobby Epstein, has said the Austin circuit could become a multiyear stop on the NASCAR schedule.
NASCAR and track officials did not provide attendance figures, but COTA said all of its parking lots were full an hour before the race. Smith called the first race in Austin "phenomenal" and noted he has a renewal option in his contract.
"We are encouraged by the weekend," Smith said.
After a shorter than expected outing, the Cup Series heads to its home base for what is annually its longest race of the year: next Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.