CHICAGO – With three straight top-five finishes, Chase Elliott is inching closer towards pushing his way into the playoff picture. 

Elliott’s third-place run in the inaugural street race at Chicago was the latest result in a summer upswing for the No. 9 team. In the two races before the Windy City event, he finished fifth at Sonoma Raceway and fourth at Nashville Superspeedway. The 27-year-old driver is the only driver to finish in the top five in the past three events. 

RELATED: Elliott, Larson earn top-five finishes at Chicago

In Chicago, Elliott started at the back after going to the backup No. 9 Hooters Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 following an incident in qualifying. The first two stages were far from smooth sailing. He hit the tire barrier in turn two on lap 26 and that led to him pitting under yellow for repairs on lap 31. That marked Elliott’s final pit stop as crew chief Alan Gustafson used strategy to get his driver track position.

After finishing stage two in 25th, Elliott restarted third on lap 49 and was able to maintain a top-three position over the final 29 laps. He got up to second but couldn’t track down Justin Haley for the lead. On lap 68, eventual race winner Shane Van Gisbergen used fresher tires to pass him. 

"I appreciate the effort and the willingness to keep fighting by everybody on our team," Elliott said of the hard-fought weekend. "I appreciate that and looking forward to going back to work and trying to get better."

PHOTOS: See all of Elliott's wins at Hendrick Motorsports

With eight races left in the regular season, Elliott is 55 points outside of the playoffs and 24th in the standings. His Chicago result shaved nine points off his deficit and he needs to gain an average of seven points per race on the provisional cutline to make the playoffs on points (based on the cutline remaining at the 16th position in the standings). There is a path to the postseason on points, but Elliott is looking to find a surer way into the tournament. 

"I am still of the mindset that we need to win," Elliott said. "I need to do a lot better job than I did this weekend to go win. We were gifted an opportunity there at the end and I just could not comfortably out-brake someone enough than really putting myself in a vulnerable position. I felt like when we got the track position, I was trying to get Justin (Haley) as quick as I could. I knew Shane (Van Gisbergen) was coming and I needed to get that pass done quicker and try to get going there."

Elliott is the defending summer race winner at his home track on the Cup Series circuit, Atlanta Motor Speedway. That victory was part of a 2022 summer surge that saw the driver of the No. 9 post five consecutive top-two finishes, with three triumphs in that stretch. For the Dawsonville, Georgia, native, the win on the 1.54-mile track holds a special meaning to him. 

"One of the more special days throughout my racing career," Elliott said of his win last year at Atlanta. "To win at your home track is such a huge thing for any driver. It is one of those moments where I’ve seen Jimmie (Johnson) win out at Fontana and different guys at their home tracks here and there. It is just different. Any race win is extremely hard to get and you certainly don’t take any win for granted. 

"When you have a day like that and a win that close to a place I’ve spent a lot of time at, especially early on in my career at the quarter mile. I thought that was a huge thing. I remember racing on that quarter mile, hoping and dreaming that I could race one day on the big track. We are just over there on the front straightaway, and you have this massive mile-and-a-half speedway that you are inside of. You want to make it there one day and have a shot on the big track. To get that checked off was a really big deal to me personally. I would love to do it again."

RELATED: See this weekend's special paint scheme

This weekend, Elliott will sport a special paint scheme as part of his foundation’s “DESI9N TO DRIVE” program benefitting Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (Children’s). In partnership with NAPA and Hendrick Motorsports, Elliott’s race car and all elements of his race uniform – racing suit, gloves, shoes and helmet – were designed by two cancer patients at Children’s.

Tune in to see Elliott compete at Atlanta on Sunday, July 9, at 7 p.m. ET on USA Network, NBC Sports App, PRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).