By: Ashley McCubbin
Last year, Chase Elliott shined through on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL with a dominating performance – despite a minor hiccup.
As he was beginning the final stage, he locked up the brakes entering the first corner, sliding into the tire barrier. Thankfully, the damage was minimal to his No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet, giving him the opportunity to work his way back through the field to win.
“Yeah, just a crazy event, for sure,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “A lot of good fortune. Obviously, a big mistake on my end and we were fortunate that our car wasn’t tore up very bad, somehow, and was able to fight back up through there. We had just enough time to kind of get back to the front and have a shot at it. First off, I had a really fast car. And, secondly, I made a really big mistake. Third, our car wasn’t tore up as bad as I thought it should have been. So, just had a lot of things go in our favor with the way the rest of the race went – the cautions how they fell, a couple of good restarts, and things just went our way. I’m glad it did, for sure.
“I’d like to eliminate running into the tire barriers if we have a fast car like that again.”
A solid day would be critical for Elliott in allowing him to move forward to the next round of the playoffs, and he will enter the event with a considerable cushion over the cut-off following a top-five at Talladega Superspeedway.
He’s also proven his ability on the road courses, as evident by winning the last three in a row (Watkins Glen, Charlotte ROVAL, and Daytona road course). That doesn’t make this weekend any easier, as he notes it’s challenging in being a ‘choppy’ layout.
“I just think the track is really kind of choppy, doesn’t flow very good and it’s a really hard thing to find a rhythm at that track,” he commented. “I feel like road racing is a lot about rhythm and a lot about consistency – finding your markers, pushing yourself to go to those markers each lap and things of that nature. So, when you have a hard time finding a flow, it’s hard to continue to repeat and repeat, and do things consistently lap after lap.”
With 44 points over the cut-off. there’s certainly a magic finishing position and clinch scenario that would see Elliott move forward to the next round without having to worry about his competitors. However, the current gap in relation to points is not going through his mind.
“I feel like when you get in these rounds and whatnot, I feel like the worst thing you can do is just sit there and play the numbers game,” he explained. “It’s like I had a teacher tell me in high school one time – don’t come into my final exam just figuring out what you have to make to pass. I feel like that’s what I’m doing when I start sitting here and thinking about what to do on points. So, I’m going to take her advice and try not to do that this week and just focus on trying to run good.
“If you’re going to go out and beat the people that are champions and who’ve been running well – we see the same five or six people in the Final Four every year, so unless you want to run behind them like we have been doing, we need to focus on trying to beat them.”
Elliott feels they have been able to show signs of that this season, in running with the guys that have been winning races, as evident with two wins, 12 top-five’s and 18 top-10’s through 31 events.
“So, I feel like when we bring our A-game and things are where they need to be, we’ve competed and I think that’s the main thing,” he commented. “I hope we can continue to bring that A-game all the time and try to get a little more consistent. I feel like the past four or five weeks have been a little more consistent for us. We’ve had some better runs and been doing a better job – having more pace in our cars and being up towards the front. I think if we can keep doing that, I feel confident that we can run with whoever.”
As for beyond this weekend, don’t bother looking that far ahead according to the Dawsonville, Georgia native – for the same reason as stated with the teacher anaology.
“We need to focus on this week and I feel like much like the final exam example I used,” he said. “I think worrying about next week is also a no-no. So, let’s just worry about Charlotte right now and we’ll see where we stack up after that.”