CONCORD, N.C. -- Chase Elliott came out on the right side of a late-race pit stop at Kansas Speedway on Sunday after multiple yellow flags peppered the final laps of the race.
While running seventh on Sunday with 22 laps to go, Elliott opted to pit for fresh tires and fuel. Even though he returned to the track in 10th place, the move allowed Elliott to pass cars that stayed out on older tires and gave him his fourth top-five finish of the season.
“(Crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) and our UniFirst team made a good call there to come get tires,” Elliott said. “I felt like that was the right move. I know it didn’t win the race, but I felt like that was the thing to do. Those restarts just get so wild and it’s really hard to predict what lane is going to do what. You just try to make the best choice that you have available at the time and hope it goes your way.”
The fifth-place finish is a solid boost for the No. 9 team, which had gone two weeks finishing outside of the top 10. Elliott expressed optimism that the wild end to the Kansas race will give him and his crew an extra morale lift to push hard and win their first race of the season.
“I felt like we got competitive there at the end, which is the first time in a while on a 1.5-mile (track),” Elliott said. “I’m more excited about that than I am the schedule coming up. This is a ‘what have you done for me lately’ sport and you can change the narrative really fast. (I) just appreciate the effort from everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, on our No. 9 team in particular, for putting in a lot of work to try and help us get better, and I think it showed a little bit (Sunday).”
Like Elliott, teammate William Byron pitted with 22 laps left under yellow. The strategy allowed Byron to jump back into the top 10 after he slipped down the leaderboard from his second-place start at the beginning of the race.
“We fought all day,” Byron said. “The first stage looked really good, but we were fighting the balance and just wasn’t very maneuverable in traffic. We were just kind of stuck to the top lane. I could run the bottom, but it just wasn’t fast enough. … I felt like we were on both sides. We got it way too tight, way too loose, and then somewhere in the middle by the end. We got it to take off ok on the restarts and picked up a top-10. We’ll take that.”
Byron’s ninth-place finish at Kansas is his ninth top-10 result in a row, making him the youngest NASCAR Cup Series driver to have such a long string of top-10 finishes. He added he has full faith that the No. 24 team will continue to tweak his Chevrolets so he can pick up his second win of the year.
“It shows the strength of our team to finish top 10 when we don’t have a good car,” Byron said. “We’ll just keep fine-tuning those balance things and try to bring a little better package when we come back to one of these 1.5-mile tracks. We’ll work on it and definitely get better for the next one.”
The Hendrick Motorsports teammates will have their next opportunity to take the checkered flag this Sunday for the throwback event at Darlington Raceway. The race will begin at 3:30 p.m. ET and be broadcast on FS1.