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RIDGEWAY, Va. – Chase Elliott knew he had a tall task ahead of him Sunday at Martinsville Speedway after qualifying 21st for the race.

But it didn’t take the driver of the No. 9 SunEnergy1 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 long to break into the top 10 midway through Stage 1.

“Really poor execution on our qualifying effort,” Elliott said. “Better in the race, but not near where we needed to be.”

He battled in and around the top 10 for the remainder of the Round of 8 opener, finishing Stage 1 in 11th, Stage 2 in seventh and ultimately crossing the finish line seventh.

“We needed some pace,” he said. “The guys did a great job on pit road and things to get us kind of back in the ball game, but definitely not what we want.”

The top-10 finish was a solid start to the penultimate round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, but Elliott made it clear that he wasn’t aiming for points – he was aiming for Victory Lane.

“I need to win,” he said. “I’m sure we are in a hole and probably going to have to win one of these next two races.”

Elliott is now sixth in the playoff standings, 31 points behind the fourth-place driver, which would be the last one to advance to Homestead-Miami Speedway with a shot at a championship.

Two races remain in the Round of 8 – next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway followed by an elimination race at ISM Raceway.

“I mean, playing the points game is nice,” Elliott said, “but I need another sticker.”