CONCORD, N.C. – Chase Elliott knows what he has to do this weekend.
Currently eighth in the playoff standings, 78 points behind fourth place, the driver of the No. 9 NAPA AutoCare Center Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has one more opportunity this Sunday to race his way into the Championship 4.
“We’re in the position we’re in,” he said. “We’re there, it’s reality, and we certainly are going to have to win here to have a shot next week.”
He'll look to become the second driver in NASCAR playoffs history to enter the final race in the Round of 8 outside the top four and make it to the championship. In 2014, Kevin Harvick headed to ISM Raceway eighth in the playoff standings and won the race, advancing on to race for a championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Elliott will aim to match that feat with his own trip to Victory Lane on Sunday.
“When your back’s up against the wall, you have to go perform,” he said. “I think the better you feel about that situation and the more you embrace it, the better off you’ll be. As a team, not that we’ve had a choice, but I feel like we’ve definitely embraced it.”
The driver pointed to his team’s performance at Kansas in the Round of 12 finale, when a runner-up result allowed him to advance to the next round after entering the race 22 points below the cut-off line, as evidence of the group’s mettle.
This time around, he’ll look to finish one position better. And he’ll do so at a track where he has seen his fair share of success.
In his previous seven starts at ISM Raceway, Elliott has led a total of 156 laps and won two stages. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native has finished in the top three in two of his last four starts at the track and averages a finishing position of 10.1, fifth-best all-time at the venue.
“I’m really looking forward to the weekend,” he said. “We’re just going to go and do our thing, have fun and try to put ourselves in the position to win.”
No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson has a winning history at ISM Raceway, having visited Victory Lane three times – the third-most by a crew chief at the track – with three different drivers.
So, while the team would prefer to be in a better position entering the final race of the Round of 8, they’re ready to take on the challenge.
“It’s definitely not where you want to be by any means, but I do think just to still have a chance this weekend is good,” Elliott said. “I feel like our team has worked really hard to get us this far.”
While an axle issue at Martinsville and damage following contact with the wall early in the race at Texas left him with finishes of 36th and 32nd to start the round, Elliott is not dwelling on the past. The opportunity to advance is still right in front of him.
“There’s three races in every round for a reason,” the driver said. “You just can’t let those first two weeks affect your mindset and your approach and your aggressiveness or your will to want to win in this last opportunity for us. Just because we’re in a tough spot and it’s our last chance to make it to Homestead doesn’t mean it’s over. We still have an entire race on Sunday.”
The Round of 8 finale at ISM Raceway is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday on NBC.
“If we win on Sunday, we can race again next week and have a shot at it,” Elliott said. “It’s just not over until it’s over.”