KANSAS CITY, Kan. – With 44 laps to go Sunday at Kansas Speedway, Chase Elliott took over the race lead for the first time.
He never relinquished it.
With Kyle Busch looking to track him down, Elliott maintained his edge all the way to Victory Lane to capture his third victory of the season – all within the past 11 races.
“I’m just so appreciative,” Elliott said. “Crazy to have done it a couple times in a few weeks, but definitely not taking it for granted.”
Elliott has visited Victory Lane twice in the past three weeks, capturing wins in two of the three Round of 12 races in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
The fact that he was able to run with some of the best in the sport – and outpace them for the win – gives him even more confidence moving forward into the Round of 8.
“I feel like we are amongst those guys that you have to beat and I think that is all you can ask for,” Elliott said. “We are getting better. I think we still have room to improve, but the last month or two has been way closer to where we need to be.”
Throughout Sunday’s win, quick work by the No. 9 team on pit road allowed Elliott to gain key positions on the racetrack.
Prior to the start of the final segment, Elliott picked up two spots on pit road to move from fourth to second. And during the final cycle of green-flag pit stops late in the race, Elliott headed to pit road in second and returned to the track in the lead once the full field cycled through.
“So proud of my race team and the pit stops we had today, and (No. 9 team crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) made some great calls,” Elliott said. “We just can’t get complacent. This is a huge time of year. We have a lot of work to do and a long ways to go.”
Elliott now enters the Round of 8 ranked fourth in the standings with 4,018 points. Sunday’s win earned him five additional playoff points, the importance of which Gustafson said can’t be understated.
“The five points mean a lot and it helps us close the gap, but we know we’ve got to go to the next round and win, and that’s the key,” the crew chief said. “That was our focus. We’re going to have to win races to move on and we’re going to have to win Homestead to win the championship. Winning is key and any time you can do it, I think it gives you a little more confidence.”
The Round of 8 begins next weekend at Martinsville Speedway. As the No. 9 team leaves the Round of 12 in the rear-view mirror, the group will look to continue to build on what it has accomplished.
“It was a great round for us, for sure,” Elliott smiled. “We’ll try to keep it going. This is not the time to let up.”