By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
To say Chase Elliott has been impressive in his rookie NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, would be a massive understatement. The 20-year-old driver has showed incredible poise en route to three top-10 finishes through the first six races of 2016.
However, after qualifying fourth Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, Elliott may be on track to break through in a big way in Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500.
Even after nailing down a solid lap in the final round of qualifying, Elliott isn’t going to assume he’ll have a great run in Saturday’s race.
“Well, we obviously want to do better than a top 10 finish. We want to be contenders and I think we have the team capable of doing that,” Elliott said. “For us, we recognize that having a good pit road selection is the biggest thing, starting good is nice, but I think that pit road selection is very important.”
Remember that Elliott, who has been strong this season, nabbed his first-career NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Texas Motor Speedway in 2014. Elliott could mirror one of his mentors — Dale Earnhardt Jr. — if he could cruise to victory lane on Saturday. Earnhardt of course won his first Xfinity Series race at Texas in 1998, and his first Cup Series race at Texas in 2000.
Overall Elliott has four previous starts at Texas Motor Speedway in the Xfinity Series. In addition to his win in 2014, he also recorded top-10s in every start at the 1.5-mile oval, and his average finish at TMS is 5.2.
Also in Elliott’s favor is the fact that a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet has won five of the last seven races at Texas Motor Speedway (all of those races were won by Jimmie Johnson). If Elliott is going to have a shot at a victory Saturday though, his hopes will rest on helping his crew chief, Alan Gustafson dial in his race setup in practice Friday evening at Texas Motor Speedway.
“You really have to have your car driving good. I think it’s going to be slick,” Elliott explained. “Just because you start good doesn’t mean you are going to stay there. You have to work on your car in race trim to make it the best you can and hopefully try to move forward tomorrow night.”
Image: Jeff Gross/Getty Images