TALLADEGA, Ala. — Chase Elliott is on track to best his stellar rookie campaign from last season at the one-quarter mark of the season.
At this point last season, Elliott finished in the top-10 five times, twice in the top-five and led only four laps. This season, the reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie of the year has finished top-10 in six races and top-five in three. He’s also led 169 laps this year to four at this point last season.
His first dominant race of this season came in the fourth of the season at Phoenix International Raceway, where he led 106 of the 314 laps and won the second stage on his way to a 12th-place finish. His breakout race of 2016 came later in the season at Pocono Raceway, where he led a race high of 51 of 160 laps on his way to a fourth-place finish.
Elliott also won a stage and finished third at Martinsville Speedway, a track where he finished 20th and 12th in 2016.
It should come as no surprise that the son of 1988 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Bill Elliott runs third in points, 52 back of points leader Kyle Larson, going into this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.
Assessing his season after nine races, Elliott — who’s known for being hard on himself, even on a day with a great run — said it’s “had some ups and downs.”
“I feel like we fired off really well with the way we ran at Daytona and Atlanta,” Elliott said. “I thought our West Coast swing was pretty strong. I feel like over the past few weeks we really haven’t performed up to our potential. As a group, I think anybody in our group would feel the same way. We’ve had some fast cars at times. We’ve had our driving good and then other weeks, not so much. But, we definitely need to execute races; even on the days that your car is not driving like you want it to. That execution and doing everything correctly on pit road, restarts, giving the right information, can turn a bad day into a pretty good day, really. Like last week, for instance, we ran not very good and just inside the 15th; not quite inside the top-10 the majority of the day. We got towards the end of the day and had an opportunity to finish up well inside the top-10 if we had just executed a little bit better. So, that’s what we need to do. And we know we need to do that. And, we’ll try to make that happen.”