CONCORD, N.C. – With 10 laps to go Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, Chase Elliott saw his lead slip away, and with it his opportunity to join the Championship 4 with a shot at a title next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The No. 24 team entered the race knowing it had to find Victory Lane in order to advance in the playoffs, and it very nearly did just that.
“I felt like I gave my 110 percent today, although very disappointed, again, to be so dang close to winning and having a chance to race for a championship,” Elliott said. “Learning the hard way, I guess, in some ways, but it's hopefully making me a better person and making us better down the road.”
The driver of the No. 24 Hooters Chevrolet SS led 34 laps at Phoenix, 14 of which came in the first stage of the race. After battling inside the top 10 for the majority of the remainder of the race, he used a handful of restarts to make a big move back into the lead with less than 30 laps to go.
But Matt Kenseth retook the lead for the final 10 laps to capture the win, relegating Elliott to second.
“I gave everything I had to try to get a big enough gap so that I could try to keep Matt back there, and tried with everything I had, and it wasn't enough,” Elliott said. “I just hate it so bad for my team. They've been so close to winning a handful of races the past couple years, and just like I told them after the race, at some point I've got to figure out how to close better, and I take responsibility for that.”
Through it all, Elliott felt the unwavering support provided by his fans.
“That means a lot to me to have great support and great fans,” he said. “You know, I want people to pull for whoever they want to pull for and it be genuine, and if that's me, then I certainly will take all the help I can get, so I appreciate each and every one of the folks here that came out, that had the right hats and shirts on and even the ones that didn't. Happy to have them, and hopefully we can – I just want to make them proud someday and tried to do it today.”
Though Elliott won’t have a shot at a championship this year, he still has one final race in 2017 to make his mark behind the wheel of the No. 24 Chevrolet SS.
“We'll try to go to Homestead next week, finish the season as strong as we can,” he said, “and then get ready to come at them next year as hard as possible.”