CONCORD, N.C. – Chase Elliott's strong race at Kansas Speedway has positioned the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts team to advance in the owner playoffs with one race remaining the Round of 16.
Elliott's sixth-place finish saw him score the fourth-most points (41), lead his most laps in a race this year (47) and earn his best result on a 1.5-mile track in 2023. He nearly scored the stage two win but was passed for the lead with three laps to go, ultimately finishing the segment in third.
In the final stage, the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion was running third when the caution came out to set an overtime finish. The late-race yellow prompted a variety of pit road strategies for the two-lap sprint to the finish. Crew chief Alan Gustafson brought his driver down for four fresh tires, lining Elliott up to restart eighth. He gained two spots in the closing two laps to score his 12th top-10 finish of the season.
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"Overall, it was a good day for our NAPA team," Elliott said. "Our Chevrolet’s balance was really good, and I felt like we kept making gains throughout the race and had good speed. It was nice to get up there and lead some laps. If things had gone our way at the end, I think we would have had a shot at racing for the win."
Leaving Kansas, Elliott and the No. 9 team are eighth in the owner standings and are plus-12 to the elimination line. The owner championship carries every bit of importance to teams as the driver championship does. It takes into account all the results for the car number in a given season. In addition to Elliott’s stats, these standings also include the finishes and points from the seven races that the Dawsonville, Georgia, native missed earlier in the year. Despite the good position in the owner standings, there is nothing that can be taken for granted.
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"A lot can change in one race, a lot can change in one half of an event and a lot can change within the opening two stages," Elliott said of the playoffs. "Three races is just a compact time period in the grand scheme of the season. I’m always reminded every year that there is something crazy that happens."
Elliott and the No. 9 team are coming on strong as the summer turns to fall. Over the last three races, the 27-year-old driver has top 10s in each event, the second-best average finish (6.00) and scored the third-most points (111). The pit crew of Chad Avrit (rear-tire changer), Jared Erspamer (tire carrier), John Gianninoto (fueler), Nick O’Dell (front-tire changer) and T.J. Semke (jackman) has been solid, posting an average four-tire stop at Kansas of 10.467 seconds. This mark is nearly a full second better than their season average of 11.399 seconds, which ranked ninth prior to Sunday’s race.
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Next up for the team is the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The 0.533-mile Tennessee short track has been a good one for Elliott and it was the site of his 2020 All-Star Race victory. His 439 laps led are the third-most for him at any track on the schedule. In 12 points-paying starts, Elliott has four top-five finishes, six top-10s, one pole and an average finish of 12.3. His best runs at Bristol have come in the nighttime event where he has three top-five finishes and four top-10s in the last five events. The lone finish outside the top 10 resulted from a cut tire occurring during late-race contact for the lead – in a race where Elliott led 129 laps.
Tune in to watch Elliott and the No. 9 team battle at "The Last Great Colosseum" on Saturday, Sept. 16, at 6:30 p.m. ET on USA Network, NBC Sports App, PRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).