Chase-ing first win: Elliott rides momentum into Talladega
Eighty-six races into his NASCAR Cup Series career and Chase Elliott still doesn't have a win to show for it.
He's been close, in fact, Elliott picked up the eighth runner-up finish of his young three-year career Saturday at Richmond. While the near-miss stung again, he does have legitimate momentum when he arrives in Talladega this weekend.
The 2.66-mile unpredictable restrictor-plate track owns a love-hate relationship with most drivers but Elliott appears to be somewhere in the middle despite solid restrictor-plate results.
“I have never disliked it, I think it’s kind of one of those things that we have to do," Elliott said in a team release. "The races pay the same amount of points as the rest of them, so you might as well embrace it. We have had some really fast cars and led some laps.
"We have had opportunities, just haven’t had the end results to prove the kind of runs we have had. Just going to keep doing what we have been doing there.”
Elliott's won the pole twice for the Daytona 500 and started among the top-four in four of his five starts at Daytona, the other restrictor-plate track. His 14th-place finish in the 2017 Daytona 500 is his best showing — and that came after he ran out of gas while leading late in the race.
Elliott also has great qualifying statistics at Talladega, including a pole position in his rookie season (2016) and three other top-eight starts. He finished fifth in his series track debut at the superspeedway in 2016 and has led 61 laps but crashed out of the past two races there.
“Talladega is just wider and it’s a little more inviting to be three-wide more often," Elliott explained. "I feel like people get a little braver there just because it is wider and it looks welcoming.”
Elliott's average running position (10.122) and driver rating (93.4) are a series-best. He’s led 99 laps combined at Daytona and Talladega – pacing the field three of the four races he’s competed in at Talladega and four of the five he’s run at Daytona.