By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Grid driver Chase Elliott salvaged a top-10 finish after a disastrous start at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver avoided much of the attrition in the Big Machine Vodka 400 at The Brickyard because he was mired in the back of the pack. By staying out of trouble, Elliott’s No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 moved up the running order. He broke into the top-10 on the final restart and took the checkered flag in ninth.
A top-10 finish appeared in doubt for Elliott early. Under the first caution, his Hendrick Motorsports machine was spun into Bubba Wallace’s No. 43 on pit road. With damage to the front and rear, Elliott returned to pit road prior to the restart. He ultimately fell a lap behind the leaders.
Elliott pointed to the narrow nature of pit road when he explained the incident.
“One thing about Indy is pit road is so narrow. You have to start braking before you turn into your box which is typically not the case. I think that was a contributor. I apologize if I didn’t stop quick enough. Once they all started stopping, they stopped so fast, I didn’t get stopped quick enough and about the time I got stopped, somebody piled into me.
“It was one of those chain reaction things. I hate that it happened, especially that early in the race, but luckily, we were able to piece our car back together and finish the race. My crew worked hard during to get us better. So, it finished alright.”
Forced to fight for the free pass position, Elliott appeared set to move back onto the lead lap just laps before the second caution. Pit strategy by crew chief Alan Gustafson put the No. 9 in position to receive the free pass under the third caution on lap 50.
The ninth-place finish was the 11th top-10 finish for Elliott this season. It is also the 70th of his Cup Series career.
Following the reseeding for the playoffs, Elliott is now seventh on the playoff grid. He is 27-points behind regular season champion Kyle Busch and 17-points ahead of his Hendrick teammate William Byron.