CONCORD, N.C. -- Chase Elliott is ready to do what he can to defend his title at the Charlotte ROVAL and win his first playoff race of the season.
The 25-year-old driver is ranked seventh in the NASCAR Cup Series playoff standings and is nine points above the playoff cutline. Luckily for Elliott, the ROVAL has been kind to him since it was introduced to the Cup Series in 2018. He has won the past two times at the track and, like last season, last year[s ROVAL race was the cutoff for the Round of 12.
Now Elliott will try to make history and win at the track for the third year in a row to ensure he moves on in the playoffs.
“I think we can go and have a shot at doing that,” Elliott said. “I think we can go get stage points and I think we can vie for the win, as well. I don’t see why all that stuff is not achievable. … We have to go perform at a high level, execute a solid race, and I think if we do our part and do all the things I know we are capable of, I think we can check all the boxes.”
Elliott’s ROVAL wins have not been a walk in the park. In 2019 he rebounded to take the checkered flag after he infamously slammed into a barrier off turn one. He also had to battle from the back in 2020 after dealing with a loose wheel halfway through the race.
The Georgia native said he was able charge up front and win not because it was easy, but because he was precise and methodical.
“There’s nowhere to go if you make a mistake or run off course,” Elliott said. “It’s definitely a really fine balance. (It’s) coming back to having pace. Fortunately, the last couple of years we’ve had good pace. And when you have that, I think you’re able to make smarter decisions and be able to have confidence in moving forward. … If we can have good pace and the car does what I want it to do, then I can extract everything out of it. Our options are definitely more abundant and we can have a solid day.”
Even though Elliott isn’t leading the playoffs, he isn't losing sleep over his standings. He won three cutoff races in a row last year to secure the Cup Series championship, even when it looked like he was out of contention. Elliott has embraced the back-against-the-wall situations that arise from the playoffs, which have helped him remain focused on the final prize.
“I think you have to enjoy each shot,” he said. “Getting to that final four and having a shot to race for the championship, you’re in a must-win and a must-perform situation there, so the more you enjoy these moments of not having a lot of breathing room, not having a lot of buffers points-wise, not having a win to carry you through; all those things are better preparing you for an opportunity at a championship if you get in that final four.
“So, I personally like it. It has me excited to go to the racetrack and looking forward to the opportunity.”
Elliott will have his chance to uphold his ROVAL title this Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on NBC.