By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
A pit road speeding penalty ultimately sealed Chase Elliott’s fate in the Can-Am 500. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver’s Championship hopes came to an end following a late wreck.
On a restart with 32 laps to go, Elliott found his No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 mid-pack following a pit road speeding penalty. Like many others, he was in the middle of a hornet’s nest.
Contact between Denny Hamlin’s Toyota and Kurt Busch’s Ford saw both spinning on the narrow backstretch. Elliott dove to the inside but was clobbered by Busch’s Ford. The damage was severe, costing the Chevy Racing driver three laps on pit road, and ultimately a coveted spot in the Championship Four at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Elliott was among the fastest at ISM Raceway. Mathematically, the Hendrick Motorsports driver had a chance to make it to the Championship Four on points. However, that speed was not always where it needed to be. On lap 231, Elliott was penalized for speeding in section one of pit road. The chain of events that followed ultimately eliminated him from the Playoffs.
“Don’t speed before that and you don’t get caught back there in the back,” Elliott said. “It was completely my fault and when you make mistakes like that, you get put behind and that’s when you get wrecked. So, I had a pretty good NAPA Chevy, especially on the long runs. We could run with those guys. I couldn’t get going quite as good as I wanted to. But if you stay away from that penalty (speeding on pit road) you never know. I hate it, but we’ll try to get a win next week.”
Following the accident and subsequent elimination from the Playoffs, the best points position Elliott can earn is fifth, a feat he’s accomplished every year since his rookie season. His lead over his closest competitor, Busch, is just two-points.
Now Elliott will have the opportunity to play the role of spoiler at Homestead. Since this format of the Playoffs began in 2014, non-Championship Four drivers have failed to reach victory lane at Homestead.