With a brand new 12 months and a brand new automotive quantity, Chase Elliott has a clear slate for 2018.
The 22-year-old second-generation driver completed second 5 occasions throughout his sophomore season with Hendrick Motorsports. However that first victory on NASCAR’s prime tour continued to elude him.
Whereas some drivers would welcome a second-place end, Elliott has blended feelings about his outcomes.
“It depends upon the way you end second,” Elliott mentioned. “A few of our second-place finishes weren’t disappointing as a result of we would not have deserved to complete second.
“Others, the place I felt like we had alternatives to win and ran second, these have been the actually disappointing days. These are those that you simply actually attempt to suppose by to grasp what occurred and what to do to attempt to stop it the following go-around. They’re all totally different.”
4 of his 5 runner-up finishes got here within the 10-race Playoff. Within the first six postseason races, Elliott completed second thrice and loved a mean results of 6.17, simply advancing to the Spherical of eight. Nonetheless, Elliott’s hopes for his first Championship four look got here to a crashing halt at Martinsville Speedway, the place he led 123 laps earlier than Denny Hamlin dumped him. Elliott completed 27th.
At Phoenix, two races later, Elliott returned the favor. He hasn’t spoken to Hamlin since—and does not actually really feel the necessity to.
“What occurred has occurred,” Elliott mentioned. “You may’t take issues again. I’m not answerable for his actions. I’m answerable for mine. That’s the way in which I see it, and we’ll see what the longer term brings.”
From the gang response following the incidents at Martinsville and Phoenix, that future will embody an increasing fan base for the younger racer. Elliott’s inventory is rising, and he’ll use that assist as a catalyst getting into his third season in Cup.
“It was loopy to see the hearth from individuals—and it fires me up, too,” Elliott mentioned. “And I believe it fires the staff up. We need to hold getting higher and carry a few of that fireplace over into subsequent season if we are able to.”
Nonetheless, if Elliott regrets something about his run-in with Hamlin, it wasn’t as a lot about lacking out on his first win at Martinsville because it was shedding his likelihood to compete for the championship.
“The largest piece of that’s what may have been, to have a chance to win that race and lock (your self) into Homestead,” Elliott mentioned. “The stakes are excessive. These three weeks main into Homestead are large. We have been able the place we didn’t essentially must win to make it to Homestead, however nearly, most likely was going to must win a kind of three weeks.
“I had alternatives at Phoenix and Martinsville, and I’m positively pleased with that, as a result of these tracks are essential annually with how the schedule falls.”
Though 2018 will carry change for Elliott, he seems prepared for the problem.
Subsequent Monday and Tuesday, he’s scheduled to shake down the brand new Chevrolet Camaro throughout a Goodyear tire check at Texas Motor Speedway. Elliott and Jimmie Johnson and can welcome two new teammates to the Hendrick Motorsports campus this 12 months—Alex Bowman and William Byron.
After sharing driving duties with Jeff Gordon throughout Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s medical go away in 2016, Bowman inherits the No. 88 Chevrolet. Byron, NASCAR’s present Xfinity Collection champion, replaces Kasey Kahne.
And after two seasons of competing underneath the No. 24, Elliott’s automotive will carry the acquainted No. 9 in 2018—a quantity that his household has loved nice success with previously. 4 of Elliott’s 5 Xfinity wins and the 2014 title got here behind the wheel of the No. 9 Chevy.
His father, Invoice Ellliott, received the 1988 Cup championship and 34 races within the No. 9 Ford owned by Harry Melling. The elder Elliott scored 4 further victories when he revived the quantity whereas driving for Ray Evernham from 2001-2003.
“I simply suppose it’s a great match,” Elliott mentioned. “Anyone who has adopted my profession in any respect identifies me and my household, my years within the Xfinity Collection and quick monitor vehicles, with the No. 9. It simply suits.
“It’s going to be enjoyable with all of the change subsequent 12 months at HMS. I believe our crowd is ready and definitely attempting to set forth a plan to have the longer term in good arms. I believe William and Alex are going to do a great job subsequent 12 months. They’ve confirmed they know what they’re doing and know how you can win—and I count on them to just do that.”
Elliott is happy with how his relationship has developed with Alan Gustafson and the staff. Over the previous two years, he has developed appreciable respect for the veteran crew chief and the methods in place at Hendrick Motorsports.
“I believe the way in which Alan does issues are the way in which that they have to be executed,” Elliott mentioned. “I consider in how we lay out our weeks, how we do our conferences, how we get collectively and speak, how we don’t speak typically. We simply don’t speak the speak, we attempt to converse when it’s going to imply one thing. I put lots of belief within the course of he’s created. Frankly, we’re not going to vary issues. I simply hope that we do it higher.
“Our staff actually ended the season disillusioned for the alternatives we missed over these remaining weeks and never making it to Homestead after being so shut a few occasions. However to run like we did, the way in which we did over these final 10 weeks, was higher than I’ve ever run within the Cup Collection so far. It was lots of enjoyable to have the ability to run like that.
“To have the ability to compete for wins, run up entrance, come down pit highway and have the pit stops that we did. Every part was clicking fairly good. Not good, however fairly good. I believe we’ll have good issues to construct on for subsequent 12 months. I believe we’re in a great place.”