CONCORD, N.C. – The No. 9 team is officially locked into the Round of 8 of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
But that doesn’t mean the remaining two races in the Round of 12 are any less important.
“It's nice to be able to know you're going to move on, but you can't get complacent in the fact that you are moving on,” Chase Elliott said. “You can't let those points just sit out there and not try to go get them. Because those bonus points you get for winning or winning a stage, that's huge, and you need as many as you can get. One or two points could be the difference in you making the Round of 4 or not.”
No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson echoed those sentiments.
He noted that the team’s mindset won’t change – they’ll be looking to win.
This weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, however, if there’s an opportunity to help fellow playoff teammate Alex Bowman and the No. 88 team, Elliott and the No. 9 team will take it.
“Talladega is a little bit different because we can certainly assist the 88 in their efforts and we can do whatever we can to help him out and try to put him in position to win,” Gustafson said. “And if he can’t win, certainly we want to be the people who win the race. That’s our focus.”
Then, in the Round of 12 finale at Kansas Speedway, Elliott will look to utilize the valuable information the No. 9 team gained during a test at the track last month.
Elliott drove his No. 9 Chevy to the fastest speed on the first day of the test, reaching 186.477 mph, and noted that he was pleasantly surprised how “friendly to move around” the track was when it comes to utilizing different lanes.
“At Kansas, we had a great test,” Gustafson said. “So, we’re going to go there and work on our mile-and-a-half program and try hard to win that race.”
Through it all, the driver and crew chief both reiterated how important it will be to stack as many bonus points as they can to help close the gap to the competitors in front of them in the point standings.
With a trip to the next round already assured, they can focus on their goals without the fear of elimination.
“We are going to keep the hammer down,” Elliott said, “and see what we can do.”