By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Handling and patience was key in the GEICO 500, but it left many, including Chase Elliott without enough time to make a run at the win. Elliott finished inside the top-five at Talladega Superspeedway for the first time since 2016 after staying ahead of the carnage.
Elliott’s No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 ran inside the top-five for much of the final run to the finish. He tried to work both the inside and outside lines to find the energy to move forward. Elliott worked with Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., and David Ragan in his attempts to gain on race leader Joey Logano. However, handling prevented either line from gathering enough energy to make a charge, and Elliott was only able to jump from fifth to third at the checkered flag.
Handling and track position also proved key in the final stage of the race. Elliott was ahead of the ‘Big One’ which involved 14 cars, ending the day for most of them. It broke out when Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson broke loose and collected their other teammate, William Byron. Elliott was running fifth at the time, with the other Hendrick driver, Alex Bowman in tow.
“I thought our NAPA Chevy was good,” Elliott explained. “It wasn’t, I don’t think, as fast as we’ve been previously at the restrictor plate tracks, but I feel like it was a solid car. I got to the end and those guys around me were working together so much. I thought for sure one of them wanted to win a little worse than what they did.
“They were being very patient with one another and I was surprised by that. If it was me, I feel like I would have wanted to try or do something. Those guys weren’t having it. I was trying to move forward and make a lane and push and they were not interested in advancing. So, it could have been a lot worse, so we’ll move on to Dover.”
The third-place finish is the third top-five finish of the season for Elliott. Two post-race penalties earlier in the season leave him mired deep in the points standings. The top-five finish moved Elliott up from 20thto 18thin the Championship Points Standings. He is 238-points behind Points Leader Kyle Busch, and just eight points behind Stenhouse, who holds the Playoff Cutoff.
Now Elliott and his Hendrick Motorsports team will look to carry this momentum into Dover International Speedway, where they’re looking for redemption in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism on May 6.