After making The Chase and finishing 10th in the points standings in his Rookie of the Year season a year ago, Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, is showing that a “sophomore slump” is only a myth.
The 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season got off on a high-note for the second-generation driver as he not only won the Coors Light Pole Award for the Daytona 500, but he won his Clash race later in the week. After leading 39 laps in the Great American Race, Elliott had to settle for a 14th place finish.
Last week at his home-state track, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Elliott took home fourth place in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 after rolling off 11th.
Fast forward to Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where the 21-year old rallied from a starting position of 12 to finish Stage 1 in fifth position. In the second 80-lap segment, Stage 2, Elliott was fourth.
With a caution, late in the race, Elliott hit pit road for service for the all-out sprint to the checkers.
“Had a poor restart there at the end and kind of got behind, but got lucky to kind of end up where we did with what happened,” stated Elliott post-race.
What happened you ask? Race leader Brad Keselowski faced an ill-handling Ford Fusion and no brakes. Keselowski was overtaken by eventual race winner Martin Truex Jr., and runner up Kyle Larson before Elliott would slip by the No. 2 Team Penske machine to pick up one more spot from his Stage 2 finish on the last lap to finish third.
“I felt like we were maybe just a tick off Brad [Keselowski] and the 78 [Martin Truex Jr.] and just needed a little bit more,” noted Elliott.
Knocking on the door of his first MENCS victory, Elliott is currently in third-place in the Championship point standings, just three points behind the leader Keselowski.
Elliott heads to Phoenix International Raceway next weekend looking for his straight top-five finish of the season. In this race, last year, Elliott placed 8th while claiming a 9th place finish in the fall race at PIR
“I’m really proud of the way we have performed. Our pit stops have been great, our cars have been good. Been able to run solidly in the top 5 the past couple weeks, which is great for me and our team, and we just got to keep that going and find that next little bit.”
So far in 2017 Elliott has completed all 792 laps ran, leading 39 of them. He has an average starting spot of eight and an average finishing position of 7.3.