For the second time in four weeks, Chase Elliott had an engine blow in his No. 9 Chevrolet. In the opening race of the Round of 12, Elliott saw his engine expire just seven laps into the Drydene 400 at the Dover International Speedway. This time, his engine expires in practice which is why Elliott isn’t necessarily concerned with his chances in Sunday’s First Data 500 (3 p.m. ET/NBCSN/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
It’s one thing to blow an engine during a race, it’s another when it’s in practice. A race means end of the day. Practice means, you can swap engines or even go to a backup car. For Elliott, he knows that he will start in the back for Sunday’s opening race of the Round of 8, so they took their time in getting the backup car just right.
Elliott, who came into the Round of 8 opener at Martinsville Speedway six points behind Joey Logano for the final Championship 4 spot.
“It is what it is at this point” Elliott said. “I think to keep things simple for us, we’ve got to try to win. If you’re not in a position to win, get as many points as possible. I just think that keeps things simple for you.”
The mindset may be simple, but the execution has proven to be far from it. Martinsville has seen only one winner in its 70-plus years start outside of the top 25. That came in 2002 when Kurt Busch won from the 36th starting spot driving for Jack Roush.
Martinsville is a bullring. The close confines of the Virginia short track can compound problems, and one mistake can bury you laps down to the leader.
“Every race has a little bit of a wild card aspect,” Elliott said. “I mean who knows how restarts are going to go or if you are going to get some damage, have a fender rub or crash. I do think the people who always run good here are always going to be good, and I think they are going to be good here this weekend and if you can outrun those guys you probably have a shot to win.”
Elliott, finished second on the .526-mile paperclip back in March to give him four top 10 finishes in his last five tries.