DOVER, Del. — Kyle Busch spoiled Chase Elliott’s run at his first career NASCAR Cup Series victory, taking the lead with two laps left to win Sunday at Dover International Speedway.
Elliott led the Apache Warrior 400 for 138 laps and seemed poised to reach victory lane for the first time in 70 career starts. But Busch seemed to have the fresher tires on his No. 18 Toyota. He reeled in Elliott down the stretch and gave what had been a ho-hum race a thrilling ending.
Elliott was second, followed by 11-time Dover winner Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., and Kyle Larson.
Busch won for the fourth time, his second straight, and appears to be getting hot at the right time as NASCAR’s playoffs head into the second round.
‘‘I know Chase is hungry,” Busch said after the race. “I know he’s been trying for a couple of years to try and get his first Cup Series win. But man, I saw that carrot hanging out there, and I was going to get it. I was going to give it everything I had, and fortunately it was enough.’’
Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon, Daytona 500 champion Kurt Busch, and Brickyard 400 winner Kasey Kahne were eliminated as the playoff field was cut from 16 to 12.
Elliott, the son of Hall of Fame driver Bill Elliott, got his No. 24 Chevrolet caught up in lapped traffic and allowed Busch just the opening he needed to zip past for the win.
‘‘I'm just so disappointed in myself,’’ Elliott said. ‘‘Golly. I couldn’t have had it any easier. I gave it away.’’
Busch took his customary bow.
Elliott was crushed, but he found some comfort from Johnson, his teammate at Hendrick Motorsports.
‘‘That kind of shows the person he is, but it doesn’t fix my lack of performance,’’ Elliott said.
Jeff Gordon, the retired four-time NASCAR Cup champion who also drove the No. 24, watched from the pit box and was seen exchanging a few words with Newman after the race. Newman, who finished in 13th place, was one of the drivers that appeared to hold up Elliott at the end of the race and contributed to his collapse.