HAMPTON, Ga. – With friends and family watching on, Chase Elliott rolled off the grid Sunday in his No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS at Atlanta Motor Speedway – his home track – for the first time in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career.
And 500 miles later, he took the checkered flag for the first top-10 finish of his Cup career.
Coming off a Daytona 500 pole award in his debut season opener, Elliott was looking for a good finish at the track where he spent a lot of time growing up.
“Last week was a bummer for sure,” Elliott said of being sidelined during the Daytona 500 for 40 laps due to an early-race incident. “I think the big goal today was just try to run 500 miles and try to stay on the lead lap. I’m really proud that once the green flag dropped, we were able to move forward and gain some ground.”
Elliott started the 500-mile race just inside the top 25 and by the midway point of the race, which went without a caution flag, found himself inside the top 10.
“Just the longest green-flag run I’ve ever been a part of for sure, so I’m definitely worn out and I will be going to bed early,” he laughed.
After the first caution of the event on Lap 210, Elliott returned to the track just outside the top 10 but made quick work of securing a position inside that mark again, which is where he stayed the remainder of the race.
“I am really proud of the effort today,” the driver said. “Really, really solid NAPA Chevrolet. Just happy to be a part of this team, everybody fought awfully hard. We are excited about today. I think it is something to build off of. It’s not perfect, it’s a start.”
In fact, teammate Jimmie Johnson called it “a great start,” and Dale Earnhardt Jr. said that he was both “proud” and “not surprised” at Elliott’s top-10 run in Atlanta.
Elliott had been looking forward to returning home for the Atlanta race, and to perform well there was an achievement in itself.
“It’s definitely special to be here at Atlanta and have a strong run,” the Dawsonville, Georgia, native said. “I’m very happy about that and definitely a very special feeling to walk out before the race and to see the support in the stands of a lot of people that are close – this is close to home for me – and a lot of people around here supporting our race team, so that was really cool.”
Elliott is confident in his No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS team’s ability to build upon what it learned in Atlanta.
“We’re excited to try to get on to Vegas and most of all just take what we had today and try to improve on it,” he said. “I think we’re working hard, and hopefully we can get in the right direction.”