CONCORD, N.C. -- Chase Elliott knows there is a lot on the line during this weekend’s Round of 12 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE said it’s no secret that drivers need to secure stage points to help them move on to the next round. Even though the event at Las Vegas is the first race in the Round of 12, drivers who earn stage points or stage wins have a bigger padding, allowing them a larger chance to move on to the next playoff round.
“Stage points are huge and everybody knows that now,” Elliott said. “Ten or 20 points in a stage – that’s a ton. So, I think everybody knows how important stages are and what they can mean, especially stage wins. Getting that extra bonus point is a huge thing, too. … And it’s just gotten more and more aggressive as time has gone on to perform well in stages.”
Elliott hasn’t had too much of an issue with stage points this season. The 24-year-old drive has seven stage wins and 235 stage points earned this season. Two of those stage wins came at the Las Vegas track earlier this season. Elliott won Stages 1 and 2 but a flat left-rear tire sent him into the wall and caused him to finish 26th.
Even though Elliott had a good spring run at Vegas until he sustained the flat tire, he knows this race will have very different conditions. It’s expected to be 98 degrees in Las Vegas around the start time of the race, but the track will be cooling down as the event heads into the evening.
“It’s going to be a good bit hotter,” Elliot said. “I feel like all these tracks can be temperature sensitive, for sure. I think this race, as early as it gets dark out, it will probably end at night like it did last year. That will be interesting and I’m sure it will have a pretty big swing from the beginning of the race to the end. Hopefully, we’re on top of that and try to have things rolling.”
Even though Elliott had a solid run at the track in February, his on-track history at Las Vegas has had its highs and lows. In seven Cup Series starts at the track, he didn’t finish the race due to accidents three times. However, Elliott also has had two top-five finishes and another top-10 there.
“I thought we had our best run going here in the spring race this year,” Elliott said. “I think the key would be to run like we were in the spring and not have a flat tire. That would be a fantastic opportunity, I think, to have a solid day.”
After Las Vegas, Elliott and the rest of the field will move on to Talladega and then the Charlotte Roval. Despite having victories at both those venues, Elliott isn’t thinking that far ahead.
“I’m going to go into this weekend and really focus on Vegas,” he said “I’m not going to dwell on next week yet. We have a whole race here at Vegas this weekend to try to perform, get a win and move on the right way.”
Elliott and the No. 9 team will start their engines at Las Vegas on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.