AVONDALE, AZ – Chase Elliott had the easiest route to the Championship 4 this weekend at the ISM Raceway. While two drivers entered Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 knowing that they’re racing for a title in Homestead, six more came into the cutoff race in the Round of 8 trying to take the other two spots.
For five of those six, they had to points race. Elliott, just had to win. That’s why he said on Friday that “it’s not over until it’s over.”
Elliott, qualified in sixth for Sunday’s race and finished second and third respectively in the two stages. That netted him 17 points that he didn’t necessarily need. With being 8 points out entering this weekend, all he had to do was go out and win.
When his back has been against the wall during this postseason, they’ve prevailed. Elliott, won the first round cutoff race on the Charlottte ROVAL. For the Round of 12 cutoff race, he came into the Kansas Speedway 22 points down. He’d finish second and prevail to the third round for the third straight year.
But, like his previous two seasons, he was eliminated from championship contention in Phoenix.
Elliott, cut a tire on Lap 165 and spun into the Turn 1 SAFER barrier. It would end his day early, with a last place (39th) finish. It capped a terrible Round of 8 for NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver.
Elliot, blew an engine in practice in the opening race of this round in Martinsville. That relegated him to a last place starting spot there. Early on in that race, a rear axle went out forcing him to a 36th place result. Then, last weekend in Texas, he got into the slippery PJ1 in Turn 2 and skated into the outside SAFER barrier on Lap 7 as a result. He’d finish 32nd.
36th, 32nd and 39th are his Round of 8 finishes. That won’t get the job done.
It was a weird playoffs for him anyways. In Dover, he blew an engine on Lap 7. A week later in Talladega, he was caught up in a crash near the midway mark. The fact that he was even in the Round of 8 was crazy. Unfortunately, he’s finished outside the top 10 in four of his last six Phoenix starts now.