Chase Elliott scored a much needed victory last weekend at Watkins Glen. See, after winning at the Talladega Superspeedway back in April, he backed that up with four more top five finishes in-a-row. He moved all the way up to the top five in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings, a feat so high that he’s never been that far up in the standings at this point of the year before.
Then, a slide came.
For seven straight races, Elliott failed to score a top 10 finish in his No. 9 Chevrolet. While he knew he was guaranteed a spot into the playoffs, how long he’d remain in the postseason was in question.
Chase Elliott takes the checkered flag first in last Sunday’s Go Bowling at the Glen
But, not only was the win big for confidence levels, it was also big in terms of points too. See, a race win is also worth five playoff points. Stage wins are worth one playoff point a piece. Elliott, scored a max seven playoff points last Sunday. That doubled his total entering Watkins Glen.
When Kyle Busch has 28, Martin Truex Jr. with 22, Brad Keselowski 19, Denny Hamlin 18 and Joey Logano 17, Elliott only having seven prior to last Sunday would give him a tall hill to climb in order to advance further and further in the playoffs. Now, he has 14, three shy of Logano. He’s right on part with everyone else at this point moving forward.
“Yeah, and those playoff points are huge, and I think that’s the key to those guys and the advantage that those guys have, the guys that have four or five wins already,” Elliott said following his victory. “They have probably double as many playoff points as we do.
“You know, those guys that have won often and won that much, they’re just about a lock for Homestead. Almost. They have a heck of a lot of help to get there.
“That’s the kind of position you want to put yourself in before the final ten start for sure.”
Elliott, has done that in the past before. See, this is the time of year that Elliott really starts to pick up. Last year, Elliott followed his Watkins Glen with two more wins and 10 top 10 finishes over the final 14 races. Nine of those 10 were in the top seven.
In 2017, Elliott had eight top 10 finishes over the final 11 races of the year including four runner-ups. In his rookie year of 2016, he had three top four finishes in the playoffs.
If he can continue that, he can definitely be a threat come this year’s postseason. His team owner certainly thinks so.
“I think Chase (Elliott) has shown that he can win at any track,” Rick Hendrick said of Elliott last weekend. “He’s really good with equipment, doesn’t tear up anything. I think if we can get the car good enough for Chase, he can win a championship, and he can win it this year. So we’ll just have to keep tuning on the car and giving him good stuff like they did today.
“He’s just so smooth, so good, reminds me a lot of his dad. Knows when to race, doesn’t wreck a car, but he can be aggressive when he needs to.
“I think Chase is going to be a contender for a lot of years to come.”
What makes Elliott feel like the future is bright for him is the fact that they dominated last weekend. He’s never done that before. Elliott, rebounded to be quickest in final practice on Saturday. He was fourth fastest in the initial practice session on Saturday morning. He turned that into winning the pole for Sunday’s race. That turned in to a magnificent performance where Elliott led all but nine laps in a dominating victory.
“Yeah, I mean, we’ve never done this as a team,” Elliott said on his domination. “This was the first time we’ve ever gone somewhere and sat on the pole and led the most laps and won the race. I’ve never done that in my career, and I’m sure Alan (Gustafson) has at some point, but as a group we’ve never done that.
“I just feel like that to me is I feel like the biggest piece of the whole weekend is just knowing that we’re the type of team and the caliber of team that can go and put on those kind of performances, and those are the kind of performances you have to put on to compete with those guys that win often.
“We just need to go do that more often, and I think at the end we can run with them.”