CONCORD, N.C. – For Chase Elliott, the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series season was one for the books.
From three race wins, including his first career Cup Series victory – Hendrick Motorsports’ 250th – to advancing all the way to the Round of 8 in the playoffs, Elliott and the No. 9 team continued to make strides throughout the season.
“Being able to get a few wins was really big,” Elliott said. “I struggled a little throughout the first half of the season, but we got it going the second half. Just not quite enough there at the end. I felt like we peaked at the right time and did some great things in the playoffs. Just not enough at the right time. That was the difference in not making it (to the Championship 4).”
Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights from Elliott’s 2018 season.
WIN NO. 1
With a win at Watkins Glen International in August, Elliott earned his first career NASCAR Cup Series win, leading Hendrick Motorsports to its historic 250th victory in the process.
Elliott had amassed eight runner-up finishes before capturing his first career Cup Series victory – and it came at a road course. His father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, also collected eight runner-up finishes before his first win, which came at a road course – Riverside International Raceway.
At 22 years old, Elliott also became the youngest driver to win at a road course.
“Working on three years, hadn’t won one and came here with a great opportunity today and I was able to get it done,” Elliott said in Victory Lane. “Just thank you to all the fans – you guys were rowdy after that checkered flag.”
In three road course races in 2018, Elliott’s average finish was 3.67, the best of all drivers.
THREE STRAIGHT PLAYOFFS
In each of his three seasons competing full-time in the Cup Series, Elliott has been a postseason participant. In 2018, the driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 advanced to the Round of 8 for the second consecutive season, and he finished only two positions away from advancing to the Championship 4.
Elliott finished sixth in the NASCAR Cup Series final standings in 2018, making it the 18th straight year Hendrick Motorsports has had a driver finish in the top six in points. He’s also finished in the top 10 in points in all three of his full-time Cup Series seasons, and he earned his best finish on 10 of the 24 tracks on which he raced in 2018.
With three victories, including two Round of 12 wins, Elliott became the second-youngest driver to earn three wins, 11 runner-up results and 33 top-five finishes, and the youngest driver to capture 59 top-10s.
His 42 top-10 finishes since 2018 is fifth-most among all Cup Series driver and he is one of only four drivers with at least 21 top-10 finishes in each of the last two seasons.
PAIR OF ROUND OF 12 VICTORIES
In 2018, Elliott saved his best for when it mattered the most.
In the opening Round of 12 playoff race at Dover International Speedway, Elliott captured his second career win to clinch his spot in the Round of 8.
Starting the day in ninth, Elliott overcame an early uncontrolled tire violation and utilized a strategy call by the No. 9 team to stay on the track during a late caution to take the lead. He held that lead through multiple restarts to ultimately capture the victory in overtime.
“Just perseverance and some good adjustments throughout the day,” Elliott said at the time. “Just a great effort. I appreciate everybody.”
Two weeks later, Elliott was in Victory Lane for the third time in 11 races.
The win at Kansas Speedway was Elliott’s first win on a 1.5-mile track, and he became the youngest driver to win a Cup Series race at Kansas.
NASCAR’S MOST POPULAR DRIVER
After Dale Earnhardt Jr. was named NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver from 2003 to 2017, the award made its return to the Elliott household in 2018.
The elder Elliott, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill, holds the record for the most all-time Most Popular Driver honors with 16, and this year, the younger Elliott picked up his first Most Popular Driver award at this year’s 2018 awards banquet in Las Vegas.
“It’s definitely an honor," Elliott said on stage.
"It's so cool that it's stayed between Elliott and Earnhardt for so long," Elliott said before joking to Earnhardt, "I am glad though that you quit a year before you broke Dad's record, so that's pretty cool, I'm pretty happy about that. We got it back in the right name."