Chase Elliott might have won the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series championship, but in 2021, he's struggled to pick up where he left off. While there's still time for Elliott and his team to improve, they have had a lot of missteps in the first six races of the season.
While Chase Elliott secured a second-place finish in the Daytona 500, he would go on to lose his first road course race in two years, finishing 21st at the roval. Things got worse from there though, as Elliott finished 14th at Homestead and 13th at Las Vegas before netting a fifth-place finish at Phoenix.
Despite that strong finish, Chase Elliott blew an engine at this home race in Georgia, dropping him down from fifth to tenth in the points standings. Keep in mind, he only has two top 10s this season and suffered poor finishes at critical playoff tracks. If nothing else, Elliott is far from championship form.
Chase Elliott optimistic about second title in 2021
However, Chase Elliott remains hopeful about his title hopes, claiming that he doesn't see a reason why he couldn't repeat as champion.
“There is no reason why we can’t go and make ourselves better and get to that next step," Chase Elliott said during a press conference at Bristol Motor Speedway. "Those are all things that are very well within reach for our team...I mean, why can’t we go and make another run at it?”
It's not a complete stretch for Chase Elliott to believe he can win back-to-back championships, given the level of people that are around him at Hendrick Motorsports. Whether he is right or wrong, he believes Hendrick Motorsports will provide him with the best opportunity to win a championship.
“I think one of the things I had the most pride in about the championship is, it didn’t take four crew chiefs and 10 engineer changes for us to go and be good," Chase Elliott said. " We had those bad days together, we had good days together. But ‘together’ is the key.”
No driver has won back-to-back championships since 2010, when Jimmie Johnson won the last of five titles in a row. A big part of this change has to do with NASCAR's decision to go to a new playoff system in 2014 that saw 16 teams battle in four rounds for a shot at the title.
This created a chaotic atmosphere during the playoff months in NASCAR and has made for some pretty memorable finishes. What it also does, however, is make it almost impossible to win back-to-back championships, because it's virtually impossible to fall behind in points and still make it to the next round. The current system does not offer any mulligans.
Chase Elliott's team hasn't seen too many changes over the years, meaning that he could have an advantage in terms of consistency and stability when it counts - near the end of the season. Whether that enables him to be the first driver to win back-to-back titles under the current championship system remains to be seen.