By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
For third-year Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Chase Elliott, Sonoma Raceway has been one of his worst tracks throughout his career, but on Sunday, that all changed with a fourth-place finish on the 12-turn, 1.990-mile road course.
“It was a lot more fun, this trip out here, than it was the last two times,” Elliott said. “I made a lot of gains, personally, I think, for me at this track. It’s been one of my worst. To come here and have pace on Friday and qualify good on Saturday, and to have pace today, it was just a lot more fun.
“I appreciate everyone on my NAPA team working hard this weekend. We had a fast Chevrolet all three days. And that’s nice to show up and get rhythm. We kind of had to pick our battles today. We elected to get some stage points and that set us back a little for that last stage, but I don’t think we had the pace that the leaders had. So, it was a good finish for me, and we’re looking forward to the next road race.”
Elliott started the day with his best career start at the track, rolling off third and holding steady in the top-10 throughout the first stage, finishing in fourth after a handful of cars elected to pit at the end of the stage.
After pitting during the stage break, Elliott restarted 14th in Stage 2, climbing his way back inside the top-10 by the time the second stage reached the 10 to go mark. As pit strategy once more began playing out near the end of the stage, Elliott was able to take advantage and finish the second stage in second place.
Though his pit stop under caution for the end of the stage dropped him to 17th, Elliott was knocking on the door of the top-10 with 54 laps to go. A handful of laps later, he had piloted his No. 9 Chevrolet up to seventh-place.
Climbing all the way up to third place as the laps wound down, the final green flag pit stop of the day came with less than 30 laps remaining.
As pit stops cycled through, Elliott advanced up to second with 18 laps to go in the race, but as his tires began giving up over the course of the run, he would drop back to fourth-place, where he would remain until the checkered flag flew.
“I felt like we made the most of our afternoon at least and the race that we were trying to run,” Elliott added. “We realized there at the beginning that I don’t think we had the pace that the No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) and the No. 78 (Martin Truex, Jr.) had, so we elected to try to get stage points in each stage and obviously when you do that, that sets you back for the final one. Fortunately, I had a good enough car to drive forward and get back in the top five.”
With Sunday’s finish, Elliott now has four top-five finishes and eight top-10 finishes on the season, as he sits 13th in points heading into next weekend’s race at Chicagoland.