By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
* Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for the top-30 drivers in the series leading into the 60th running of the Daytona 500.
Years in Cup: 3
Career Wins: Five NASCAR Xfinity Series Wins, 2014 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion, Two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Wins
The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season marks a return to a familiar car number for Chase Elliott. Elliott’s team will be rebranded from the No. 24 that was made famous by Jeff Gordon to the No. 9. The No. 9 was made famous by Chase’s father Bill Elliott, who drove the number for 13 years, 38 victories, and a Premier Series Championship in 1988. The younger Elliott drove the No. 9 to four Xfinity Series victories and the 2014 Xfinity Series Championship.
The 2017 season was Elliott’s best to date. He earned 12 top-fives, 21-top 10s, and one pole position in the Daytona 500. His only win came in the Budweiser Duel prior to the Daytona 500, which paid points for the first time in decades. Elliott came close to winning at Dover International Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, and ISM Raceway (Phoenix). In each of those races, victory was snatched away in the final laps. He ultimately finished fifth in the final Championship Points standings.
Elliott stated that his number one goal this season is to win,
“This season? Heck, I think just the obvious: try to win a race. Starting year three, I think at this point I ought to know how to do that much at least. Think that I’m capable of doing it. I think we’ve had the speed and the ability to compete for wins. I think we’ve shown that on more than one occasion.”
In the three races in which Elliott came close to victory, the question of respect was raised. At Dover, after failing to lap fellow Playoff driver Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch swept by for the victory. Martinsville saw contact between Elliott and Denny Hamlin send Elliott spinning into the outside wall. A post-race confrontation between Hamlin and Elliott, along with contact at ISM Raceway settled the question.
“I think there were times not just in that situation that I was a little taken advantage of,” Elliott explained, “how I raced people, maybe with too much respect at times. I think that’s what he was getting at with that comment. I do think there was probably some truth to that. At some point you either stand up for yourself or you continue to get taken advantage of. I’d rather choose option A over B.”
With that outlook, Elliott, crew chief Alan Gustafson, and the entire Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Napa Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team will look to start the season off with a bang.