LAS VEGAS – Chase Elliott led the way for Hendrick Motorsports in Saturday’s qualifying session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway by qualifying for the playoff-opening race in eighth.
He hopes to get the 10-race stretch off to a strong start as he embarks on his fourth consecutive trip to the playoffs, and he and the No. 9 team are eyeing a trip to Homestead-Miami Speedway with a shot at a championship after advancing to the Round of 8 in both of the last two years.
“I know it’s in us and we’ve just got to execute these last 10 weeks,” Elliott said. “Like I’ve said before, I really feel like when we’re at our best, we can run with those guys that you have to beat, and I don’t feel any different right now.”
There’s no question the 23-year-old driver can race with the best of them, as he displayed with two wins this season, and showing that on a regular basis is a goal of the entire No. 9 team.
“Those guys that win a lot and win often and win championships and do it regularly, until you assert yourself among that crowd, they’re not worried about you,” Elliott said. “So, until you do it and put yourself in there on your own, you have to do that first. I think we have a team that can do that. I think we’re close to doing it.”
In addition to his two wins this season, Elliott has garnered eight top-five finishes, 11 top-10s and three pole positions, which are his most in any season. His 531 laps led so far in 2019 are just 29 laps shy of his most all-time in a season.
“It’s definitely nice,” he said of his 2019 success. “I’ve never been in the position of having two wins going in, so that’s great. I would love to add on to that.”
With that success this season, the No. 9 team has built some strong momentum heading into the playoffs, stringing together four top-10 finishes in the last five races. That stretch includes a win and two top-five results.
“Momentum certainly goes a long way,” the driver said. “I learned a little bit of that last year. It was nice to get a couple of wins in the final 10; it definitely makes a big difference.
“You want to hit your stride at the right time, and now would be a great time to do that.”
The playoffs begin Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, with the race scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.