By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
AVONDALE, Ariz. – Lap 200 was when the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race saw its chaotic shakeup and it involved Chase Elliott.
Following a multi-car crash in Turn 4, the field went to war once again with Elliott slowly getting better as the race went on. Compared to his Championship 4 competitors, Elliott’s pit crew were getting the job done and helped him gain valuable track position.
Elliott restarted fifth and went on the attack towards the Dogleg, to the point he clipped part of the track. Just as he was pulling off that move, Ross Chastain also attempted to dive to the bottom when things went straight to hell.
Contact was made, sending Elliott around with the right side of the No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet making contact with the inside wall. The sold out Phoenix crowd witness the madness and were stunned to see the 2020 Cup champion involved in an accident.
Caution quickly came back out as Elliott brought his car back to the pits to assess the damage. By that point, the focus went from the championship to simply getting back in the action. The crew were able to do so, but the pace simply lacked for the rest of the race.
For the first time since Carl Edwards in 2016, a Championship 4 driver failed to finish inside the top-25. While Joey Logano ended up celebrating with the Bill France Trophy, Elliott ended up two laps down and finished 28th.
Afterwards, the regular season champion commented that before the incident with Chastain, he felt the car was on par with Logano.
“Looking forward to the off-season, and really proud of our team for the fight that we put in today,” said Elliott. “I felt like we just kind of peaked right there before we crashed.
“I felt like we got our car driving pretty good, we just had our best pit stop of the day, so that was all really solid. And heck, we were right there next to (Logano).
“I thought we had a shot at it all the way up until we didn’t, and that’s unfortunately the way it goes sometimes.”
One thing Elliott isn’t interested about the upcoming season, but looking back at the fact he had a career-high five wins this season.
“I don’t really care about 2023 right now. We had five wins on the season. That’s more than we did last year,” said Elliott. “Do not tell me what the countdown clock is because I don’t want to know.”
With the season over, the regular season champion will shift his immediate concentration to another race in Phoenix. That being Nitro Rallycross next weekend.
“That’s just fun for me,” Elliott commented. “It’s just different. That’s just a fun opportunity for me.”