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Chase-ing A Win
Second-year Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott has shown why many consider him to be the next NASCAR superstar. He’s won a championship in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, qualified for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ version of the playoffs in his rookie season and recently captured his second consecutive pole in the sport’s biggest event – the Daytona 500.
However, all of those accomplishments have yet to translate into a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory. Two races into the season it has appeared that the winless streak, currently sitting at 43, could end sooner rather than later.
During the season-opening Daytona 500, Elliott appeared to be the driver to beat. He earned the pole and won the Can-Am Duel qualifying race – a race that provided little incentive considering he had already secured his starting position. On race day he continued to show the way, leading 23 laps only to fall out of contention when his car ran out of gas with three laps remaining.
“Yeah, I mean we had such a great car down there and a great start to the week, a great Thursday night (Can-Am Duel victory), and I felt like for us, absolutely, sure very disappointing,” Elliott said. “That was a devastating way to end a good week for sure.
“There are two things, I think, to look at when you think about Daytona for us,” he added. “A, we had to play the cards we were dealt. I felt like we planned to the best of our ability. I think that’s something to be proud of. B, we ran out of gas. Yes, we were leading, and it’s easy to say ”˜Ah, it was our to lose.’ In reality, there were still three laps to go and three laps at Daytona is a long time.”
For most, a devastating, near miss in the sport’s premier event would result in a letdown the following week. That wasn’t the case for Elliott who rebounded for a fifth-place finish at his hometown track, of Atlanta Motor Speedway, consistently running near the front.
His performance in Sunday’s race at Atlanta provided both momentum and frustration.
“I think we made a big start in the right direction for me being able to keep up with him (Kevin Harvick) moving forward,” Elliott said. “At this place, he’s obviously really good. But the biggest thing is just seeing him have a struggle there at the end and us running second to him all day all the way up to the very end is pretty frustrating.”
Elliott, who earned his first XFINTIY and Camping World Truck Series victories in just his sixth start, has the ideal sounding board in NASCAR Hall of Famer and father Bill Elliott.
Bill, who was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015, understands the struggles a driver faces in securing their first Cup victory. The driver affectionately nicknamed “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” needed 116 starts before notching his first win. The first led to 43 more victories, including a 1988 Cup Series championship.
“Yeah, he’s brought that up a couple of times,” Chase Elliott said. “He has mentioned that. It’s one of those things where it’s crazy. Obviously, that was back in the 80’s and things were a lot different, but it kind of just goes to show you if it’s not your day, it’s not your day.”