RICHMOND, Va. – When Chase Elliott’s was day was cut short after being involved in a multiple-car incident in last weekend’s playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, his mind was already locked in on getting back in the race car.
“I got in the plane to go home on Sunday after the race, the race is still going on and I’m leaving,” Elliott recalled Friday at Richmond Raceway. “I’m just like, ‘Man, I wish we were lining up to run Richmond right now. I don’t want to wait a week. I want to go now and try to fix it.’”
Now, the Richmond race weekend is here, and Elliott has a chance to rebound from a 36th-place finish at Las Vegas.
Even with the result, the driver was pleased with the strong performance all race long by the No. 9 team. He garnered a pair of top 10 results in Stage 1 and 2 and was running inside the top 10 when the incident occurred midway through the final segment.
“Just having probably one of the best 1.5-mile cars that we’ve had all year, we had one of the worst results of the season,” Elliott said. “It’s just the way it goes. And with the way format is now, stuff happens. In that situation, I don’t know what you’d do any differently. We had a solid day going.”
In addition to his performance at Las Vegas, Elliott also sees each of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates making steady on-track improvements as well.
“I thought last week, as a whole, we were probably about as good as we’ve been all year, which was encouraging,” he said. “That’s good. That’s only going to help all of us.”
Going from a 1.5-mile track at Las Vegas to a 0.75-mile short track Saturday night at Richmond, Elliott doesn’t see the transition as a hindrance to Hendrick Motorsports’ progress.
“Typically, the same guys win every week,” Elliot said. “Ultimately, they have the fastest cars or are the best drivers. So, in my mind, I’m thinking I know they’re not very similar (Las Vegas and Richmond), but the same people run good everywhere. If you’ve made a gain somewhere, it’s probably going to show up here, too.”
Currently 14th in the playoff standings, Elliott sits two spots away from making the Round of 12, nine points below the cutoff line, with two races remaining in the opening round. In his third consecutive year competing in the 16-driver playoffs, he said it might be the most talented playoff field he’s been a part of.
“I feel like this year, it’s about as strong as it’s been since I’ve been involved,” he said. “It’s going to be tough all the way down through this round, the Round of 12, the Round of 8 and so on.”
A lot is at stake, but he and the No. 9 team are committed to holding their composure and continuing the same preparation that has gotten them to this point.
“I expect (Saturday) night to be hard-fought,” Elliot said. “I can’t say that I’m going to do things a whole lot different because you can get yourself in trouble trying to overreach a lot easier than you can just trying to do what you normally do. We normally try to win, so that’s not going to change (Saturday) night.”