Elliott in must-win situation to advance to Homestead
By James Jackson
November 9, 2017
Almost two weeks ago, after leading 123 laps and having what seemed to be the best race of his young career in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Chase Elliott watched his championship hopes go up in smoke, literally, as Denny Hamlin lifted Elliott’s rear wheels off the ground and seemingly spun Elliott around going into Turn 3 at Martinsville Speedway with only three laps remaining.
Had Hamlin not spun Elliott out, we’d be talking about the second-year driver having the opportunity to take the famed No. 24 car back to the Championship 4, like Jeff Gordon did in 2015.
Elliott went from clinching his guaranteed spot at Homestead to being on the outside looking in in the playoff standings.
The next week at Texas Motor Speedway, the support behind Elliott was obvious as evidenced by a banner hung by the track naming Elliott the “People’s Champion.”
Expectations ran high at Texas as fans hoped to see Elliott win in the wake of his heartbreaking loss at Martinsville just a week prior. The weekend started off rocky for Elliott as his qualifying time was disallowed after failing post-qualifying inspection.
Elliott started the race in 34th position but quickly charged through the field and battled hard all day for a solid top-10 spot. He finished the day in eighth-place, his 19th top-10 finish in 34 races this season..
Going into Phoenix this weekend, Elliott currently sits seventh in the playoff standings, 49 points from fourth-place Brad Keselowski.
Stage points will do little as Elliott is in a virtual must-win situation at Phoenix in order to advance to Homestead with a shot to compete for a championship.
In three Cup Series races at the track, Elliott has finished inside the top 10 twice, with a best finish of eighth in March of 2016.
“What makes Phoenix unique is just the different ends,” Elliott said. “(Turns) 1 and 2 being or 1 kind of being like it is and (Turns) 3 and 4 being so flat.
“You have to be … very similar to Darlington you have to pick a little bit of the best on both and try to marry the two together the best you can to be good there.”
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.