CONCORD, N.C. – Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, Chase Elliott led his Hendrick Motorsports teammates to the checkered flag in second place.
And there was plenty to take away from another exciting race.
BUMMED, BUT PROUD OF NO. 24 TEAM
With nine laps to go Sunday, Elliott took the green flag as the race leader. But he was passed on the restart, falling to third before recovering to earn a runner-up result.
“Bummer again here,” Elliott said. “That's a couple races in a row in just a few short months here at this place we had a really good car, had an opportunity. That's one thing I try really hard to do is make the most of opportunities when they're presented. Obviously I didn't do a very good job of that here both trips.”
Elliott alluded to the June trip to Michigan, where like this Sunday he led more than 30 laps but finished second after a late restart.
While he was disappointed not to find Victory Lane, he credited the No. 24 team for helping put him in that position.
“I just think we've had two good cars here,” he said. “I think my guys did a job of seeing this new aero package trying to adjust the balance aero-wise and find a good spot, a happy place to come to the racetrack with it. They did a really good job of that two times in a row.”
He was quick to point out that the team’s stellar performance on pit road Sunday was crucial to keeping him toward the front of the pack all afternoon.
“I think my guys did a really good job (Sunday),” Elliott said. “That's the biggest thing I'm frustrated with. I hate it for them more than I do for me. They absolutely bailed me out a couple times today. I asked them to, and they did. They got us the lead back. That's tough to do.”
He hopes that next time he’ll be able to turn that second-place into his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win.
“They certainly deserved it,” he said.
‘GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION’
For the second consecutive week, Jimmie Johnson took home a top-10 finish Sunday at Michigan.
With Elliott finishing second, Kasey Kahne earning 14th and Alex Bowman running in the top 10 early in the race, Johnson was happy to see the organization’s production.
“Just a very good day for all of Hendrick Motorsports,” he said. “Unfortunately, one of our cars didn’t win today.”
But Elliott came close, and both the rookie and Johnson led more than 30 laps in the event.
That didn’t surprise teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who shared his sentiment on Twitter.
Johnson explained how his day unfolded, and he was proud of the hard work the No. 48 team put in all afternoon.
“We had an issue with some fueling on pit road that dropped us back,” he said. “Then I thought I had a right-rear tire going down. To rally back and end up sixth is good. We are working hard and it’s nice to see the speed showing. There has been a lot of hard work for months and months and months going into this. We didn’t see the consistency in speed that we wanted, but this weekend we had it from day one until now. It’s going in the right direction.”
The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS saw Michigan’s result as a sign of good things to come as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup draws closer.
“We feel like we are doing the right things to get speed in our cars,” he said, “and fortunately we still have a few months before we have to race for a championship at Homestead.”
FIRST WIN NEARLY ACHIEVED
With less than 20 laps remaining, Elliott looked poised to take home his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win, but it was ultimately Kyle Larson who earned his first victory.
“When we took that last restart I saw three guys up there that hadn’t won before, in my mind I thought, ‘Man, I hope one of these guys gets it,’” Johnson said. “Certainly, Chase being a Hendrick car -- it’s great for our sport. They are very strong young talents.”
Still, Elliott wished that it was him who grabbed the checkered flag.
“It’s one of those things where you do or you don’t and I didn’t,” he said. “You’ve just got to recognize your mistakes, look at the positives I guess and move on down the road.”