There is something about Chase Elliott and finishing second at Michigan. After notching a pair of second place finishes at the two-mile track last season, Elliott found himself in a familiar position late in Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 behind eventual winner Kyle Larson as he would score a runner-up finish for the third straight time at the track.
Though he wasn’t able to finish one position better and win his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, Elliott still held his head high after his second-place finish, as it came after his crew had to make wholesale changes to his No. 24 Chevrolet prior to race day.
“I’m really proud of our NAPA Chevy team,” said Elliott. “From where we started the day to where we ended up, I was really proud of our effort. I really think we over-achieved today from what we had on Friday and Saturday and even last night, I was getting a little nervous about how the day was going to go. So, I’m happy that we could have a solid day and put ourselves in position and kind of rely on some late-race restarts. We had a couple of opportunities to get the lead. And unfortunately, it just didn’t work out. But we’ll move on. Congratulations to Kyle (Larson, race winner). He had a fast car today and we’ll try to go get ‘em next week.”
Starting the day in 10th place, Elliott held steady inside the top-10 for the duration of the first stage, finishing the first 60 laps in eighth. Stage two was more of the same for Elliott as he would be scored ninth at the conclusion of the second stage at lap 120.
The final stage finally started to pay dividends for Elliott as he worked his way toward the front, breaking into the top-five as the laps wound down.
Using a pair of late race restarts to his advantage, Elliott gave it his all to get into the race lead, but restarting on the inside lane both times caused his car to jump loose on him, allowing the leader to pull away. Though he made it back to second place with a handful of laps to go, it was too little, too late as Larson was long gone with the race lead and Elliott would have to settle for second place yet again.
Elliott would note after the race just how crucial those late race restarts were to being able to finish where he did.
“It was all just about how your push went,” Elliott added. “I am really proud of our effort today. I thought we way improved from where we were last year as far as those late-race restarts go and was able to hang with them and really just kind of rely on the guy behind you. Kyle (Busch) gave me a great push. I didn’t give him a very good push that time before. He went a little sooner than I thought he was going to. He gave me a good push and I think somebody pulled out on him. He had to go block them and it just ends up kind of disrupting the whole situation when that happens.”
“But, a great day from our NAPA Chevy group. I think we overachieved today with where we started this weekend, which is always nice when you are here at the racetrack. Happy to do that and ready to get on down the road and get through these summer months and try to tune everything in.”
With his runner-up finish on Sunday, Elliott continues a successful month of June, which has seen the sophomore driver capture three straight top-10 finishes after four races between late April and the entire month of May that resulted in a finish no better than 24th.
Heading to next weekend’s race at Sonoma, Elliott now has five top-five finishes, nine top-10 finishes, 169 laps led, and sits fifth in points after 15 races.