By David Morgan, Associate Editor
TALLADEGA, Ala. – Back in the spring, Chase Elliott gave the fans at Talladega a thrill by scoring the victory. Nearly six months later, the Hendrick Motorsports driver is hoping to channel some of that same energy into another win on the 2.66-mile superspeedway to punch his ticket to the next round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
This time around, a good performance is needed even more after retiring just six laps into the Round of 12 opener at Dover last weekend, which dropped him seven points below the cut-off line with Talladega and Kansas remaining to determine the drivers that will move on with their championship hopes intact.
“I think as you get put in bad positions throughout the Playoffs, really and truly your situation just becomes clearer as to what you have to do,” Elliott said. “Especially, when you get in the hole early, it just becomes very evident that you have to go do a really good job the next two weeks to make it through. Obviously, we don’t want our season to be over after Kansas, so we have a lot of emphasis on these next two weeks. I’m going to do the best job I can do, my guys are going to do the best job they can do, and we’ll see where it ends up.
“It don’t necessarily get any easier, I just think the way these rounds go, sometimes you’re frustrated. I’m sure the first thing everyone wants to say is ‘Dang, I hate the way these rounds are when you have a bad race’.
“At the same time, the next thought needs to be, ‘Well, we should have won more races in the regular season and it wouldn’t matter’. So, you have the opportunity to make it not matter and I think that’s the thing you have to keep in mind that this deal started in February and you had an opportunity to give yourself a buffer. Luckily, we had a little bit of one. Like I said, I think you just have to go do your thing and it will either work out for you or it won’t, one of the two.”
In addition to his win at the track earlier this season, Elliott has three top-five finishes in seven starts at Talladega, but things have been hit or miss otherwise for the driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet. Despite the uncertainty, Elliott remains hopeful that things can go according to plan for his team on Sunday and they can improve their points position going forward.
One thing that could help Elliott out is the teamwork between the Chevrolet teams that has evolved in recent trips to the superspeedways and reached its pinnacle at Talladega in April. For the majority of the day, the bowtie brigade was able to work together to keep one of their cars at or near the front of the field, with six of the top eight finishers in the race running Chevrolets.
“I think it will be really similar from all fronts and I’m sure all manufacturers will be kind of doing the same thing,” Elliott said of the team mentality between the manufacturers. “The Playoff picture is obviously important to some of the guys in each respective group, I suppose. The manufacturers are going to see it as they want the manufacturer to do well and they see that being better than anything else.
“I think you’re going to see more of those games being played this weekend. I thought we did equally as good of a job at Daytona as we did here in the spring, we just had some things go our way here in the spring and they didn’t in Daytona. So, it goes to show that even though we worked well together and that we all did a nice job, it’s not always going to work. No guarantees, for sure.”