CONCORD, N.C. – "We’ve just had a good few weeks."
Chase Elliott's words about his recent run of three straight top-two finishes, which includes wins at Nashville Superspeedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway, is more than a bit of an understatement. Nonetheless, it’s been the strongest portion of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet team’s season to date.
The two wins and the sweep of the stages at Atlanta have helped the Dawsonville, Georgia, native grow his playoff point total to 20 this season. That doesn’t account for the potential 15 playoff points he could earn as the regular season champion. Currently, he is atop the point standings with seven races to go in the regular season and holding a 47-marker lead on Ryan Blaney.
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"We want more," Elliott told HendrickMotorsports.com of adding to his playoff point total. "I don't think any number is safe. I mean we've seen guys have a massive amount of playoff points and still not make the Championship 4. It doesn't guarantee you a shot to race at Phoenix (Raceway), but you better your odds and I think the more you can hedge that bet, the better. We want to continue to push. Continue to try to be there for stage wins, try to be up front and have shots at race wins.
"We'd love to have those 15 (playoff points) at the end of the regular season too. That's certainly within reach and we want try to achieve that."
Elliott's top-two streak marks his third such streak in the last three seasons. He started one en route to his 2020 NASCAR Cup Series championship and in 2021, he had a three-race top-two streak that included his Circuit of The Americas win.
All those streaks have come paired with crew chief Alan Gustafson, who has been the only crew chief Elliott has had in the Cup Series ranks. In seven seasons together, the duo has 16 wins – tied for the second-most among active driver-crew chief pairings.
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"I think we're both pretty similar as it pertains to just how we go about our business," Elliott said of the longtime crew chief. "I know what he expects of me. He knows what I expect of him. He lets me do my thing and doesn't ask questions and I let him do his and don't ask questions. It's just a really simple, straightforward way of going to work. I've enjoyed working with him. He's been a great leader of our team and I think he's the best around. I feel very fortunate to have fallen in the situation that I did there when Jeff (Gordon) stepped away and he assembled that team."
Coming off his third win of the 2022 season, the 26-year-old will now come to a track that has been a tough one for him in his Cup Series career. New Hampshire Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s race, is a track where Elliott has a top five and two top 10s in eight starts. Gustafson has two of Hendrick Motorsports’ nine wins at the Loudon, New Hampshire, track.
Yet, in Elliott’s last four starts at the 1.058-mile venue, that is known as "The Magic Mile," he has both of his top 10s and his 85 laps led during that stretch stands as the sixth-best mark in the series.
"I mean, honestly, it's been a struggle," Elliott said of his New Hampshire history. "Very mediocre at best runs. We’ve been solid on a couple occasions, but never anything earth-shattering through the course of my time in Cup or anything I've ever raced there. I expect it to be a bit of a fight this weekend.
"When you go to a track that you historically haven't had a lot of success at, it's an opportunity to try to be better and at least try to make a step forward. That's kind of where my head's at. How can we change the narrative just a little bit. If we can go from mediocre to good. I'm not saying we have to go hit a home run but just better than we've been."
Elliott noted that he expected to see a lot of shifting and was curious to see how that would play itself out.
The field will be split into two groups for practice on Saturday starting at 11:35 a.m. ET (coverage on NBC Sports App with USA Network joining in progress at noon ET). Group qualifying will follow at 12:25 p.m. ET (also on USA Network). Sunday’s 301-lap race will be held at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network, PRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.