By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
If there’s one constant four races into the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, it is that Chase Elliott has been the standard bearer for Hendrick Motorsports.
On Sunday at ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Elliott led the way for the organization once more, bringing home a third-place finish, the best of the season for both Elliott and HMS as a whole.
“We had a good car,” said Elliott. “It was solid, you know? Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) made a good call there at the end and we had a good pit stop there to get into the lead and I just felt like I needed a little bit of drive there to put the power down in front of him. I had a pretty good turn those last two runs and before that I wasn’t turning good enough and too good of forward bite.
“So, he was definitely the car to beat and it felt like there were a lot of laps left. I tried my best to hold him off as long as I could, but I felt like him and Kyle (Busch) had just a little bit on us. We’ll go to work and try to get better for California.”
After qualifying third for the TicketGuardian 500, Elliott reported a “snug” feeling to his No. 9 Camaro ZL1, but was able to stay in the top-10 throughout the first stage and was scored sixth when the green-checkered flag flew.
Stage two was more of the same, with Elliott running third for the majority of the stage, before falling to 11th at the end of the stage after some teams elected to stay out on track to take advantage of different pit strategies.
As the final stage played out, the No. 9 team found themselves climbing the leaderboard, breaking back into the top-five and eventually taking over the lead briefly in the closing stages of the race as they cycled out on top during green flag pit stops.
Elliott would be passed by eventual winner Kevin Harvick before officially leading a lap and lost second place to Kyle Busch before settling back into third place, where he would remain for the duration of the race.