CONCORD, N.C. – One race remains in the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, and Chase Elliott is ready to capitalize.
At the conclusion of Sunday’s race at ISM Raceway, the Championship 4 will be set. And Elliott wants to ensure he makes the cut.
The only way for the driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to guarantee his spot in the finale with a shot at a championship is to win this Sunday’s race.
He could also advance on points, but he would need help depending on the race winner.
“The No. 9 team and I are looking forward to heading to Phoenix this weekend,” Elliott said. “We have to win this week, so we are going to go to work and try to get it done.”
Currently, Elliott is sixth in the playoff standings, 17 points behind the fourth-place competitor, Kevin Harvick, who would be the last one to advance.
With Joey Logano already locked into the Championship 4, three positions are up for grabs. Ahead of Elliott in the standings vying for those spots are Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Harvick and Kurt Busch. Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer are also in the running, though they're currently behind Elliott at seventh and eighth in the standings.
"Ultimately, you've got to be in a must‑win situation at Homestead if you ever make it down there, so you might as well get used to it and like it," Elliott said.
Sunday will be Elliott’s sixth Cup Series start at ISM Raceway. In his five previous starts, he averages a starting and finishing position of 6.8 – the second-best average finish at the track of all time.
He has earned top-10 finishes in all but one event at the venue – when he finished 12th – led a total of 140 laps and earned top-three results in his last two trips there.
“I feel good about Phoenix – we’ve run pretty good there in the past,” Elliott said. “I think it has actually been one of my more consistent tracks.”
Adding another wrinkle to the proceedings, Sunday’s race will be No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson’s 500th start.
Gustafson said that winning the milestone race in order to advance to the Championship 4 would be “pretty fantastic.”
And he believes the team has a real opportunity to make it happen.
“We are trying to win – our outlook hasn’t changed,” the crew chief said. “I feel like we will stack up a little better to the competition there than last week. We had a strong run in the spring, obviously that doesn’t mean anything going back, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
“We are going to do everything we can, I can promise you that.”