AVONDALE, AZ – Chase Elliott’s back has been against the wall before. The Hendrick Motorsports driver was facing elimination in the opening round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs only to win the cutoff race on the Charlotte ROVAL. That advanced him to the Round of 12.
In that round, Elliott started off with an engine failure at Dover which put him behind the eight ball. He went to the cutoff race in the second round needing help. He’d get it by virtue of a runner-up finish at the Kansas Speedway.
That propelled him to the Round of 8. Like last round, he had a mechanical malfunction in the opening race in Martinsville and has had him playing catch up. Then, he crashed on Lap 8 of last weekend’s race at Texas. Now, he’s facing a win or go home situation.
“I had 475 miles to think about it last week,” Elliott said Friday in Phoenix. “I deserved that, really to ride around 475 miles and think about it. And I’d say by mile 400, I was pretty much over it and thinking about Phoenix. I was cruising around just thinking about what we needed to do to be better (at Phoenix). Obviously we were just in a position we needed to finish. My mindset had moved on.
“At the time, that’s about all I could do. I’m glad I was able to do that. I’m not dwelling on last week. We still have an opportunity ahead right here and right now and we either make the most of it or we don’t.”
Elliott, is too far out to make it to the Championship 4 on points. He’s 78 back. But, he’s prevailed when the times mattered the most. He’s proven that no situation is too big now.
Elliott, has two top three finishes in his last four Phoenix starts and driving for a Hendrick team that has had past success at the ISM Raceway in the past. The problem with HMS at Phoenix though, that success was deep in the past.
HMS has won win in the desert since 2011 (16 races). They’ve had two since 2010. But, prior to 2010, they had won four straight.
Don’t count Elliott out just yet. Every time we do, he manages to advance on. A crash and a win in the same race on the ROVAL, an engine blowing in Dover, a crash in Talladega, an axle breaking in Martinsville and another crash at Texas and Elliott can still race for the championship despite that.
“We were in a tough spot in that second round too, so it’s definitely not where you want to be in any means, but I do think we still have a chance this weekend,” Elliott continued. “I feel like our team has worked really hard to get us this far. We could have very easily not made it past Kansas and been out then.
“There’s three races in every round for a reason and you just can’t let those first two weeks affect your mindset, your approach, your aggressiveness and your will to want to win in this last opportunity.
“We still have an entire race on Sunday. I think you have to make sure you keep that in mind. It can definitely be challenging to look and say, “I crashed on lap eight last week’ and that’s not good obviously.
“But you just have to approach this week as a new one and know if we win on Sunday, we can race again next week and have a shot at the title.
“It’s just not over until it’s over.”