Chase Elliott: ‘Fifth is good, but not as well as we ran’ – Nascar
HAMPTON, Ga. — A peach of a day was within the grasp of home-state favorite Chase Elliott at Atlanta Motor Speedway. A fast car, combined with a crucial late-race error by race dominator Kevin Harvick, had left the door open.
Elliott rallied for a fifth-place finish in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, overcoming a mid-race, pit-road speeding penalty to work his way back into contention. But some unfortunate wheelspin on the final restart left him just shy of a breakthrough Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory in his Georgia backyard.
Harvick won both of the opening stages and led 292 of the 325 laps, but when he was pinched for speeding on pit road during the final caution period, the waiting room for contenders suddenly became much more crowded. Elliott, who ran second to him for a sizable portion of the 500-mile distance, was first in the queue, but Brad Keselowski cut in line to grab his first win of the season.
“It’s nice to have a top five I guess, but man, we had an opportunity with Kevin having a problem,” Elliott said after exiting the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet. “We weren’t as good as him. I thought at times we were a little better than Brad, and ran second to Kevin the majority of the race. When a guy has trouble like that, it’d be nice to be able to capitalize on it.
“You’d rather beat them outright if you have the opportunity, obviously, but you’ve got to capitalize on days like that. Fifth is good, but not as well as we ran.”
Before Harvick served his penalty, Elliott was poised to restart fifth. With Harvick sent to the back of the line and the running order adjusted, Elliott lined up fourth in the disadvantageous outside lane, which bogged him down to start the closing green-flag run.
“Just a product of restarting fourth. … It was tough,” Elliott said. “The outside lane, just coming to the restart boxes, is really slick. We saw it all weekend and I don’t really have a good answer as to why that is. It just is. Made it tough on the guys up top.”
Elliott’s week, packed with extracurricular activities and a bonus Camping World Truck Series start in his stomping grounds, had the markings of a special homecoming, but ended in disappointment for the second-straight weekend. The 21-year-old driver started from the pole position in the season-opening Daytona 500 and led the majority of the green-flag dash to the finish before running out of fuel with less than three laps remaining.
Circumstances worked against Elliott again at Atlanta, but No. 24 crew chief Alan Gustafson said his team was able to take some solace in both strong showings to kick off the 2017 campaign.
“It was an opportunity, so we made a couple of mistakes, and that’s all it takes — mistakes at inopportune times,” Gustafson said. “The 2 (Keselowski) made mistakes, too, but they just made them early enough that they could overcome them. We were close to getting back on track with them, but didn’t quite execute there at the end. Good day, solid day. I mean, there were a lot of positives out of the first two races. Just need to execute when the time is right there.”