CONCORD, N.C. -- Chase Elliott described how Sunday’s win at Martinsville Speedway was not only his biggest personal win in his NASCAR Cup Series career, but the biggest win for the No. 9 team.
The 24-year-old driver overcame several obstacles to win Sunday night and earn a spot in the Championship 4, including a couple of slow pit stops that put him behind. However, Elliott said the No. 9 crew always has been capable of being a championship-caliber team.
“I think it's huge for me, personally,” Elliott said of making it to the Championship 4. “I think it's huge for our team as a whole - each and every person that puts in time and effort to try to make our program work. I think when you're able to be in a position that we were in, like we were (Sunday), (and) have to go to perform and go and do that, I think everybody gains a lot of confidence from it.
“We proved to ourselves that we can do it. I think we have always believed we can do it. But to go out there and achieve it certainly is something we haven't experienced yet as a group.”
Despite leading for 236 laps and winning Stage 2, there were moments in the race where Elliott battled for the top spot. In fact, it wasn’t until there were less than 43 laps to go that he clinched the top position and stayed out front to win his first race at Martinsville.
"For me, I don't have to think back into my head very far to realize that the race isn't over till it's over,” Elliott said. “Just to be prepared for another caution, another restart, whatever it takes to try to get the job done.
“I knew everybody had their last set of tires on. We were going to be riding that set to the end. If we had a caution there with just a couple laps to go, everybody was going to be restarting on old tires. I was trying to think about that, tried to be prepared for what was going to come.”
Luckily for Elliott, he didn’t have to restart on old tires and maintained control to earn the No. 9 team’s fourth points-paying win of the year. Now the group has to focus on crossing the finish line first in Phoenix, which Elliott is treating as a must-win situation.
“I think the worst thing we can do is to sit back and worry and watch everybody else,” he said of his competition. “I just think we need to focus on ourselves this week and really think about what we struggled with there at the first race this year, what we might need to do to be better, put our best guess on that (and) go run the race.”
The 2020 championship race will be Sunday, Nov. 8 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.