CONCORD, N.C. – At the start of this week, a dozen NASCAR Cup Series teams headed to Kansas Speedway for an organizational test.
Chase Elliott represented Hendrick Motorsports, and he found speed from the very beginning.
Elliott drove his No. 9 Chevy to the fastest speed on the first day of the test, reaching 186.477 mph.
He stayed inside the top five on the speed chart on day two, coming in fifth.
“It’s been fun,” Elliott said. “I just want to make laps here – it’s not a boring racetrack to come test at. It’s actually fun. Being up at the wall and having to hustle the cars, I enjoy that. And if you’re going to be testing, I’d rather it be something like that for sure.”
The driver shared that running along the bottom at Kansas Speedway makes for a very tight radius with sharp corners. The cars “drive easier” while utilizing the high line, but he expected to have to stay lower on the track during the test session.
He was pleasantly surprised.
“Typically, you come to a test and the lane doesn’t move up until you come back to the race,” he explained. “We were already up high yesterday trying to make time, so it’s very friendly to move around here. It doesn’t seem like the track gets a lot of sand or grid on it, so you can move around and do it pretty easily when it’s fresh for a weekend. Yeah, it’s fun.”
Elliott ventured that teams use tests like the one at Kansas in order to try out big changes rather than fine tuning the car.
He was happy with how the No. 9 team capitalized on its time at the track this week.
“Sometimes, you’ll hit on something and you might get a little bit better, so I think that’s the goal,” he said. “We come to these things and we spend two days and we might find one thing that helps us a little bit, it seems like.”
And he hopes to be able to utilize that newfound knowledge when the NASCAR Cup Series returns to the track on Oct. 21, the final race of the Round of 12 when the playoff field will be trimmed to eight.
To stay in the title hunt, however, Elliott will need a solid run this Sunday in the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course.
The uncertainty of taking on a brand-new track as the first elimination race of the playoffs has the entire field a bit wary.
“The talk has been constantly about how much we’re going to crash – and I don’t disagree with that, in a sense – but I just wonder if all the talk about it, maybe people will be a little smarter since we’ve all talked about it and not crash the field early in the race and at least have a chance to go race,” Elliott said.
The No. 9 team is currently ninth in the playoff standings with a 10-point cushion above the 13th-place driver, which would be the first one eliminated following the race.
With so much potential for incidents throughout the event, Elliott wants to be sure to tack on as many points as possible in the first two stages.
“I think qualifying will be very important throughout the weekend,” he said. “Stage points are always important, and I certainly think they will be this weekend.
“I think the intensity will ramp up as the race goes along.”