Chase Elliott, a recent NASCAR champion, solidified himself as a top Cup Series contender

Shane Connuck, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

Chase Elliott and his team hadn’t stopped fighting.

The recent NASCAR Cup Series champion entered Sunday in the midst of a major drought. In addition to missing six weeks because of injury on top of a brief suspended absence, last season was far from the 2023 campaign for which the sport’s most popular driver could have hoped.

But even before Elliott snapped his 42-race winless streak in overtime at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, he hadn’t lost his place as one of the Cup Series’ fastest drivers.

Including his strong run at Martinsville, Elliott now boasts four Top 10 finishes (three Top Fives) in nine races this season. While Kyle Larson and William Byron have been the fastest Chevrolet drivers — let alone Hendrick Motorsports — Elliott keeps hanging right there with them.

And now, Elliott has a victory to his name and likely locked up a spot in the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

“Couldn’t be more grateful for this journey and kind of the path that hasn’t always been fun,” Elliott said afterward. “But certainly have enjoyed working with our guys. We’ve been working really hard and really well together. Like I said, hasn’t always been fun, but we’ve enjoyed the fight together.”

Entering Sunday, Elliott sat sixth in the Cup Series standings with three Top 10 finishes in eight starts. He took the lead early in the final stage at Martinsville last Sunday and finished behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron.

He was leading again during the final stage on Sunday, and the caution-filled race at Texas complicated those late laps. But Elliott prevailed.


After running in the Top 10 since the final stage’s first restart, Elliott went three-wide and took the race lead with under 40 laps left. His main competitor was Denny Hamlin, who appeared to be a bit faster at times and took the lead from him. But Hamlin pushed too hard and spun late, which prompted overtime, and Elliott powered past Ross Chastain after taking the white flag.

“It was just crazy,” Elliott said. “This place is so sketchy. I haven’t seen a replay of Denny and us. I didn’t feel like I did anything super crazy there any more than anybody’s ever done to me. Just had to run forward. I want to look at it. I didn’t feel like I did anything to crash him. I think just the circumstances. But nonetheless, apologies to him if so.”

“Is Chase Elliott back?”

“Well, I would say outside of today, let’s look at the whole season,” Hendrick Motorsports president and general manager Jeff Andrews said. “I think that’s a bigger picture than what that team pulled off today. We don’t — as a company — think Chase Elliott has ever been gone. We had some things to work on with the team, the support we were giving them. As I said before, he and (crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) spent a lot of time this winter on rebuilding that team, putting the right folks in that team, people that believed as much in that team as Alan and Chase did.

“I think when you get all the folks pulling together and rowing the boat in one direction, you start to see the results like we’ve had so far with that team in 2024.”


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