Photo: Justin R. Noe/ASP, Inc.

Chase Elliott Stands Alone as Chevrolet’s Last Hope in the Playoffs

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

Entering the 2018 version of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, Chevrolet had four drivers in the postseason with a shot to make a run to the championship race at Homestead.

With two rounds complete, the Bowtie Brigade has seen all but one of their Camaros eliminated from the Playoffs. Jimmie Johnson met his fate at the Charlotte Roval, while Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman exited stage left after Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway.

Standing alone as the only Chevrolet left in the postseason is Chase Elliott, who is on a hot streak of late.

Following his first career race at Watkins Glen in the latter half of the regular season, Elliott won two of the three races in the second round of the Playoffs with victories at Dover and Kansas to propel himself into the Round of 8 with a head of steam.

After the points reset for the penultimate round of the Playoffs, Elliott now sits just three points above the cut line, hanging onto a precious spot in the Championship 4 as the series heads to Martinsville next weekend.

“I look forward to the next round,” said Elliott. “Definitely a big win, they’re all big, the road to Watkins Glen was so hard, then the past couple months, being like they’ve been, it’s been surreal.  You have to appreciate them.  You don’t know when or if you’re every going to win another race.

“I’m going to be excited today as I’ve been, enjoy the as much as Watkins Glen or Dover.  The only difference is we go to Martinsville in four days and it’s game on again.”

Elliott finished ninth in the snow-delayed spring race at Martinsville and everyone remembers seeing the Hendrick Motorsports ace being in contention for the win at the track last fall before late race contact with Denny Hamlin relegated him to 27th.

His Texas stats aren’t too shabby either, with finishes no worse than 11th in his five starts at the track. Likewise with Phoenix, where he has finished in the top-three in his last two visits.

While being the lone Chevrolet among a pack of Fords and Toyotas could be a bad thing to some, Elliott’s crew chief Alan Gustafson noted that it very well could be a positive. The manufacturer can pool all of their resources toward getting Elliott to the championship race at Homestead, something the other manufacturers can’t exactly do at this point in time.

“I don’t think it’s going to hurt us too bad,” said Gustafson. “I’ve seen in some situations racing teammates is tough.  I don’t know exactly who is in, but I assume a lot of Stewart-Haas cars are in.  They can give each other no corner at all.

“That’s a hard thing to do.  That’s a hard thing to kind of balance, in my experience.  To move on, you have to full throttle, hammer down.  If you get into a riff, which is going to happen with your teammate, it’s a tough situation.

“In some ways I think it can be an advantage for us because it is difficult to balance it when you’re all kind of infighting against each other.”

Whether or not Elliott can beat the odds and get to Homestead remains to be seen, but if the No. 9 team keeps running the way they have as of late, Chevrolet could very well be making a return to the championship race in three weeks’ time.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.