It’s not often that Chase Elliott gets dwarfed by the moment on a racetrack.
Especially when the 17-year-old phenom winds up in Victory Lane.
Elliott came home with the Allen Turner Tune Up 100 win Saturday at Five Flags Speedway, but it was Garrett Jones receiving all the attention.
The 14-year-old West Palm Beach native, living now in North Carolina, celebrated the Allen Turner Pro Late Model track championship. His eighth-place finish, one spot better than Bryce Dulabhan, was good enough to capture the hardware by a single point over Dulabhan on the Whataburger Night of Champions.
Johanna Long, in her first PLM race at Five Flags since last December, struggled mightily most of the night and finished a distant 23rd after being involved in a crash midway through the race.
“We had a bad weekend, to be honest,” said Jones, who struggled in qualifying while Dulabhan took the pole with a track record (16.602). “But we fought hard and were right there at the end. Bryce had some bad luck, and I hate it for him. But that’s racing; I can’t control that.”
Dulabhan started on the pole and was a rocket ship until contact with Elliott, while battling to maintain the lead, cost him.
The 17-year-old senior at Fairhope (Ala.) High School struggled with mechanical issues the rest of the night, but still nearly caught and overtook Jones for the track crown on the final lap.
“I hate it for Bryce that we got into each other,” a humbled Elliott said afterward. “I didn’t want to do anything to mess up the championship.”
Because of severe damage he sustained to his No. 28 in Mobile a few weeks ago, Dulabhan opted to lease Bubba Pollard’s No. 26 late model for Saturday.
After the mementos of success he took away from Saturday, it figures he’ll likely purchase that ride so he can drive it again come the Snowflake 100 during the first week in December.
“It’s been a good week,” said Dulabhan, whose pole victory clipped the previous track record by one one-thousandth of a second. “I couldn’t do it without Bubba Pollard and my family. To come out here and sit on the pole, all our hard work has paid off this season.”
And it seemed it would lead directly to a championship piece. With Jones starting all the way back in 28th in the 33-car field, it only seemed a formality that Dulabhan would walk away with the track title.
But following a caution, Dulabhan was attempting to hang onto the lead when he got into the side of Elliott coming outta Turn 4.
Elliott, as he is prone to do, showed his skill by not wrecking and taking the lead on Lap 39.
Dulabhan began experiencing troubles and was never the same.
The 100 lapper was delayed by 20 minutes after a huge fire erupted between turn Nos. 3 and 4 on Lap 6.
The No. 41 car driven by Troy Grisaffi was engulfed in flames while Kody Carl, driving the other car involved in the wreck caught fire, too.
Both escaped their cars unharmed, as emergency crews quickly squelched the blaze.
Long was involved in a nine-cae pileup on Lap 38, ignited by Junior Niedecken.
“I don’t know what happened,” she said. “The (No.) 99 (Niedecken) got into the (No.) 22 (Jeremy Pate), and it all break loose from there.”